By James Revels

February is Black History Month, which has been celebrated for years, to raise awareness and highlight the achievements and contributions of Black folk to our history. After years of struggle, protest and outrage, Black folk must continue to reckon with the plague of police brutality. 

James Revels

The deaths of Eric Garner, George Floyd, and now Tyre Nichols in Memphis force us all, Black and white, to address the plague of police brutality. The latest death of another Black man, at the hands of cops, is even more disturbing because this time the cops were Black.

Michael Eric Dyson, in his best selling commentary, “Long Time Coming,” addressed the struggle facing the Black community as it suffers from the blue plague. “The cops remain in large part violent enforcers of white supremacy. The untold devastation of the blue plague can hardly be captured in videos of Black men and women dying at the hands of cops. As horrifying as these recordings are they are but the tip of a destructive iceberg of violence and death lodged beneath the ocean of Black existence, wrecking many lives. For this reason, grappling with the police and how they see and treat Black folk is a central imperative of national reckoning. ”

Dyson added, “If our bodies are not alive and free from brutality and the repeated efforts to kill us, there can be no reckoning with any other facet of systemic racism. No matter how much we tout racial progress in the battle for equality and justice, in this country, Black folk are still the object of scorn and hate. 

“Black bodies are still an object of nearly unconscious rage that rattles the cavernous egos of some men who think themselves mighty because they sport a badge and a gun.” 

Each time we witness another video of a Black man begging for his life, we say not again. It is hard to fathom the lack of humanity that gripped the cop who murdered George Floyd, as he seemed to gain some ghastly satisfaction as life drained from Floyd’s body.

The needless death of Black men at the hands of police brutality will continue until we all say enough already. Words are cheap, action is expensive, but failing to act is not an option. 

Henry S. Commager wrote: “Change does not necessarily assure progress, but progress implacably requires change.” 

To end the scourge of police brutality toward Black folk, change must happen, sooner, rather than later.

As we pause to observe another Black History Month, we all must recognize that hate, racism and bigotry resides deeper in our law enforcement souls than we care to admit. If left untreated, this cancer will destroy us all. 

History, like respect, is achieved, not awarded.

James Revels is a retired Army colonel and former columnist for the El Paso Times who lives in East El Paso.