On Eric Garner’s Birthday

Eric Garner changed my life. I was a senior in high school when I watched Daniel Pantaleo murder him as six other cops stood by and watched. I didn’t know what police brutality was because I had never experienced or witnessed it. How privileged I was/am that a fear of police was never instilled in me. How privileged I was that my first encounter with state sanctioned violence was through a screen at age 18. And then I saw Eric. And then I saw his saw his big brown eyes and his tears and his limbs flailing in frustration and the arms wrapped around his neck and his face on the ground and then I stopped seeing.

Eric Garner would have been 47 years old today. I didn’t know him. If I didn’t see him on video, I wouldn’t have known anything about him. What I do know is that he should be alive today. Philando Castile should still be alive. &Sandra Bland&Alton Sterling&Michael Brown&Tamir Rice&Walter Scott&Anthony Lamar Smith&the thousands of other non-hashtag human beings taken too early by those who were supposed to serve and protect. On Eric Garner’s 47th birthday, he should have been with his wife and children. He should have been resting at home, not buried in a box deep in the ground with only the damp soil soothing his bones. Eric Garner’s sweet eyes and his spirit live on through his beloved family, but Daniel Pantaleo still walks free, untouched by the corrupt justice system.

I don’t know what my purpose is in writing about Eric on the day of his birth. I don’t know that my words will stir any new spirits angry at the unjust system, angry at the corrupt prosecutors, angry at the ones who walk away while others sleep forever. I just want to remember Eric as the man with kind eyes who had a family and who was loved. He opened my eyes to a world I was too privileged to know, but one I’ve made my life mission to never stop fighting.