Five years ago, Eric Garner, uttered his last words “I can’t breathe” on a Staten Island sidewalk as a New York City Police Department officer, Daniel Pantaleo, placed him in a chokehold.
Eric Garner was a father of six and a grandfather of three. But, beyond that, Garner was a black man who fell victim to the painful reality faced by communities of color every day– police brutality.
Garner’s death was ultimately ruled a homicide. However, Daniel Pantaleo faced no indictment or punishment up until his firing, 5 years later, on August 19, 2019. With the lack of accountability and firing being the closest inch to justice for Eric Garner’s family, tensions amongst African-American families continue rising.
After the shooting of an unarmed black man, Michael Brown, in 2014, the Washington Post began to track police shootings. At the time they began to track police shootings, the Washington Post uncovered that the FBI’s tracking system “undercounted police shootings by about half”; therefore, the Post numbers rely on “news accounts, social media postings, and police reports.”
By 2019, the Post reported that in four years in a row, “police nationwide fatally shot nearly 1,000 people” each year.” Yet, despite years of controversial police shootings, protests, and increased public awareness, convictions are extremely rare.
According to the Los Angeles Times, getting killed by police is “a leading cause of death for young black men in America.” According to the findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in the United States can die at the hands of law enforcement officers– that makes them 2.5 times more likely to die during a police encounter than white men and boys. “There are better odds of being killed by police than you have of winning scratch-off lottery games,” said study leader Frank Edwards, a sociologist at Rutgers University.
With the aforementioned facts, black men and boys in America are facing symptoms of trauma as the search for justice continues. According to an article published by the New Republic, the virality of content displaying police brutality is shaking people of color to the core– “because the images of police violence are so pervasive, they inflict a unique harm on viewers, particularly African Americans, who see themselves and those they love in these fatal encounters.”
This is particularly worrisome for our black students at the University of Miami; are we addressing these issues and listening?
As the University of Miami’s enrollment continues shifting towards more diverse directions, students who consider themselves ‘Black or African American’ still make up only 7.9 percent of the enrollment population, according to the National Center of Education’s IPEDS 2017-2018 data report. Therefore, 7.9 percent of students might be facing a lack of empathy or understanding of the racial concerns that often consume them.
At the University of Miami, Landon Coles, a sophomore studying Legal Studies, confessed how close these police interactions hit close to home here on campus. As a Student Government Senator, Executive Board Member of United Black Students, and Office Assistant at the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Coles has often provided his presence as a safe haven for fellow black students facing issues because of their race.
When asked if whether or not students have been personally affected by police brutality, Coles answered “We have had students confess to us that they are apprehensive or distrustful of UMPD, they’ve shared stories of being profiled, and being treated harshly by certain officers of UMPD. It’s a reality for so many students of color.”
The Hammond Rhodes scholar also made sure to clarify that, “it’s not that people of color don’t want our communities to be safe and guarded by police officers, that’s a misconception.” Coles continued, “What we don’t want is to be overpoliced.”
Landon Coles reminds us of how close the anxiety hits home. And It’s time we discuss that police brutality is demoralizing the foundation of the United States.
Communities of color have been grieving for decades, if not, centuries. They remain vulnerable targets and we still aren’t protecting them as much as we need to. When we fight for Eric Garner, we fight for Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and all black communities in the United States who do not feel safe within our borders. Because, yes, black lives matter.
#BlackLivesMatter, and the Hashtag Does Too by Amelia Diamond