Epiphanies are interesting things, and more people should have them.

For the last few months, our country has been embroiled in a series of social and cultural battles that ultimately come down to the will of the establishment versus the will of social progressives. This ranges from issues of inclusion in gaming and ethics with respect to #Gamergate all the way to police brutality and over militarization of the same with respect to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

For today, the latter issue is where a light turned on for me, and the picture has become so very clear that it is almost too overwhelming to write about it.

For the past few months, my argument has been that both shootings come down to an issue within the black community – my community – where thuggery and disregard for law and order are par for the course. My argument has been, to simplify it, that if we don’t want to see issues with the police be a state of “normalcy”, then we need to address why the police presence is needed in our community.

I maintain this position, as it is a fundamental truth.


With that said, I have egregiously made the same mistake that many others on both side of the issue have, and that is to equate the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, when the reality is that the two incidents couldn’t be more different at a fundamental level.

Both sides of the argument cast these two issues as a matter of overzealous police officers. The discussion was rooted around a premise of the police, in its totality, carrying out an uneven level of justice against the black community.

Full Disclosure: My brother is a cop in the NYPD, and he is white. While I am inclined to ally with my African American community on most issues, this one has been personal for me, and I make no equivocation as to why. I don’t ever want to be a pall bearer for my brother, and not only that, but I hope that the men and women around him are able to keep him as safe as he is able to keep them.

I am passionate about that view, and as such, I default to a position of being allied with the establishment as a result.

So what has changed for me?

After reading through some of the data dump out of Ferguson (available here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/11/25/us/evidence-released-in-michael-brown-case.html?_r=0 ), there seems to be a near unassailable fact that greatly changes the nature of the Brown case, and has had me rethink my position on Eric Garner’s death.

Michael Brown physically engaged Officer Wilson, not the other way around. ALL of the forensics support the account that Wilson gave to at least that end. Brown struggled with Wilson while the latter was still in his vehicle, and it is clear that the struggle was for Wilson’s weapon, and in the course of that struggle, Wilson was assaulted. Everything that came after that has to be seen through that prism; you can not divorce the outcome from the causality.

So, sitting back and considering the Garner incident, I placed that same prism on the issue.

Eric Garner never engaged Officer Pantaleo. Yes, Garner was under arrest, and yes, his diatribe and body language can be considered to be resisting arrest, but he never assaulted the officer.

Now, I can actually feel the collective of the NYPD rolling their eyes at that, but it is the truth. The issue should have always been a matter of “justifiable homicide”. While there may be people burning down Ferguson, and some may read what I am about to say and considering setting me on fire for it – the shooting of Michael Brown can be justified. The death of Eric Garner really can’t be justified – even when the wide latitude of the law that police officers have is considered, there is really is no way to look at the Garner incident and come to a conclusion that the man dying during the course of that arrest makes any sense.


Neither of these men deserved to die. No one does. But one of these men played a very direct role in his own death (kiss my ass about victim blaming – suicide by cop is a real thing  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_by_cop) while the other one didn’t. While the aftermath of the grand jury decision for the Michael Brown incident is a tragedy itself, it is nothing compared to what will happen if there is no indictment regarding Garner… because my epiphany has even someone like me, who generally defaults to the side of the establishment, considering buying some bricks to put through windows if that happens…

There doesn’t just need to be an indictment in the Eric Garner case – there has to be an indictment. There is no clear justification for the death of Eric Garner, and a “no true bill” being returned in that case truly does create the perception that a black life is not worth a damn thing in this country.

Now, keep in mind, I am not calling Officer Pantaleo a murderer – but the death of Eric Garner needs to have a trial associated with it. No question.