After Eric Garner


I am struggling to imagine how much more can be added to the discourse of black butchery in modern America. I know the answer. I am overwhelmed. I want the world to be quieter than the one we know, but I also want to be safe, and that means listening to all the ways in which the planet yells for my death the loudest.

The pain of black consciousness in these information-immersive times is that of a pupil dilated ad infinitum. It is relentless. With every death, maiming, and wrongful arrest at the hands of law enforcement, I have shared the same words with weary digital kin: this is the price of not looking away.

The grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner, despite video footage, rests with minorities in a place so rooted in comprehension as to be beyond it. Like many, I was at work when the news spread. Like many, I experienced the unique displeasure of calm; in the initial, disorienting moments of grief, I trust my footing the most. I know where I stand with America.

Less and less, my embarrassment for the country springs from new failings. Instead, it festers in the old ones still holding court after all these years. I am tired of hearing about black parents breaking when their children ask why so many want to hurt them, what exactly they’ve done wrong. I am tired of seeing people use Martin Luther King, Jr. as a Get Out of Jail Free card when civil unrest seems imminent, though at least they’re admitting to the game.

I am humbled by those with the strength to protest and demand their humanity be acknowledged. These past two nights, I’ve succumbed to despair in the shell of my home. I previously wrote that I am running out of ways to grieve. It is true. This thing I am doing now, it comes from an elsewhere I have yet to name, full of specters and bile. I am beyond recognition.

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice. The countless slayed black women of yesterday and tomorrow. I am sorry: Black lives do not matter, at least not yet. Collectively, they are an inconvenience to be assessed by utility, disruptive potential, and opportunities for capital gain. Just ask our incarceration system; it holds more truths than your hashtags. I cannot say when change will be wrenched from the grasp of the status quo, if ever, but I believe the actions taken in the coming months and years have the potential to make the waiting-for less of an unbearable disgrace.

As for now — despite appearances — we are not living in your America. We are watching the film of this country and wondering why the rest of the audience isn’t running to the projection booth. What I mean to say is this: To black America, the frame is stuck, the emulsion on the wrong side; the world looks inverted and strung up to burn.


Photo: Molly Templeton

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1 comment

  1. I am from Ireland. I have no great familiarity with the black experience in the US, although as an Irish nationalist growing up in Belfast I understand the anomie of living in a state to which you have no loyalty and for which you have no respect. But…
    Eric Garner was a petty criminal who died after violently resisting arrest. Was he choked to death? I don’t think so. Did his tussle with police have a connection with his death. Clearly it did but I do not think the issue as clear cut as it seems to have been presented.