“I can’t breathe!” — the exclamation made by a black man, Eric Garner, while being placed in a police chokehold — was chosen as the most notable quote of the year in an annual list released by a Yale University librarian.
It was one of several quotes chosen for the list released Tuesday that reflect tumult over race in America in 2014, particularly in the criminal justice system.
Fred Shapiro, an associate director at Yale Law School’s library, said he had already completed the list without Garner’s quote but revised it as protests grew following a grand jury’s decision last week to not indict a white officer in his death. Garner had gasped “I can’t breathe” on July 17 as he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
Also making the list was “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” — a chant of demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old killed during a confrontation with a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Another quote that sparked conversations about race was made by former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to his mistress, V. Stiviano. An audio recording of the comment, in which he took issue with her “associating” with black people, led the NBA to ban Sterling.
The original “Yale Book of Quotations” was published in 2006, and Shapiro has updated it with an annual list of the top 10 quotes.
“These are not necessarily quotes I agree with or quotes I think are eloquent or admirable,” he said. He said quotes are chosen because they are famous or important or reflect the spirit of the times.
Here’s the list:
1. “I can’t breathe!” — Eric Garner, videotaped exclamation while being held by a policeman in New York, July 17.
2. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” — Bridget Anne Kelly, an aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in an email to David Wildstein quoted in The New York Times, Jan. 9.
3. “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” — Chant of demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, August.
4. “Mr. Commissioner, we found out by one phone call. You guys have a whole legal department. Can you explain that?” — TMZ reporter Adam Glyn questioning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on why the NFL had not been able to view video of the Ray Rice incident, at a news conference on Sept. 19.
5. “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” — Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, in a remark to V. Stiviano on an audio recording quoted in Los Angeles Times, April 27.
6. “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt.” — Hillary Clinton, ABC News interview, June 9.
7. “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I come to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” — Iowa Senatorial candidate Jodi Ernst, campaign advertisement quoted in National Journal, March 25.
8. “I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi (Germany’s) war on its ‘one percent,’ namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the ‘rich.’ … I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.” — Venture capitalist Tom Perkins, letter to the editor, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 24.
9. “We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.” — Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, statement on Paltrow’s website announcing their separation, March 25.
10. (tie) “Isn’t it a bitch? I mean, … this vice president thing?” — Joe Biden, response to student body vice president at Harvard College, Oct. 2.
10. (tie) “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.” — Hillary Clinton, Atlantic Online interview, Aug. 10.
10. (tie) “Every time I get an opponent — I mean, every time I get a chance — I’m home.” — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts responding to questioning about whether he actually resides in Kansas, KCMO radio interview, July 3.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.