The Alliance of Baptists would like to express our deepest condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and our strongest outrage at the system that killed him. Tyre was an artist, a father, and a son. But above all of that he was a person, a human being created in the precious image and likeness of God. His life mattered.
Tyre Nichols now finds himself a part of a pantheon that most of us never want to be a part of. His name is now included with the likes of Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Atatiana Jefferson. All young black people killed by the police.
For decades now multiracial coalitions have been struggling against police brutality because of the human costs—like Tyre’s life. But to paraphrase Derecka Purnell, all of our efforts at reform failed in keeping Tyre Nichols alive. Last year the police in the United States killed 1176 people. This is a problem that continues to get worse. And as it gets worse, the question returns to us: What will we do about it? It is our hope that the Alliance of Baptists will allow Tyre Nichols life to speak to us and inform us in our efforts against white supremacy and our commitment to end racial violence. More specifically, it is our hope that we can channel our creative energies, heartfelt sympathies, and passion for justice into a movement that calls for lasting change and transformation of a world where no more people have to die from police or any other type of violence.
At our annual gathering this spring, we will explore one of these movements—the abolitionist movement—which seeks to end police and prison violence by eliminating imprisonment, policing, and surveillance and the reasons they exist by creating lasting alternatives to public safety, punishment, and imprisonment. Abolitionists offer a bold new vision of the world and the country. Abolitionism began during slavery and the expressions of abolition were boldly present during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement when black leaders across the spectrum were discussing the impact of police violence on them. As police brutality continues to be exposed, understanding this movement seems to be worth our energy, too.
Moments like this require that we look within and look beyond the traditional solutions that are often presented to us. In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet says they should put a bandage on the wounds of my people but they treat their wounds like small scratches. In a sense, Black Death at the hands of police is a deep wound that has been treated as a small scratch. Because Black Lives Matter, we must struggle against institutions and authorities that seem to think otherwise. Abolitionism is one of the possible solutions. And in our estimation it is worth exploring because we cannot keep losing any more lives to police violence. Abolitionism is one frame through which to continue to ask questions of the status quo. Moreover, as an historically white organization we have to do our reparative part to ensure that Black Life is protected. We invite you to use this opportunity where our nation once again seems to be having a moral reckoning as an opportunity to open your own mind and heart and hands ensuring that we do our part for all of God’s precious children, including and especially Tyre Nichols today.