State Watch

Political commentator Goldie Taylor talks Tyre Nichols, policing, trauma — and her new memoir

“My son is no safer today than he would have been 30 years ago,” the writer and political commentator Goldie Taylor told The Hill in a video interview this week.

Taylor, like so many Black Americans, is grappling with the killing of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police — and with what it means.

Five officers — subsequently fired — have been charged with second-degree murder in the case of Nichols, who was beaten savagely by police on Jan. 7 and died in a hospital three days later.

Taylor, a former political strategist now best known for her writing and cable news appearances, watched the now-infamous footage in the Nichols case and instantly thought about the police assault of Rodney King in Los Angles more than three decades before.

“For all of the energy around social justice, for all of the energy around Black Lives Matter, for all the calling attention to this issue,” too little has changed, she said.

But she also talked about the debate in more directly personal terms. 

Taylor recalled counseling her now-adult children about what to do if they were ever stopped by police — a conversation that takes place in many Black families, usually focused on giving officers no pretext, however flimsy, for the use of force.

Even those warnings are “like a faulty insurance policy,” Taylor said. In Nichols’s case, she noted, “that insurance policy didn’t pay off. He did everything right.”

The intersection of the personal and the political is a big theme of Taylor’s newly published memoir, “The Love You Save.”

The book is a moving and sometimes-harrowing read that encompasses traumas of sexual assault, loss and dysfunction that permeated Taylor’s childhood and adolescence in St. Ann, Mo. and East St. Louis, Ill.

She also writes about the broader issues that impacted her life and the lives of those around her, including not just racism but also the endemic problems of poverty, marginalization and near-routine violence.

At one point, describing her experiences as East St. Louis falls into a downward trajectory, she writes that life “was changing quickly then. The threads holding the town together seemed to snap.”

At another, she notes how her fearsome Auntie Gerald tries to protect her from the ills of the outside world, but adds that “little or no attention was paid to the war going on inside me. I was a walking wreckage. Angry most of the time, I resented everything that breathed.”

Taylor acknowledges that the process of going public with her experiences was years in the making.

Her father was murdered in 1973, when she was just five years old.

She recalled to The Hill speaking about her father during a TV appearance back in 2014, when a fellow panelist was the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

“He was seated next to me. We were on the show and he said, ‘You know, when are you going to write a memoir?’ And I said: ‘Too many guilty people are still alive.’”

Taylor writes in the book about two experiences of rape. One came at the hands of an older boy when she was just 11 years old. Later, still a child, she suffered a series of attacks by a member of her extended family. 

Of the latter, she writes that at one point, “The attacks came closer and closer together. I felt like I was being hunted.”

Eventually, in August 2019, she decided that it was time to write about what had happened.

“I was tired of carrying the burdens of others,” she told The Hill.

The traumas she endured will never vanish, she notes, but the experience of breaking the secrecy around them has given her “a sense of renewed peace. … There was a lightness about my life.”

The book has its lighter moments, too, including the escape offered to the adolescent Taylor by poetry and literature as she discovers writers such as Margaret Walker and James Baldwin.

“I could go places in books. I could take myself places,” she says now.

Those experiences presaged much of her adult life as she forged a career in politics, communications, media — and as the author of three novels prior to her memoir.

Now, she is a contributing editor at The Daily Beast, where she writes mainly about social justice issues.

As for the national political scene, she contends that President Biden has racked up significant achievements in a deeply polarized political environment.

When it comes to his reelection hopes, she added, “I do believe, to be frank, that age is age — not that he would be too old, but that the American people might perceive that they want a new generation of leadership.”

As for Taylor herself, she says that she has found a new level of serenity. 

“For far too many years, I lived life as if holding my breath,” she writes in “The Love You Save.”

Can she let her breath out now?

“Yeah. That feels pretty good,” she said. “Able to breathe freely and of my own volition. Heart beats evenly now.”

“The Love You Save — A Memoir” by Goldie Taylor is out now, published by Hanover Square Press.

Tags Black Lives Matter Goldie Taylor Memphis police brutality Tyre Nichols

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