After Erica Garner’s death, it seems her legacy may already be in jeopardy.
Garner, who died at age 27 after an asthma attack induced a heart attack, was an outspoken activist after her father, Eric Garner, died at the hands of the NYPD. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Garner was a public face in the world of activism, fighting for civil rights and becoming a fixture at protests and rallies.
Black journalists only
But Garner’s legacy was called into question when a spokesperson running her account after her death posted the following:
“Out of respect to Erica, please do not request comment [regarding her death] if the journalist is not black.”
The outcry was immediate. People accused the spokesperson of racism, and others claimed that the statement was incompatible with Garner’s legacy of bringing people together.
“Those who knew Erica call this post a disrespect to her and her legacy,” wrote WABC-TV anchor Bill Ritter.
“Delete this … there are many non-black journalists who understand and empathize with the social issues she fought for,” another user wrote.
But those people don’t understand Garner’s actual legacy.
Garner purposefully gave exclusive interviews to Black journalists, especially Black women. She often lamented the lack of diversity in the field of journalism and went out of her way to support Black people in the industry.
Thus, it’s only been a few days, and already, people are trying to paint Garner the way they wanted her to be in life.
Not that we should be surprised. They did the same thing to Martin Luther King, Jr., after his death. In life, he was a radical; in death, he was a saint.
The erasure of more radical legacies will only continue if we don’t make it a point to remember that our civil rights heroes shook up the status quo; they didn’t conform to it.