It’s a week since a video was released showing the brutal killing of a young black man at the hands of police in the United States.
29 year old Tyre Nichols died three days after being beaten and kicked by five police officers in Memphis after they stopped him over a traffic incident.
The video has shocked the world, but hasn’t received the same level of outrage and media coverage as the killing of George Floyd. Floyd, a 46 year old black man, was murdered by a white police officer in Minnesota in 2020, in a crime which sparked protests around the world.
Pastor Owen Hylton is from Beacon Church in Brixton and he's also a member of the Reconciled church, a growing network of UK churches running courses on encouraging racial unity. He told Premier he believes Mr Nichols’ murder is an example of cultural and institutional racism – even though the police officers who attacked him are also black:
“I'm emotional. I feel very much for the family of Tyre Nichols. I can't even begin to imagine what that must be like for them. To go through that, to lose a son, a brother or a father, in that kind of way to police brutality.
“It’s absolutely a race issue and I think it shows the deep, tragic, complex level of institutional racism in the United States. The race issue is totally about the victim, and what the victim looks like, and the vulnerability of the victim.
“To stereotype, to victimise what this person looks like, what the offender looks like. And I think that people get drawn into that and that's what I think has happened here.
“I think that institutional, or a culture that exists in a particular organisation or group can make good people not look so good. They can get drawn into something that they might never have intended on their own, but they get caught up in it. So I think unless an organisation is able to acknowledge that institutional nature of it or that culture, it won't actually change. This is not about individual, bad police officers or anything like that. There's something a lot deeper going on.”
Although there has been international condemnation of the killing, it has not garnered the widespread media coverage which followed the killing of George Floyd. Pastor Owen said:
“I think the George Floyd moment was a ‘moment’. I think it was a cultural moment. I actually think it was a prophetic moment for the church. I think it woke things up a bit. Also, I think, let's face it, George Floyd happened during lockdown, the world wasn't functioning the way it is functioning now, where everyone's out and about doing their thing.
“I personally think it was a moment in which God was bringing to the attention predominantly of the church, the issues around race, and injustice and brutality and those things that we might do something about.”
You can listen to Pastor Owen's full interview with Premier's Michael Fanstone below.