For The Root Wednesday I wrote a response to the non-indictment of an NYPD officer on charges of killing Eric Garner. Garner was unarmed when Officer Daniel Pantaleo held him in an illegal chokehold. While I wasn’t surprised by the Grand Jury’s ruling I was really disappointed.
But in the death of Garner, a father of six from Staten Island, N.Y., these things weren’t enough for a grand jury to bring charges against the officer who killed him. Think about that again: All the overwhelming circumstances and evidence—from the video taken by a passerby to the fact that the asthmatic Garner was being wrestled to the ground using a move the New York Police Department banned back in 1993—none of this was enough for a grand jury to say there could be a trial. None of it was enough to say a crime had been committed.
What is it going to take?
I didn’t expect an indictment, not because I had any inside insight or knowledge beyond being a black woman who grew up reading the newspaper, but because, of course, there would be no indictment. The victim was black and the perpetrator was a white police officer. We’ve seen this scenario over and over again. When it comes to black people killed by white people—especially if that person has police ties— getting a case heard in a courtroom is often the hardest part. Mostly what you get are trials of public opinion with black victims being judged and measured, demonized and dragged in the media.