When different organizations separately invited Race Matters author Cornel West and Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, slain by New York police, to speak at events in Oakland on Thursday night, no one could have known that the nation would again be enraged by a video of a police officer killing a black man, this time in South Carolina.
Yet, West and Garner said, the killing was not surprising — even if the video is shocking. It’s proof, West said, before a speech at Allen Temple Baptist Church, that racism and white supremacy still exist.
“You live in a society where black lives have such a low priority that people think you can just shoot them like a dog, go home and drink tea,” West said. “White supremacy is alive in the U.S. and we have to hit it head on.”
Garner, speaking before more than 100 at the Betti Ono Gallery in downtown Oakland, said the police choking death of her father — as he said “I can’t breathe” over and over and also captured on video — turned her into an “overnight activist” intent on holding police accountable for unjustified killings of black men.
“It’s crazy how those cops can get away with things,” she said. “If the chief’s not going to hold them accountable, if the grand jury won’t hold them accountable, if (internal affairs) won’t hold them accountable, who will hold them accountable?”
Garner’s talk was part of an event that turned into a session to help Oaklanders cope with the trauma of another high-profile police killing of a black man. As several in the audience live-streamed and tweeted the session, she pointed out the power of technology, like video cameras in cell phones, in combatting police brutality.
“We are our own media,” she said. “We don’t have to go on the words of what those officers said.”
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