Last July, Eric Garner was killed by police in Staten Island, New York. Garner had been selling loose cigarettes to passerby and had been confronted by law enforcement about the issue. Not seeing a problem with what he was doing, he asked the officers to please leave him alone.
The officers would have none of it.
Push came to shove which eventually turned into a chokehold and a face plant to the concrete beneath. Acting as if he had just shot someone, robbed a bank, or harmed a woman or a child, Officer Daniel Pantaleo choked Garner to his own death. Garner was able to continually scream and cry for help and for Pantaleo to stop, but all that he could muster were three words–but those three words would soon turn into a statement. Not only one by the African-American community, but by those who watch for and oppose, at all costs, police brutality.
I can’t breathe.
The officer responsible for killing Garner was not indicted, despite the fact that the entire incident was caught on video.
As if video evidence of a murder isn’t evidence enough.
Professional athletes and others with a wide fan base and stage took action immediately. Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and other star athletes (particularly in the NBA) protested the death of Garner by wearing black t-shirts with white letters that spelled out the last three words spoken by him.
But now, suddenly, it seems to me that the music has stopped.
Here are the three reasons that I STILL can’t breathe:
1. BRIGHT LIGHTS, LONG NIGHTS
Of all cities, Los Angeles is the one that would have the most heart felt connection to police violence and brutality. Not along ago, protests turned rather violent over the beating death of Rodney King who was badly beaten by LAPD officers following a car chase.
The chase was what happened after King and some of his friends had spent the night watching a basketball game and drinking throughout. Driving under the influence of alcohol, King did not stop when requested to by the police. As the chase continued, King and company were cornered at the intersection of Foothill Blvd. and Osborne St.
When the passengers, along with King, came out of the vehicle the officers abused their authority to subdue King (who had resisted arrest–peacefully).
This incident was, like the Garner incident, also caught on camera.
While I do not condone the actions of either men before hand, I do not endorse the police and their reactions to Garner or King. Yes, what King was doing was illegal. Yes, what Garner was doing was illegal. But they were not in the position to hurt anybody in a serious manner at the moment the violence was sparked.
No punches were thrown before hand. No struggle for a weapon. Just a man versus madness.
With the Eric Garner case riling up emotions across the country, I have personally seen how different communities have responded to the violence. The way that the communities in Los Angeles reacted to the Rodney King incident are not permissible by any means, those riots that followed hurt a lot of people, but if you ask me and if you really want things to change, it is going to take more than just wearing a t-shirt.
2. OPEN MIKE
The case of Mike Brown, the teen from Ferguson, Missouri, also caused a lot of stirring of emotions around the United States. The Brown situation, on top of the Garner case, made nothing short of a mountain of problems across the board.
And yet the focus remained on professional sports.
I don’t think our generation realizes just how much star athletes on a television screen really affect how we live out our lives. We tell ourselves that we aren’t those kinds of people that looks up to people that don’t even know we exist and use them as a basis to live our lives–but we’d be wrong.
If you’re one of those people, you’d have some explaining to do. Do you you really think that people wouldn’t have reacted differently if our athletes we focus so much time and attention on had acted differently or protested in a different manner?
Ha. Good will hunting.
3. ONE NATION UNDER HOOD
To see first-hand how much the media has been able to influence the opinions of those under their watch is great at times but disturbing at others. It just blows my mind how suddenly people can become so quiet about the issue when it’s not a popular topic to talk about–and all that tells me is that there is still an elephant in the room.
As a nation, we have overcome several difficult things and times–it’s what makes us who we are as a country today– and I am extremely disappointed in folks that only want to protest police brutality when they have a camera in their face or 140 more characters to tweet about.
Since when did virtual characters matter more than the one character that makes up who are?
Today’s day and age, I guess.
To this point, we’ve fought for what we believe in. I hope that doesn’t go anywhere anytime soon.
Together we will stand, but divided we will fall.
And still the banner yet waves.