I’m wrestling with the events of these last two weeks, trying to make them bend towards comprehension and basic sense. And now one man’s last words, said 11 times — I can’t breathe — haunts me. The words, so apt for how unhinged I feel at this very moment.
(Photo by Russ Rowland, Radio City Music Hall in NYC, Dec. 3, 2014)
How is it that an un-graining, clear, daytime video of Eric Garner having the life literally choked out of him by a white police officer was not deemed adequate proof that a serious crime was committed? How can a jury see this video, this proof, and still decide that the homicide — as it was ruled by the NYC medical examiner — was not worthy of formal charges? What did we see that they couldn’t? As the New York Times said in its scathing Op-Ed about the no-indictment decision:
“What is clear is this was vicious policing and an innocent man is dead. ”
I’m wrestling with outrage and exasperation at the unending disrespect and disregard for Black Lives, trying to force the bitter taste that continues to rise up in my throat back down. Oscar Grant. Trayvon Martin. Jordan Davis. Michael Brown. Each one, shoved into an early grave. Put down like animals.
How is it that we — Black citizens of this world — are still treated as something less than human? Three-fifths a person, and never anything more. Our young boys are instantly thugs. They are threats. They are dangerous demons and beefy Hulks charging at you. But white teenagers are allowed, almost expected, to act out, mess up, flout authority. The crucial difference is, the white kids are also let off easy and allowed to live to talk about it years or decades later.
I’m wrestling the overwhelming urge to give up, give in, consider this society a lost cause, forever stalled or — worse — rapidly moving in reverse.
How is it that a rookie police officer shoots and kills — in mere seconds — a 12-year-old black boy wielding what turns out to be a BB gun, but this child’s innocence is shockingly still up for debate? “Why was he playing with a real looking gun,” someone had the audacity to write as a comment on my Facebook page.
This same Cleveland officer’s file from his firearm certification training two years ago was released after the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice. How is that there’s a memo in it saying the officer “seemed not mentally prepared” for the task? And, according to a story on Slate, the officer’s previous boss recommended that he be fired:
“He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.”
I’m wrestling with a potent mix of despair and distress trying to rob me of my fight, pressing down on the cracks in my spirit.
But I know I have to keep wrestling. And I need to win. I need to find my words, my strength, my resolve, because the stakes are too high. Because I’m raising a brown boy in this country. Because, as I’ve said before, this erasure story — the one about the unarmed black boy dusted away like pesky lint — playing out over and again through decades like some hopeless movie trope, only with slightly different details, different faces, families, cities, and courtrooms, it cannot continue.
Because Black Lives are not conditional. We are real. We are whole. We are valuable.
Because Black Lives Matter.
Because I Matter.
Because WE MATTER.