erica garner was radical, not the type of “respectable” activists neoliberals love

January 2, 2018
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With the untimely death of activist Erica Garner last week, a mere three years after her father’s brutal execution at the hands of the NYPD, Black folks of all stripes have (mostly) came together to pay tribute to her life and legacy—as they should. Thrust into the spotlight after her fathers highly public murder, Erica was undoubtedly a freedom fighter, and she put so much energy into this movement that she is completely deserving of some reciprocity, even if it only came once she was gone.

But there is a difference between mourning and showing your respect, and repainting a person’s legacy posthumously to fit a neoliberal agenda. As writer Ben Norton pointed out, “As soon as the last breath left Erica’s body… reactionary center-right Democratic Party operatives slithered out of the woodwork to try to exploit her legacy for their own political interests.”

Erica Garner was unapologetically a Black radical. She refused to capitulate to the “lesser evils” that still were evil enough to murder her father, or watch murderers get away with it, and she had every right to do so.

She famously stood up to Barack Obama, whom she claimed didn’t do enough to curb police brutality (and the numbers prove her correct). Though she campaigned on behalf of Senator Bernie Sanders, arguably the most progressive choice in the 2016 presidential race, she still stood up for the two Black women who sought to hold him accountable for his own failings on race, even when other progressives threw them under the bus.

Garner understood that anti-Blackness is non-partisan, and that the Democratic establishment is equally as invested in subjugating Black people as anyone else.

Norton argues that NYC mayor Bill De Blasio is an example of co-opting Garner’s legacy, given that Garner repeatedly clashed with him over his attempts to shield the NYPD—including officer Daniel Pantaleo who is still on the police force after murdering her father—from any type of accountability.

Erica once said De Blasio is “to the police what Trump is to the ‘Alt-Right’.” Still, he and other liberals seek to capitalize off the fact that she can no longer say for herself that she was not one of them. But she can say it through us.

When liberals were telling radicals to ignore misgivings about Hillary Clinton, Garner reminded them of all the Black blood on her hands, and the money in the bank she made from it.

It’s not enough to say that she had disagreements with corporate Democrats, she wanted them “the fuck up” out of our communities, and said so directly. Garner was not one to mince words.

Liberalism loves to reclaim a radical person’s politics after they have died, just like they try all the time with Martin Luther King, whom they swear never had any bad things to say about whiteness. They are wrong.