Black Lives Matter

This entry is full of links, so please view on your computer if they’re not showing up on your phone. 

I have become obsessive. Ever since Officer Pantaleo was not indicted for using a banned choke-hold which lead to the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, I have taken to the internet and watched, read, and posted countless articles, videos, and blogs about this case, other cases like it, and the larger issues at hand. I cannot stop thinking about it. I cannot stop talking about it.

The deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, along with the non-indictment of both police officers responsible, has sparked a fury throughout the country. People from all walks of life and all racesteachers and students, celebrities, activists, politicians, and even some policemen – have voiced that they believe this isn’t right. As John Stewart so eloquently said, the facts of the Michael Brown case may have been hazy and witness accounts were conflicting, however most people seem to agree that Eric Garner was in no way resisting, and in no way was Officer Pantaleo’s use of the choke-hold justified. And still, regardless of all of any other point to this argument, there remains the fact that Pantaleo still should have been indicted – we all watched the video (in horror) and it was clear as day. Even if he did feel threatened or thought the force was justified, why not at the very least let this go to court? Why are we letting police officers use lethal force without any investigation or repercussions? This has sparked a larger debate throughout the nation – is the system broke? And if so, how do we fix it?

A lot of people are resisting this issue and disagree with the protesters. They believe that policemen and women are within their right to use lethal force if they feel threatened, and should not have to defend themselves, especially when their sole job is to defend their community. Some agree that Eric Garner’s case may be unjust, but rioting and looting in the streets is unacceptable. Others believe this isn’t a race issue at all, and since Garner was arrested for selling loose cigarettes in the past, he made his own choices that led to his demise. After all, Michael Brown was clearly a thug, he was an unarmed 18-year-old but when he had a scuffle with  armed Officer Darren Wilson (not on duty and not in uniform), he sealed his fate of being shot 4 times, including once in the head, while being 50 feet away from the policeman. You must always listen to a police officer and if you just complied, things like this wouldn’t happen. (I’m being sarcastic, by the way.)

Well, I’ve been talking about all of this for days, and quite frankly, I’m exhausted. My heart is heavy and I’m so incredibly sad and angry. So instead of going on and on here in this blog, I will just simply link to articles and videos that say it better than I can.

Before you go defend Officer Wilson and Officer Pantaleo and the fact that they were not indicted, please peruse the links below. And if you’re angry or confused about this issue, please do the same.

Everyone – educate yourself. Listen. Learn. I believe we are in the midst of a huge movement in this country – one that is way overdue. And while this situation is steeped in high emotions on both sides, I believe that intelligent discussion and facts can only serve us.

“I Don’t Want to Be Afraid of The Police” by Franchesca Ramsey. – Video

The Deaths of Black Men in America, MSNBC – Video

A Black Man is Killed Every 28 Hours in the U.S. by Police.

When the Media Treats White Suspects and Killers Better Than Black Victims. – HuffPost

In 179 fatalities involving on-duty NYPD cops in 15 years, only 3 cases led to indictments — and just 1 conviction – NY Daily News

12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed for playing with a toy gun in a park. Tamir Rice’s teen sister ‘tackled,’ handcuffed after his shooting, mom says – CNN

Unarmed Arizona man shot dead by Phoenix cop who mistook pill bottle for pistol. – NY Daily News

Officer Put on Modified Duty After Shooting, Killing Unarmed Man in Brooklyn Apartment Building Stairwell – NBC New York

Plain-clothes Philly cops shoot hoodie-wearing pizza man who thought he was being robbed – Raw Story

Black Teenager Taken Out Of School, Jailed For Month Without Probable Cause, Lawsuit Says – HuffPost

Cops shoot and kill man holding toy gun in Wal-Mart – MSNBC

Grand Jury Decides Not to Charge Officer Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Youth in Bronx – NY Times. Related aftermath: We Still Don’t Know What Happened To Ramarley Graham. – HuffPost

Knifeman shot dead by LAPD in front of scores of tourists ‘was street performer who dressed as Scream villain’ – UK Daily Mail

Ezell Ford: The mentally ill black man killed by the LAPD two days after Michael Brown’s death – Washington Post

But it’s not just Black men and boys who are targeted:

Cops Slam Unarmed Woman On The Pavement, Killing Her In Front of Family – Counter Current News.

Naked Brooklyn woman dragged from apartment by NYPD officers who say she beat 12-year-old daughter – NY Daily News

Pregnant woman apparently put in chokehold by NYPD cop during dispute over illegal grilling – NY Daily News

Did The NYPD Suffocate A Mentally Ill Woman To Death While Trying To Cuff Her? – Gothamist

And it’s not just Black adults, even little girls are guilty of being Black.

Manslaughter Charge Dropped For Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Sleeping 7-Year-Old – HuffPost

In fact, all little girls and boys of color are a threat.

SD Police Say Tasing 8-Year-Old Native Girl Was Justified, Family Sues.

Still not convinced? Here is an account from a former St. Louis police officer about racism and excessive force used by police.

The problem is not the individual police officers. I do not hate cops. We need the police. Many of them are upstanding and brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day. But we need accountability. We need to face the systematic racism that is rampant in this country. We need change.

So what is it that we propose? Here are our demands:

11 Demands for Accountability

Want to join in a protest? Find out where to peacefully march for justice near you.  The Millions March is tomorrow. See you then. Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay active.

It ends today.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I can’t stop crying.

I finally watched the video of Eric Garner’s arrest and death and I can’t stop crying. Just like I had resisted reading about Bill Cosby’s rape allegations, I had resisted watching that video. I knew about it, I had read about it, but watching this man’s last moments was too much for me to handle. But we all must face the facts, no matter how unpleasant or upsetting. We owe Mr. Garner that much.

Yesterday, the grand jury refused to indict the NYPD officer who tried to subdue Eric Garner (unarmed) in an illegal choke-hold, then pushing his face into the sidewalk, all the while him repeating, “I can’t breathe.” He died while in custody moments later. Just two weeks ago, a grand jury in Ferguson, MO, refused to indict a police officer for shooting an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Just a few days ago, manslaughter charges were dropped against a police officer who mistakenly shot and killed a 7-year-old girl, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was sleeping on the couch. They were searching for a murder suspect. The officer now faces, at most, a misdemeanor charge for “accidental firing of a weapon resulting in death.”

Last month, a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a park. We now know that the same police officer was recommended to be released from duty back in 2012 from a different town before he resigned and then was hired by the city of Cleveland.

All of these victims – these human beings – were of Black descent. All of the police officers are of White descent. These are just a few examples of excessive police brutality, but this is not new news. We are just all aware of it now because of social media and technology. But this has been going on for years.

I have resisted posting about this because I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. The tensions are palpably high in this country. But I can’t be quiet about it anymore. I’ve been feeling such sadness about these events in the past few weeks, but now I’m angry.

This is about race. These police officers acted illegally and their crimes need to be punished.

I am not against police officers in general. I do not think the anarchist anger is helpful in this situation. But we need to do something about this. We need a system overhaul. We need accountability and we need to address the blatant racism that exists in our country.

From left to right, top to bottom: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Look at their faces. Remember their names.
From left to right, top to bottom: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Look at their faces. Remember their names.

I am not Black. But I see and acknowledge the centuries of systemic oppression and discrimination that this country was built on. I’m not sure which is worse, those supporting the officers and blaming the victims, those who are just out-rightly racist and believe the victims deserved their untimely deaths, or those (who are usually very young) saying they agree this is wrong, but they don’t see what it has to do with race.

The fact is, if you are not a Black American, then the most you can do is sympathize with the Black American experience while admitting that you do NOT know what it’s like. Because you don’t. And neither do I. But I see what my friends and fellow citizens go through everyday and it pains me. It goes way, way back – deep into the roots of this country. Do not discount 500 years of forced enslavement and treatment of an entire group of people as property. It was not that long ago. We still have a long way to go. Schools and public property were desegregated just about 40 years ago. My father was a teenager then.

I could go into the extensive sociological history of racism towards Black people in this country but to keep things brief and approachable, let’s just do an experiment.

I am not Black. But I am a woman of color. I live in New York City. Say, for example, I was in the exact position that Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, or Aiyana Stanley-Jones were in. I am willing to bet you a lot of money that I would have not been shot and killed in any of these situations. Even if I had acted exactly as they each had.

The universal frustration of the Black Man is evident in Eric Garner’s video. His speech before his death broke my heart. He said, “I’m not doing anything, I’m not selling nothing. You guys are always giving me trouble and I’m tired of it. It ends today.” And he’s right – the racial profiling of Black men (and women) as criminals and thugs is deeply ingrained. I see it everyday in New York City, as I walk by, unsuspected and not bothered – just an innocent-looking Asian female. I know we’d like to believe that he must have done something wrong to deserve the special attention. But in truth, what he did wrong was be born Black. Just like the victim-blaming that happens during a rape and sexual assault case, we are all terrified to believe that something terrible can happen to us for absolutely no reason or fault of our own. That loss of control is paralyzing, but it is a daily fear for many. And yes, it can happen to you. This may be a race issue, but it involves all of us.

It doesn’t matter what any of these victims were doing when the shooting occurred, they were all unarmed. The police officers only feared for their lives because of their fear of Black people. The Fear took over, they shot off their guns, and innocent people died. And when I say innocent, I don’t care if the toy gun didn’t have a red tip or if Michael supposedly bullied a store clerk. That does not justify their deaths. I mean that none of them had been convicted of a crime and sentenced to death by a judge and jury of their peers. None of them threatened the lives of those officers. Their deaths were unjust, illegal, and unconstitutional.

This is scary, people. We should be scared – and not because of possibly damage property during protests. We should be scared for the system, for our government, for our police, and what that means to us as citizens. What does that mean for our children?

We are upset, we are angry, we are sad, we are fed up. Not just because these people died. But because the law is letting policemen shoot and kill whomever they please without repercussions. There are other ways to detain a suspect that should not involve shooting to kill. Those who lecture about how to “just behave and avoid getting in situations like this” are blind and in severe denial. Wake up, everyone. You may find yourself someday in an unfortunate situation with a police officer. And even though you may be a law-abiding citizen and unarmed, what these non-indictments are saying is that, he or she can still shoot and kill you if he feels like it. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

Except be heard. So march. Protest. Peacefully – of course – I don’t believe that violence is the answer. But stand up. Speak out. Talk about this. That’s the least we can do for Eric, Michael, Tamir, and Aiyana. Where are you marching today?

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Martin Niemöller