I’m seeing faces from not too long ago, just weeks, a couple of months. I’m looking at faces of protest. They are different colors. They are in different cities. Everything is different except the looks on their faces. They are the same. They are not looks of resignation, but looks of resolve.
And they are all in my mind.
I have seen that resolute spirit before, in the faces staring back from historic civil rights movement photographs, the faces of people walking across the bridge at Selma, the faces of people standing on the National Mall in August 1963, the faces of walkers watching half-full buses drive by on the streets of Montgomery, Ala. in 1955, the faces of students sitting at lunch counters while racists throw food and invective at them.
But the protests are now memories. The anger has dissipated.
A nation watched a police officer kill a black man on a public street. The officer’s arm was around his neck, choking him. Eric Garner told him: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. ”
Eleven times, he said it. Eleven times, four officers ignored him.
He died. A New York coroner declared it a homicide. A grand jury decided the homicide has no culprit.
And once again, the America that is ignored, that is not listened to, that is constantly burdened with the existence of being, called on the larger federal government for justice. And was denied.
We are a nation divided by income, divided by education, divided by measure of justice.
We are now a nation faced with the aftermaths of senseless deaths.
And in the case of Eric Garner, we have gone back to work, and I can hardly remember his face.
The officer who killed him, Daniel Pantaleo, told a grand jury he was using a “wrestling move.” No prosecutor asked whether he had ever been a wrestler. Pantaleo testified he heard Garner saying he couldn’t breathe, but he didn’t believe him because he could talk. He heard him say he could not breathe, but did not believe him.