Eric Garner Was Killed by New York Tax Collectors
by Shelby Emmett (bio)
Some of the greatest people in my life are black men.
All of these great black men are heroes to me in some way. They are amazing fathers and hard workers whose work goes unheralded.
These black men are my shoulders to cry on. They are a helping hand. They include big brothers and former boyfriends. They are BFFs and study buddies. They are classmates and soulmates.
Most of these black men in my life — these heroes — have been stopped by police for dubious reasons. And all were frustrated with the obvious outrageousness of the situations. They have every right to be.
Is it racism? Is it Big Government? It's probably a little of one and a lot of the other.
Quite frankly, our government is out of control. The tragedy of Eric Garner is the sum product of our intrusive government. A zealousness to enforce these rules is what got Garner — a father, BFF and shoulder to cry on for others — killed.
The laws of New York must be changed. If a police officer is going to use an outlawed tactic that results in someone's death, that officer should be charged with negligent homicide.
And while I don't think race was the primary reason this tragedy happened, it is a factor.
Many black men are growing impatient with their negative interactions with the police. Too many people, both black and white, believe a frustrated, angry black man is an automatic threat. In my mind, these stereotypes - combined with our out-of-control government - helped cause the death of Eric Garner.
Regardless of whether one is satisfied with the grand jury decision in the Garner case, a man died because our government has gotten too big. It has gotten too intrusive.
When a government passes more laws, more resources are needed to enforce them. This leads to more interactions between the state's enforcers and the people, ultimately resulting in a chaos of complexity. There are so many rules, one can't seem to not break some law.
In Garner's case, it seems government's hunger for revenue meant more than our individual lives.
Unlike Mike Brown, Garner was not suspected of committing a violent crime. He was not threatening anyone's life, starting fires or holding up traffic. He was selling "loosies" — single, untaxed cigarettes. The force used against him should never have been justified.
We must ask ourselves what exactly we want from law enforcement. Do we want our police acting like mobsters, busting heads on behalf of a government godfather? Do we want to limit the scope of the police or pass more laws for them to enforce?
Like the heroes in my life who were stopped by police for loitering, jaywalking and generally being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Eric Garner was frustrated. They had every right to be. But, as our government becomes bigger and more intrusive, I fear more of these incidents will occur.
As our government grows bigger, our circle of liberty becomes smaller.
As more laws are passed, the danger from the police state grows.
As that danger grows, our frustrations grow.
As I said, our government is causing chaos.
Of course racial profiling exists. Of course there are some racist cops out there, and this is exactly why we should limit government and stop passing so many laws.
I'm not preaching anarchy, but fewer laws means less things for the police to enforce. Men are not perfect, and it's said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, we should limit the state's interaction with the individual.
The best way, in my opinion, to reform a police force that's out of control is to limit its role and function.
The best way to do this is to limit the power of the government.
Stop demanding better from the state and start demanding more individual power instead.
This has come to "us" against "them." Only "us" isn't colors — it's We the People. "Them" is the state.
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Shelby Emmett, Esq., a member of the national advisory council for the Project 21 black leadership network, is a Maryland attorney with a focus on employment and family law.
Comments may be sent to [email protected].
Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints
permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.
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