A World Without Any Eric Garners

Protests Continue Across Country In Wake Of NY Grand Jury Verdict In Chokehold Death Case

Tomasky doubts it will arrive:

Ask yourself: What would it take, really, for your average white cop not to see your average black male young adult as a potential threat? Because we can pass all the ex-post facto laws we want, and we can even convict the occasional police officer, which does happen from time to time. But that’s not where the problem starts. The problem starts in that instant of electric mistrust when the cop reaches for his gun, or employs a homicidal chokehold. That moment is beyond the reach of legislation, or of any punishment that arrives after the fact.

McWhorter rejects such pessimism:

Are we trying to create a humanity devoid of any racist bias, or are we trying to stop cops from shooting black men?

The two aren’t the same. A world without racism would be a world without dirt. A world where episodes like what has happened just this year to Garner, Brown, John Crawford, Akai Gurley, and Tamir Rice is much more plausible. We need special prosecutors, body cameras, and, if you ask me, an end to the war on drugs.

As such, we must be pragmatic. I know the people protesting Michael Brown’s death nationwide are sincere. But it’s easy to forget that in cases like this, sincerity is supposed to be forward-focused. It’s all too human for people to end up mistaking the heightened emotions, the threats, the media attention, the catharsis, as progress itself. But drama alone burns fast and bright. Think about how Trayvon is already—admit it—seeming more like history than the present.

He insists that “Ferguson was the spark, but Garner was ‘it'”:

Here is where I am quite sure Reverend King and Bayard Rustin would be planning not just statements and gestures, but boycotts. The recording of Garner’s death has the clear, potent and inarguable authority of the Birmingham newsreels. We must use that. Yes, use—we are trying to create change, not just perform.

A reader points to a performance:

I’ve never emailed you, though I am a long-time reader and admirer (and, more recently, a subscriber). But if you want something to lift your spirits a bit about Garner, take a look at this. It’s a protest organized by the Black Law Student Association at Yale Law School and joined by much of the law school community. During this silent protest, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff joined hands and created a human chain between the law school and New Haven’s Courthouse.  Everyone then staged a “die in” for 4 1/2 minutes.  It was a remarkably moving event, all the move moving given that it was organized entirely by young people who’d been buffeted by the news of Ferguson and the Garner verdict and are doing their best to be successful law students at a top law school.  Want to know something else? Not only did the New Haven police facilitate the protest, but the Chief of Police showed up in support, cheering the dean of the law school as he passed.

(Photo: On December 4, 2014 in Oakland, California Michaela Pecot wears a sign on her hat that reads ‘I can’t breathe’ in front of City Hall on the second night of demonstrations following a Staten Island, New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. By Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)