"I Can't Breathe!" & 6 More Quotes That Defined 2014
There's no denying that 2014 has been an eventful year, one of human innovation and viral videos — as every year is, thanks to the Internet — but also deep turmoil and tension. Aptly, a Yale University librarian picked "I can't breathe" as this year's most notable quote — a line that now serves as a rallying cry for those in opposition to police brutality and racial injustice, and symbolically representing the repression of minorities.
How, really, can we describe this year, though? How do we talk about the discrepancies between mankind's deep curiosity about space and still live in a society where seemingly sanctioned injustices take place, with little to no repercussions? A lot has happened — as it always does, because humanity just doesn't seem to be able to sit still, which I'm all for — but certain things, in particular, stand out. From the great big declarations of feminism to the ALS ice bucket challenge, ISIS to the Ebola outbreak, the FIFA World Cup to the emotional protests across the country, it's definitely been an exciting year. And since nothing illustrates a particular event more succinctly than words do, we've compiled a list of 2014's most powerful quotes to remember from this year.
"I Can't Breathe!" — Eric Garner
Eric Garner’s pleading last words as a police officer restrained him in a chokehold is without a doubt, like the Yale librarian Fred Shapiro deemed, the most powerful and telling quote of the year. It signifies the systemic stifling of racial groups, but also a sign that the repressed are demanding change — and demanding it loudly.
Protests have erupted across the nation in the wake of both the Ferguson and Staten Island grand juries acquitting the police officers that killed unarmed black men over the past few months. “I can’t breathe!” has become a commanding cry of solidarity and a call to action.
"We are and always will be a nation of immigrants." — President Barack Obama
In his speech on immigration in November, the president announced that he would take executive action to pass a comprehensive immigration bill — one that could protect up to five million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. His quote countered the idea that immigrants don’t belong here, reminding us that America consists of those who traveled here across seas for better lives.
"Yes All Women"
The social media campaign gained traction after Elliot Rodger went on a shooting rampage that left six dead and 13 injured. Rodger later killed himself, but not before documenting, in great detail, his frustration and rage over women whom he felt rejected him — inspiring Twitter users to rally behind the hashtag #YesAllWomen, voicing their fears of violence as something that, yes, all women feel.
"Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" — Ferguson
After Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” has, like Garner’s last words, become a rallying cry and gesture against police brutality. Professional athletes and Congress members have raised their hands in public, in solidarity with the St. Louis town — and entire nation — in mourning.
"No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid." — Lupita Nyong'O
The incredibly talented actress Nyong’O won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave. The Mexican-born, Kenyan-bred beauty went from being somewhat unheard of to international stardom, thanks to her powerful portrayal as Patsey in the Steve McQueen film. Nyong’O has since become Glamor Woman of the Year and graced magazine covers, as well as landed prominent roles in the upcoming Jungle Book and Star Wars: Episode VII movies — and she’s done it all with an strong sense of humility.
While this isn’t a unique quote in itself, I feel like “rest in peace” deserves mention for all the notable deaths that have occurred in 2014. Among others, this year we’ve lost Maya Angelou, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Lauren Bacall, Elaine Stritch, Mike Nichols, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Peaches Geldof, Maria von Trapp, John Henson, Diem Brown, Brittany Maynard — whose assisted suicide was all over the news — the journalists beheaded by ISIS, the Ebola victims, and the tens of thousands of children who die of poverty each year.
"Ban Bossy" — Sheryl Sandberg
Sandberg’s campaign to ban the word was one aimed at altering the notion of women taking charge as being “bossy.” Though some claimed the Facebook CEO took a negative approach to addressing the issue of women being held to different standards than men, “Ban Bossy,” despite it petering out after a while, brought gender disparities to national attention — in no small part due to Condoleezza Rice and Queen Bey’s appearances in the video.