I had no earthly desire to leave my home Wednesday after hearing that once again, another grand jury let another white police officer get away with killing an unarmed Black man, but I had no choice. As soon I stepped out, there they were. And they were everywhere. In Harlem. In Brooklyn. In every part of Manhattan I stepped in last night. I tried so desperately not to stare into each NYPD officer’s eyes because if I did, my rage would be palatable.
I failed. Some of them simply looked away. They knew. Others looked directly back. They knew, too; and while I can’t be for certain whether it was smugness or indifference, after a while, I just had to look away. They don’t trust us and I don’t trust them — only their mistrust can lead to my murder.
When I came home, I heard the helicopters flying over my neighborhood. Again.
I saw protesters. Again.
What’s next? Again, I don’t know.
This is a story shared by so many Black people living in any American city on any given day in 2014.
Shortly before the grand jury decision to not indict Daniel Pantaleo, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, spoke with the New Yorker, and tried to maintain some nominal level of faith in the system. “I’m just hoping they give us a fair decision,” she said. “If you’ve seen the video, you’ve seen that my son has done nothing—nothing!—to cause this to happen to him. I always taught my children to respect the police. I always respected them.”
That’s what makes Daniel Pantaleo being given a license to kill by the grand jury especially hurtful. Even in the case of Michael Brown, one could at least argue there were conflicting accounts. There are none here.
Eric Garner is unarmed. He is killed by chokehold, a move banned by the NYPD. His last words were, “I can’t breathe.” The corner ruled Eric Garner’s death a homicide. A homicide is captured on video and Daniel Pantaleo is told there is no evidence to warrant any charges by a jury of his peers.
And with this decision, comes a few inconvenient truths. There are limitations to the effectiveness of placing body cameras on police officers. President Obama proposes to pour millions into this initiative, but that Staten Island jury has made one thing clear: We can see your killing, but we will still find a way to let your killer go free.
Pantaleo is 29-years-old. A 29-year-old who previously had two civil rights lawsuits filed against him. He is a millennial, thus blowing that “with this new generation comes the end of racism” argument into the wind.
Garner’s last words were “I can’t breathe” and at any moment, any of us could find ourselves in a similar predicament. And not even in death can we see justice. Like Darren Wilson, Daniel Pantaleo has been given a license to kill.
None of us can breathe easy living under such circumstances.
Already, the pile on has started. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this. The police had no reason to know he was in serious condition.” He is being comically obtuse, making his remarks all the more infuriating.
King and the other idiots who immediately pounced onto primetime TV – including Mark Fuhrman (!) – to bash Eric Garner and defend injustice can all choke on their stupidity for all I care.
Pantaleo himself has since expressed condolences via statement:
“It is never my intention to hurt anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”
It’s better than what Darren Wilson gave Michael Brown’s parents. Still, Pantaleo is a killer who has yet to face the consequences for his actions. If there’s anyone who understands that, it is Eric Garner’s widow.
When asked if she would accept Pantaleo’s apology, Esaw Garner said, “Hell no.”
She went on to add:
“I could care less about his condolences. He’s still working, he’s still getting a paycheck, he’s still feeding his kids. And my husband is 6 feet under, and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now.
The time for remorse would have been when my husband was screaming to breath. That would have been the time for him to show some type of remorse or some type of care for another human being’s life, when he was screaming 11 times that he can’t breathe.”
Your guilt cannot always be absolved. Hell no, indeed.
All of this is more proof of what I argued just over a week ago. This is systematic targeting of Black men by law enforcement excused by predominately white grand juries who consciously or otherwise, continue to vilify Black men even when they are the ones victimized.
It is a broken system that must be fixed.