Eric Garner. Another unarmed black man gone down for no good goddamn reason, with not even a charge for those who caused his death. Not even a charge, not a trial, no open public examination of the facts. I’m not going to pontificate on this issue, because there are a multitude of African-American voices who can speak more directly and eloquently to this situation than yet another middle-aged white man. I’ll just point to this piece I wrote a few months ago “following the police berzerkery in Ferguson, Missouri.”
The post dealt with the fact that this kind of thing has been going on for a long, long time — strange fruit bearing on a multitude of blood-soaked trees. This particular post focused on the emblematic case of George Jackson, killed in San Quentin in 1971. But it’s a piece that could have been written — and could be written, and will be written — every few weeks, year after year after year.
As noted in the piece, in 1960, when George Jackson was sent to prison — “for one year to life” — for a $70 robbery, there were 200,000 people in prison in the United States. When he was killed in 1971, there were 300,000 people in prison. By 2011, there were 2.3 million people imprisoned in the United States — and more than 7 million human beings under some form of correctional supervision: prison, parole or probation.
Is this the picture of a healthy society? An “exceptional” society?