I published a post (Eric Garner and Michael Brown: And Justice For None, http://wp.me/p5jxvv-5t, 12-3) in which I shared my view that just like Ferguson’s Michael Brown, New York’s Eric Garner was a victim of a racist attack by a Caucasian police officer, Daniel Pantaleo.
To recap: Eric Garner, an unarmed African American husband and father of six, was suspected of selling tax-free cigarettes. Caucasian police encircled him, and Office Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold. Asthmatic Garner repeatedly screamed, “I can’t breathe.” Office Pantaleo did not release him, and Garner died.
Because this story occurred right on the heels of unarmed African American Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a Caucasian police officer, I felt they were “parallel” situations, both incidents of racism. Because my readers disagreed that Brown was a victim of racism (see Ferguson Decision: Right or Wrong? http://wp.me/p5jxvv-2y, 11-25), I asked them whether or not they thought Garner was in my last blog post.
Today, I asked my students. As my readers found out in Ferguson Decision… I had one lone student who believed Michael Brown had not died at the hands of a racist officer. I believed they would all agree this time that the officer in Eric Garner’s case, Daniel Pantaleo, was indeed racist. I was curious to see if my prediction was right.
I could not have been more wrong. My seventh graders are Magnet students who come from all walks of life. Their academic level of achievement varies. Because they are in a Magnet school, a majority of them are minority. They could not have been more split. It was almost a tie–half voted that they felt Officer Pantaleo was racist and half voted otherwise.
Let’s Ask the Students!
- The system perpetuates the status quo. Whites have always hated blacks. Based on that history, this was a racist attack.
- People in power stay in power. Officer Pantaleo knew Darren Wilson, Michael Brown’s killer, had been exonerated and therefore felt comfortable taking the actions he took. He believed that, like with Wilson, there would be no repercussions.
- The NYPD does not allow the use of chokeholds. Officer Pantaleo used this method of subduing Mr. Garner because he was a racist.
- The officer’s race matters. New Yorkers wouldn’t be protesting if a black cop had killed a black man.
- Whites have not always hated blacks. Blacks have always hated whites. Based on that, Officer Pantaleo was not racist.
- Officer Pantaleo apologized to the family which he didn’t have to do. Obviously, the officer is not a racist.
- The officer had no way of knowing that Eric Garner was an asthmatic when he put him in a chokehold.
- The officer’s race does not matter. The police don’t look at potential criminals as people of color. They see a crime, they react.
- If Officer Pantaleo had released Mr. Garner when he cried that he could not breathe, the officer would be taking the word of a potential criminal, and Eric Garner could have run away.
- If Officer Pantaleo had used a taser instead of a chokehold, and Eric Garner had been armed, he would have reached for his gun when he saw the officer reach for his taser.
There you have it, the seventh-grade jury is in. Their opinion is split, so once again I ask my readers, do you agree with the half of my class that feels Officer Pantaleo was a racist that should have been punished? Or, do you agree with my students who feel that this incident had nothing to do with racism? I look forward to your views.