by Courtney Knuckles
On Wednesday, December 3 at about 7:19 p.m., I was hit with another reality check about the downside to being black in America.
I don’t know if it’s coincidence or something else, but I’ve always been with my father when not-guilty verdicts in cases involving police officers and black men came down. We heard about Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin when were together. Each time our reaction was the same. I’m not sure what was worse, my feeling of extreme nausea or seeing the look of anguish and defeat on my father’s face.
We sat on our couch and stared at the television as prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced to the world that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The sting of that decision was fresh in our minds when we took our places in front of the TV after we heard the Garner grand jury had finished its work. We believed a different outcome was in store for police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case.
After all, the incident was on cellphone video. You heard Eric Garner pleading. And you watched in horror as he shouted, “I can’t breathe,” while officer Pantaleo put him in an illegal chokehold. Unlike Michael Brown’s final moments, millions saw Eric Garner’s struggle.
My father and I watched the video and we were certain his death was a homicide and the New York City Medical Examiner confirmed our view.
Considering the overwhelming amount of evidence, we could not understand how a grand jury could decide not to indict this police officer. And when we heard the verdict, I couldn’t believe it. Then I thought, “They couldn’t have seen the same tape that I saw.” And then I got angry.
The phrase “no indictment” cut deep to the core. It told me that a group of human beings sat down and decided that killing another human being was not even worth a trial. They essentially said what happened to Eric Garner deserved no further deliberation because the police officer did the right thing.
As much as I would like to believe that racism does not play a factor in Garner’s case, it is hard to ignore what is painfully obvious. Over the past decade police officers killed nine unarmed black men. In almost all of these cases the police officers were white.
I am a young African-American woman and the pattern of police officers killing black men makes me lose faith in America’s judicial system. I feel insecure about my five-year-old daughter. Will I have to protect my daughter from the very people that she should trust? What if I decide to have more children? I detest the fact that I am nervous about the possibility of bringing a male child into a world where his life doesn’t matter to some.
But I have a powerful faith in my generation. As I prepare to protest the killing of Eric Garner, I’m happy to say that I can march side-by-side with people of different nationalities and backgrounds. We all realize that his killing was morally wrong.
I can only hope that the unity displayed during these protests will spark a movement powerful enough to change a corrupt system.