Here's this:

It's grabbed from a New York Daily News article, but the same basic information is available anywhere: Eric Garner's death was caused by an illegal chokehold and was ruled a homicide.

Now, here's this:

Note, first of all, that those are all white people.

Consider this an important demonstration of the way casual, institutionalized racism works.

America — white America, anyway — has a terrifying affinity for authority, and it is sometimes expressed, in a form that is relatively benign and all the more terrifying for it, as a tendency to anticipate a valid-seeming reason why violence committed against civilians is ultimately justifiable, if we just wait long enough for the full story.

Eric Garner was choked to death over nothing. Wait, let's wait for the full story. Ah, here is just the lightest whispering of an alternative theory, which henceforth shall explain everything.

This at-best quiet and comfortable affinity for authority often manifests itself in the belief that cops, by and large, are good people who are sometimes unfairly maligned by the melodramatic responses of rabble-rousers to the misdeeds of very few among their ranks. This is a benefit of the doubt that we simply do not extend to other groups, notably minority men, and most notably black men. Hence the word "affinity": in cops, we see a force deployed largely in defense of our way of life, and in black men, we see other.


In white America, cops are a necessary evil. They bug us about driving too fast and bust up our noisy Super Bowl parties, but they are also the safeguard behind which we allow others into our communities. When we see black or Latino men on our block or in our building or — heaven forbid — knocking on our doors, we are comforted to know the police are just a phone call away. They spare us from having to engage our humanity, to trust in a meaningful way and reconcile with our demons.

Police are an armed and organized brute squad, their central and most vital purpose to bring at least the threat of force to bear against those who disrupt what we have deemed to be an acceptable status quo. Police are not summoned for wisdom or tact or objectivity, they are summoned for authority in the form of the threat of violence. When white America calls the police, we are calling someone with a weapon and the authority to use it. We are summoning intimidation at best and violence at worst, enacted against other civilians. We are outsourcing responsibility for creating a peaceful and equitable society to a group whose only method is forceful removal through acts of violence up to and including murder.

Racism may or may not be a definitional personal attribute, but sussing that out is ultimately far less important than recognizing that racism is a definitional cultural attribute of America, and that whatever you happen to think of yourself, you can advance it and deploy it and profit by it. Speaking up for whatever percentage of people who are driving around in armored vehicles with loaded weapons and a mandate to commit acts of violence against civilians you suppose aren't all bad is advancing and deploying racism, the systematic devaluing of black lives. Cops are the literal expression of America's hatred toward black people. Among their numbers, there are none worth protecting.


Eric Garner didn't die of a fucking heart attack. When we say he did, it's because we don't want the argument, and we don't want anyone telling us our hatred of black people is about us and not them. But he didn't die of a heart attack. He was murdered in broad daylight, on camera, because white America decided his simple existence was an intrusion upon our way of life. We deployed our army, they did their job.