Eric Garner, who died at the hands of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in July, and his wife Esaw Garner


Eric Garner’s widow is right to tell the man who killed her husband to shove his condolences up his ass. Sure, she said it in a nicer way than I did — albeit in a white-hot-hurt-woman-anger kind of way — but that is exactly what her sentiments are, and, fortunately, the ones she expressed at a major press conference.

We hear too many empty apologies. We are made sick by poisoned condolences. Officer Pantaleo added this to the heap:

I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.

Personal condolences mean saying something besides the words “personal condolences.” This distant language that removes himself from his own statement, most certainly from the murder, offers nothing personal at all.

Pantaleo showed no mercy when Eric Garner gurgled audibly on the video of his death, just before he began his haunting repetition, “I can’t breathe.” So the woman left alone to mother their six children responded:

Hell no! The time for remorse would have been when my husband was yelling to breathe, that would have been the time for him to show some type of remorse, or some type of care for another human being’s life, when he was screaming 11 times that he can’t breathe. So there is nothing that him or his prayers or his anything else would make me feel any different. No, I don’t accept his apology, no, I could care less about his condolences, no, I could care less. He’s still working, he’s still getting a paycheck, he’s still feeding his kids, and my husband is six-feet under and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now.

Now that is how you make something personal.


Eric Garner’s widow points out that Pantaleo–who choked her husband to death while a team of men held him down – still earns tax-payer dollars via a pay-check from the NYPD. As long as Pantaleo keeps earning his pay, his incentive for self-examination is nil. And as long as we continue to express rage and frustration at the system that keeps taking Black lives with impunity, we cannot allow, just as Esaw Garner will not allow, the specter of economical disparity to dissipate with the media frenzy. The camera lights will die, but her children and grandchildren will suffer without their provider’s income.

Yesteray, Esaw Garner made some noise to ensure her children have the economic and emotional resources necessary to avoid the fate of so many other children whose parents have been removed from their households due to incarceration or violence. We must stand with her to demand recompense from the government institutions who allowed Pantaleo, three times the subject of civil rights lawsuits in the past two years, a position of authority.

For those who were not born poor. Who were not born black. Who were not born in a city. For some this story may seem at a distance. Complicated.
But in the end, this story is astonishingly simple and perfectly described by Esaw Garner:

Somebody that got paid to do right, did wrong.

Shout Finch contributed to this editorial.

Image Credit: NY Daily News


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