Admitting Lady Justice lost her blindfold
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
Eleven times Eric Garner can be heard saying these three words in the disturbing video of the minutes before his death. I CAN’T BREATHE. He utters them with increasingly plaintive desperation, perhaps gradually realizing he’s living out his final moments on earth amongst some of its most merciless souls. After all, living 43 years as a black man in New York City teaches you a thing or two about how you can expect to be treated by the criminal justice system.
Indeed, this system failed Eric Garner twice, as it failed Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and countless others. First it murdered him. Eric Garner, a father of six, a man described as a ‘peacemaker’ by his community. A man who begs to be left alone, and puts up no struggle at all as multiple police officers incapacitate him and pin him down. There is no weapon. There is no attempt to escape. There is no crime. Pay attention to his body language and tone of voice. Realize they are not remotely threatening — rather, they are that of a man who is frustrated and disillusioned with his lot in life.
But the system was not done showing its contempt for this man’s existence. It then declined to serve justice to his murderer — or even countenance the idea that he could be culpable. This decision came despite clear video evidence — and a coroner’s evaluation — that a brutal technique banned by the NYPD was the direct cause of Eric Garner’s death.
NYPD officers drive cars emblazoned with the mantra ‘Courtesy / Professionalism / Respect.’ Yet the men in this video not only showed blatant disregard for these pillars of their profession, but blatant disregard for humanity itself. To ignore another human’s pleas for his very life — 11 times, may I remind you — shows reprehensible moral character. And after witnessing yet another failure by our nation to mete out justice, to instead essentially shrug our shoulders at an innocent man’s unprovoked death, I was broken.
As the Facebook posts about the no-indictment decision rolled in, I considered doing what I’d done the last time…and the time before that. I considered ‘liking’ some people’s editorialized article links, perhaps re-sharing one myself. But as Eric Garner so heartbreakingly put it, ‘It ends today.’
Today I won’t just stop at a share, a like, a comment. Eric will never know the bitter irony of his words — but in his martyrdom this statement must become his immortal legacy, forcing our nation to finally recognize the plague of injustices that rain down upon a portion of our neighbors, and stand united in outrage.
It ends today because #BlackLivesMatter.