the world has failed eric and erica garner

January 2, 2018
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In 2014, Eric Garner was killed by police after being placed in a choke-hold while being arrested for selling single cigarettes, even though he stated 11 times that he couldn’t breathe due to asthma-related complications. Despite the murder being caught on camera in the middle of the Movement for Black Lives, Garner’s murderers were not indicted.

This past Christmas Eve, his 27-year-old daughter, Erica Garner, was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack. According to her mother Esaw Snipes, the younger Garner had given birth to a child four months earlier, and learned she had heart problems during the pregnancy. After the heart attack, Erica was placed in a medically induced coma, but doctors say they could not save her, and her family said their final goodbyes on December 30th.

This is a story about the vast expanse of anti-Black violence.

The elder Garner’s death should be an obvious example of police violence and the impunity with which the state can steal Black lives, but it was clearly not obvious enough for the grand jury who let his murderer walk free, or the city that did little to intervene (under its progressive mayor, Bill de Blasio, no less).

Erica’s death is an example that is a little less direct, but is equally an indictment of systemic anti-Blackness. Just months ago NPR released a report on how institutional racism leads to Black mothers in the U.S. dying at three to four times the rate of white mothers. This is due to many factors, including racism-related stressors and well-documented biases across medical professions, and these pressures most certainly contributed to the young woman’s untimely death, as she herself warned might happen.

These anti-Black systems do not relent even in death.

Eric Garner’s inability to find justice was belabored after his passing not only through futile grand jury hearings, but through the death of his daughter. A dying Erica herself was faced with callousness (even on this site!) when others attempted to raise money for her, because people falsely believed she received a huge payout from the state after her father’s death.

As Black people facing the same violent system, it sometimes seems like there little we can do when taking in the enormity of this problem. At the very least, however, we can commit to not taking part in this system ourselves, and to extending just a little grace to the flawed Black living and dead who would never receive it otherwise. Otherwise, we are part of the same world that failed Eric and Erica Garner, and that is failing us.


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