How to Prepare to Watch a Video of the Police Killing a Black Person

Make sure you have a sink full of cold water ready

Savannah Worley

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Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

With my kitchen sink filled with cold water and a towel placed on the counter, I was ready.

I recall staring into the black screen of my phone, gazing at my reflection. My expression seemed sterner than usual — lips slightly taunt and eyes focused on the phone screen. I then paid attention to my body — my heart was beating faster than usual, and my breath seemed shallow.

Remembering my deep breathing exercises, I inhaled through my nose within a count of five and then exhaled through my mouth within a count of five. Inhale one, two, three, four, five; exhale one, two, three, four, five. I repeated this process five times. My breath then seemed to even out.

I had an idea of what I was about to watch. My dad described it to me over the phone while he was watching the news. The truth is, I didn’t want to see it with my own eyes. However, I felt I had a responsibility to do so. I felt I needed to witness what my family, my friends, and I are up against. I needed to see the enemy myself and what they were capable of.

After a deep sigh, I turned on my phone’s screen, tapped in my passcode, and pressed the “play” button.

The memories I have of the video are still vague, but I watched a bodycam of a police officer running toward another group of officers surrounding a young Black man named Tyre Nichols. I remembered the police officers repeatedly kicking and punching him. They seemed to be enjoying themselves — enthusiastically beating up one unarmed man who obviously posed no threat to them.

I recall the officer with the body cam went up and pepper sprayed Nichols, seemingly without reason. He also said something to the effect of, “I’m gonna baton the fuck out of you!” and, fulfilling his promise, beat him with the weapon.

As the officers continued abusing Nichols, Nichols repeatedly cried, “Mom!” The young man was obviously in distress, unable to fight back against five police officers. He tried to run away in a separate video, which I watched a day or so after this video of him being brutalized. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get away from his killers.

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Savannah Worley

Essayist who writes about social justice, racism, and mental health | she/her | Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/skworley