When we think of police violence, what first comes to mind is the people that suffer and die directly from baton blows or by being hit by a bullet. But there’s so much more than that. The pain of losing a loved one to that kind of violence slowly kills a person with trauma and depression.
Oftentimes, the subject of such dire lethality are black people. The recent death of Eric Garner’s daughter, Erica, on December 30 last year is still very fresh. At the age of 27, she suffered a massive heart attack which led to a major brain damage. The root cause is considered the trauma she got after her father’s brutal death.
Erica’s case is not isolated. There were similar cases in the past that slowly killed several black women, especially black mothers and grandmothers.
In 2002, Dona Iraci, a 45-year-old grandmother, died of heart attack after police ransacked her home in Salvador, Bahia in search of her grandson.
There’s also the story of Joselito de Souza, a mother of a 16-year-old boy who was with his friends when he got gunned down and killed by the police in a car ambush in Rio De Janeiro in 2015. In less than a year, she died because of what her family said was “sadness”. After her son was killed, she had no appetite to eat anything but soup which later on caused her anemia and she died of its complications.
Also consider the case of Venida Browder, a loving mother to her son, Kalief. She died of heart attack complications sixteen months after she lost Kalief to suicide. Kalief suffered three tormenting years locked up in Rikers Island waiting for trial for allegedly stealing a backpack. There, he was severely beaten and subjected to over 800 days of solitary confinement. Her mother worked tirelessly to get him out of there — which she did — but not before the trauma take its toll on him. It eventually took a toll on her as well.
In one of her last interviews, Erica Garner related her situation to Browder. She said, “Look at Kalief Browder’s mother, she died of a broken heart. I’m struggling with my health right now… The system beats you down.” She also mentioned about the financial obstacles that families like hers face when they need therapy to deal with grief.
The deaths of the mentioned black women are just some of the growing number of stress-related deaths due to gender-based racism in America. Not to mention a research that suggests that “At ages 49–55, black women are 7.5 years biologically ‘older’ than white women.” What more for a young woman who has struggled the same way as Erica Garner.
Certainly, police violence does not end on baton blows, gunfires, chokeholds, or beating. It subsequently, slowly kills black women with the aftershocks of their loved one’s death. And this is a fight to save black women that should be taken into account right now.