Last week was the anniversary of the death of Eric Garner. In some ways it feels like a really long time ago and in other ways it feels like yesterday to me. A lot has happened since then, hasn’t it? Look back with me and let’s consider all that’s come to pass in just one year…
Husband and father of 6. Choked to death by a police officer who used an illegal chokehold after questioning Garner for selling loose cigarettes.
Unarmed and shot dead in the street in Ferguson, Missouri last August. He was 18.
Shot on sight in the back in a Wal-Mart after a fabricated call to 911 was made by another store patron. He was a new dad.
Unarmed mentally ill protester in Los Angeles shot multiple times and killed by police.
Shot at a playground within two seconds of the police arriving on the scene. He was 12 years old.
When his 14-year-old sister rushed to be by her brother. She was tackled to the ground, handcuffed and placed in the back of the police vehicle.
Died in police custody due to severe spinal cord injuries. He was 25.
Shot in the back while fleeing from an officer. He was unarmed. The officer unleashed 8 rounds. He was stopped for a non-functioning tail light.
A high school girl wrestled forcibly and violently to the ground during an incident with the police at a pool party.
Reverend. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton
Reverend Clementa Pinckney
Ethel Lee Lance
Daniel L. Simmons
Black Churches Burning
In the two weeks following the massacre at Mother Emmanuel AME, six predominantly black churches in the South have burned, with at least three caused by arson. A lot remains unknown with these fires but that’s a lot of churches in such a short time span.
Another Black man choked to death by a White police officer. This one in Stonewall, Mississippi.
Pulled over for failing to use her turn signal. Arrested and found hanging in her jail cell a couple days later. She was on her way to start a new job in Texas and, according to family and friends, extremely unlikely to take her own life. Her death is being treated as a murder investigation.
Close to Home
That last one? Sandra Bland? That one really hits home for me. Jason and I were pulled over a couple weeks before we got married because Jason, too, failed to use his turn signal. It was an unbelievable and incredibly frightening experience ending with Jason being handcuffed and arrested while I watched. He spent the night in jail but our experience was still nothing like the footage of Sandra Bland being pulled over and arrested. Nothing. And unlike us, Sandra Bland was alone. She must have been terrified.
There are so many that I left off that list and more are being added nearly every day it seems. As I wrote all those names I kept thinking of a line penned by T.D. Jakes last December…
“We do not want our children
to be exempt from the law
or above the law.
What we are saying is we don’t want them
to be tried on the sidewalk.”
When we look back on the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, I think most of us nowadays assume that had we been alive, surely we would have marched. Certainly we would have taken part in such a heroic struggle. I’ve always thought so anyway. But maybe we are telling ourselves an untrue story? Maybe we believe something about ourselves that is fundamentally false? Because we see the list above yet we don’t actually see. We watch the video footage and read the reports and “wait for the facts” and still we say, “no, no, this is different.”
But there is another Civil Rights movement afoot here and now and I’m beginning to wonder why we assume that we would have walked across that bridge in 1965? Why do I think I would have joined the movement? Why do I think I would have marched and toiled bravely alongside Dr. King, Ella Baker and Rosa Parks if I’m not marching and toiling now?
If you’re like me and you’re looking for ways to get involved and/or dig deeper, here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling…
- Take this test (select Race IAT)
- Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Read Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
- Prefer novels? Check out Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Don’t have time for a whole book? Try “I, Racist” by John Metta or “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Follow White Folk Work, Racialicious, The Root, Race Forward, Colorlines and ShowUp4RacialJustice on Twitter
- Follow #BlackLivesMatter on Facebook and find out ways to take action on both local and national levels
- Learn how to write a letter to your congress member — and then write one!
- Other ideas? Hit me!