Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review | I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street


Rating: 5 Stars

"Try to imagine a world where there isn't this unspoken consensus that black men are inherently scary, and most of these police assaults would play in the media like spontaneous attacks of madness. Instead, they're sold as battle scenes from an occupation story, where a quick trigger finger while patrolling the planet of a violent alien race is easy to understand" (page 225).

Five years ago tomorrow, Eric Garner was killed on Bay Street, on Staten Island.

Today it was announced that no indictment would be brought against the NYPD "officer" responsible for Garner's death. The Department of Justice is not bringing civil rights charges against him for something or other and at that point honestly I stopped listening to whoever was speaking on NPR at that moment.

What else will it take?

I thought surely, Garner's death, of all the senseless murders of unarmed black men plaguing our country, surely THIS family would get justice. His death was captured on video. Everyone heard him say over and over that he could not breathe. He repeated it eleven times as the "officer" (and I use that term loosely, because fuck that guy), used a choke-hold that was barred from use by the NYPD.


The medical examiner would eventually rule that Garner's death was a homicide. While we understand that this does not necessarily mean it was intentional to cause Garner's death, the "officer's" actions did indeed lead to it. His actions were intentional, his goal was to bring Garner down. And he did.

So, after hearing the news that no indictment would be forthcoming, I sat down to write this review, but I find now that I can't. Not properly anyway, because I am so heartbroken and angry for his family. I am so disgusted by the rhetoric spewing from the White House, and the wall of silence coming from the GOP.

Please read this book.

Please understand why this is a problem.

Please understand that no one thinks all officers are bad.

Please though, above all else, understand the reality of being Black in America.

Here I will leave you with Garner's final words before the choke-hold that killed him:

"Get away (garbled) for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today. Why would you...? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn't do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me (garbled) selling cigarettes. I'm minding my business, officer, I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone."


  1. I think I understand the reality of being Black in America. Well, at least from the outside because I am white. This does sound like an important book though. The whole thing sucks so much!

    1. Right, I feel like I have at least a glimpse of what it is like, but I can't imagine being worried every single day of my life sending my child out into the world. It's a whole different level of fear I think, especially for young Black men, who are apparently dangers to society according to every police officer who has ever feared for his life as a young Black man has run away from him.


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