In response to the police killing of Tyre Nichols, an unarmed Black man arrested in Memphis, TN on January 7, Pamela Ayo Yetunde seems to be at how the tenets of Buddhism could be utilized to grasp the struggling of police brutality.
Unarmed Black man Tyre Nichols was arrested by a bunch of Black law enforcement officials (and one white officer) in Memphis, TN on January 7, 2023, and they deliberately repeatedly used brute power to trigger struggling, ache, and distress. It is claimed that Buddhism, boiled right down to its essence, is about understanding the causes of struggling and the finish of struggling. Can Buddhism be utilized to grasp the struggling of police brutality? I believe it ought to. It is claimed that the bodhisattva vow, boiled right down to its essence, is to not flip away from struggling. I believe that’s appropriate.
In sangha and the different methods we study Buddhism and train the dharma, we have to let individuals know what their rights are, and will not be.
On January seventh, in line with the movies I noticed posted on credible information shops, unarmed Nichols resisted arrest by an indignant mob of officers. He used phrases, proper speech, commenting factually and in a well timed method, even with out aggression, that their method was overly aggressive (my phrases). He was proper. He wished freedom from struggling. Don’t all of us? He ran. That is comprehensible given they have been making an attempt to place him face down on the grown. We’ve seen that transfer earlier than. They caught him. He wished security and stated so. He engaged in proper speech. Nevertheless, they repeatedly tased him, clubbed him, and savagely beat him with varied components of their our bodies together with utilizing their complete our bodies by stacking their huge our bodies one on high of the different on high of him whereas he was on the floor. How might he not expertise inner accidents? After they flattened him, they propped his limp physique in opposition to one of their vehicles. Like at a public lynching, they have been detached and numb to his struggling. During what seems to be their absence of empathy, they collectively created and constructed a story that he should have been on medicine. This was the starting of mistaken speech clearly meant to justify their conduct and cohere themselves round one narrative they might inform with consistency. One officer tried to get him to admit that he was on medicine by asking the close to lifeless Nichols, “What did you have?” They tried to extract self-incriminating proof after torturing him. Tyre Nichols died on January 10, and the public was capable of view and hear parts of the movies on January 27. I predict that the subsequent a number of months or longer will contain a police division reorganization, for the quantity of police and maybe EMT automobiles at the scene of the crime, their lights illuminating the night time sky, demonstrated the chance of a division complicit in the crime of mobbery, brutality, and medical neglect underneath the cowl and coloration of regulation. How do Buddhist teachings on Right Speech inform our response to Nichols’ demise?
Some might surprise how Nichols might have been tortured and killed like this after the public torture and killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 and its aftermath? In Buddhist observe, we be taught to determine our delusions and nonjudgmentally abide with our naiveté. There are clearly many the reason why Tyre Nichols was brutally killed by a police mob almost two years after Floyd was killed, however I wish to concentrate on that query the officer posed to a severely injured unarmed citizen after the officers collectively hypothesized that his preliminary potential to withstand arrest was as a result of of drug use. The query was “What did you have?”
The Fifth Amendment reads:
No individual shall be held to reply for a capital, or in any other case notorious crime, until on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, besides in circumstances arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in precise service in time of War or public hazard; nor shall any individual be topic for the similar offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any felony case to be a witness in opposition to himself, nor be disadvantaged of life, liberty, or property, with out due course of of regulation; nor shall personal property be taken for public use, with out simply compensation.
We know Nichols was disadvantaged of his life, and earlier than he died, additionally they tried to deprive him of his proper to not incriminate himself. This has been a proper for 234 years. It is one of the most acknowledged maxims from the Constitution, as in “I take the Fifth.” or “I plead the Fifth.” The Buddhist teachings on proper speech assist us perceive the values inherent in the Fifth Amendment – reality telling, compassion, and freedom from governmental oppression, however solely about 60 years in the past did the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona resolve that coerced confessions have been inadmissible as proof as a result of they violate the Fifth Amendment clause to be a witness in opposition to oneself. That was the Warren courtroom. Now, we now have the Roberts courtroom, and on June 23, 2022, in the Vega v. Tekoh case, as the nation was anticipating the overturning of the Roe v. Wade abortion determination (which occurred on June 24) the U. S. Supreme Court determined that there isn’t any such factor as a Miranda proper, however a Miranda rule, and as such, if a police officer doesn’t remind you, as you’re being arrested, that you’ve a Fifth Amendment proper to not incriminate your self, then what you say to an officer, if admitted into courtroom, could also be used in opposition to you. In brief, had Nichols answered the query “What did you have?” and lived to have that speech used in opposition to him, he in all probability would have been discovered responsible of one thing, the police would have been exonerated, and these suing for Nichols would have failed at successful a civil rights lawsuit. You need to learn Vega v. Tekoh for your self to grasp the courtroom’s reasoning.
I hope the diminution of Miranda in Vega v. Tekoh from a proper to a rule is trigger for concern for freedom-loving and selling Buddhist practitioners. We say we’re all in favour of understanding the skillful means for lowering struggling. I liken this aspiration to what Thich Nhat Hanh known as the artwork of residing. How will we be artists as authoritarianism rises in the U.S.? The U.S. Supreme Court is all in favour of balancing the pursuits between the train of particular person freedoms and the want for people to be protected by regulation enforcement, however somebody has to do the soiled work of oppression, and the police, underneath the coloration and cowl of regulation, might be the ones known as on to do it.
The proper in opposition to self-incrimination is slowly disappearing for all U.S. residents. Brutality, strain, and power are used to extract speech for use as reality in opposition to one other. What can we do by way of the use of a Pedagogy of the Privileged Oppressed to grasp how proper speech may be practiced to cut back the struggling of oppression?
In sangha and the different methods we study Buddhism and train the dharma, we have to let individuals know what their rights are, and will not be. We have to let individuals know to by no means inform the police something about their actions whereas they’re being arrested. We have to let others know they nonetheless have the proper to a lawyer, however law enforcement officials actually don’t have a constitutional responsibility to inform them that. What people say about themselves throughout an arrest is probably going for use in opposition to them as a result of on this period of the rise of authoritarianism, Black Lives Matter, calls to defund the police, significantly-decreased police departments and concern throughout political events that crime is on the rise, the scales of justice will continued to be weighted towards enforcement.
Tyre Nichols was brutalized by a mob of law enforcement officials. In the course of their inhumanity, they tried to coerce him into incriminating himself. That is mistaken motion by Buddhist requirements in addition to the requirements of democracy and civility. Demoting Miranda from a proper to a rule places us all at jeopardy. Buddhism is about awakening to the causes and circumstances that create struggling. If you suppose police brutality is barely one thing that Black individuals expertise by white officers, suppose once more. George Floyd’s demise represented the plight of Black males all through the historical past of the U.S. Tyre Nichols demise, submit Vega v. Tekoh, represents the loss of rights, privileges, and life, underneath cowl and coloration of regulation, for us all.
This article was created in collaboration with Buddhist Justice Reporter (BJR), based by BIPOC Buddhist practitioners in response to the police torture and homicide of George Floyd. BJR publishes articles on points associated to environmental, racial, and social justice and its intersections, from an anti-racist Buddhist lens.