It stops today.

“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. Please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me.” — A few of the last words of Eric Garner

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “I can’t breathe”. The actual last words of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a NYPD officer — who so far has gotten away with the murder. This phrase has since been adopted by those protesting the persistent and unchecked police brutality so prevalent in our nation — especially against people of color. And, while I admire the feeling of helplessness the phrase evokes, a feeling that so many feel in the face of current circumstances, I can’t help but feel, personally, that there is something a bit defeatist about it. I try to put myself in Mr. Garner’s shoes and wonder if lying on the ground, struggling for life, saying that phrase over and over again is how I would want to be remembered.

It stops today.

Instead, it was something Eric Garner said before the choking. It was a statement of defiance. One spoken by a proud man who was tired. Tired of being stopped and harassed for little more reason than being Black in America. A tiredness experienced by far too many who suffer the same. If I were Eric Garner, I would want to be remembered for standing up and saying “It stops today. ” Not for being wrestled to the ground and choked out but for standing tall and proud and asserting my rights as a citizen and a human being. I would want that to be a rallying cry of protest. I would want that to become the song of freedom that brings long sought justice to those being oppressed.

Let us remember him this way. The way we remember Rosa Parks. Proud, tired, and stating with fierce dignity, “It stops today”.

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