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“I can’t breathe,” the last words uttered by Eric Garner, a man choked to death by the NYPD, have rightly become a rallying cry of those protesting the inherent racism of American law enforcement. T-shirts bearing the slogan even have Barack Obama’s approval (despite the Comic Sans font), as they evoke and heighten awareness of systemic oppression in a stark, simple way.
If you attended the Garner rally at New York City Hall last night, however, you likely encountered a vanishingly small faction of pro-cop white dudes who, lacking any argument beyond pure contradiction, wore “I can breathe” shirts. Kind of a humblebrag, you guys.
When they weren’t chanting other taunts, including “Hands up! Don’t loot,” these callous, privilege-admitting garbage heaps were educating counter-protesters on their own race and implying that anyone invested in holding police accountable for their actions was a criminal.
But don’t get too down about this stuff—by all indications, the good guys are winning the battle for hearts and minds. Dig the contrast:
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'