I came across this article while I was scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago. I was instantly captivated by the caption because after all that this family has been put through, I couldn’t fathom to think of what else our criminal justice system was forcing them to endure. The article talks about how the lawyer representing Legacy Miller (Eric Garner’s 2 year old love child) is demanding that Garner’s four other children undergo a DNA test before the $7 million dollar settlement is divided up amongst them. Even though Esaw Garner (widow of Eric Garner) has explained multiple times why Eric Garner’s name does not appear on her children’s birth certificates, the lawyer is continuing to press for the DNA test. The money has yet to be distributed to the children even though the $7 million dollar settlement was reached months ago.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the criminal justice system as a living laboratory and how officials in this system tend to go beyond their powers and abuse and violate the human body under the guise of “doing their job.” From the way police officers conduct searches to the way lawyers require victims to undergo humiliating medical procedures during trials, officials are constantly finding new ways to expand their authority over the body, specifically black and brown bodies. In the case of Esaw Garner, her testimony on the birth of her children is completely discarded in court. It doesn’t matter that her children knew Eric Garner as their father their entire lives. In the eyes of the lawyer, her testimony was viewed as unconvincing and thus merited medical intervention through a DNA test.
This article also brought me back to the chapters we read in Medical Apartheid a few weeks ago. In the book, Washington actually highlights how medical personnel continued to perform experiments on slaves even after they died. Not even in death were slaves able to finally be free from the oppressive systems that held them captive throughout their lives. In the case of Eric Garner and many others like him, his body and that of his family is continuously violated by officials who represent the criminal justice system. Even in death, there is no peace that is afforded to him or his family.