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There is so much I want to talk about on here, but I simply could not talk about any other thing, without speaking on what is going on now, about this because this one is heavy and to some extent personal. And I hope the conversation never stops until CHANGE.
Never trust people who say they do not see colour because chances are, they most certainly will not see you, so they will not hear when you tell them you cannot breathe. “I can’t breathe” an anguished cry for justice, for mercy, for compassion, three words with such heavy meaning.
My cousin Seni Lewis was 23 years old when he died, he’d admitted himself into hospital for help with his mental health and when he got agitated the police were called. Eleven police officers held him down, starving his brain of oxygen whilst his cries of distress were ignored. Seni died four days later in hospital. It would take my aunt years of inquiries and marches to get a law passed, the mental health units, use of force; Seni’s Law.
This is a reality for Black mothers everywhere; that their children will not come back home safe. That playing in the park with a toy can get them killed, riding a bike, listening to music, eating kittles, sleeping in your own home, staying in a mental institution for help… will possibly mean their death.
The murder of Ahmaud Arbery lit the match recently, this was a long time coming, but it was his death at the hands of two civilians, one of whom was an ex-cop, who hunted him down with their vehicle as he jogged, and killed him, that would make us reach a boiling point. In addition, the arrest of these two came seventy-four days after the murder was captured on video, and we would learn that the DA’s office had advised against arrest of the killers . They profiled him because he did not belong, giving the age old excuse of him looking like someone who’d apparently been involved in a series of burglaries in the area. Isn’t that always the case when Black people find themselves in spaces others don’t think we should be in?
Amy Cooper. She threw down that match as she tried to incriminate a Black man who’d dared tell her to follow the rules. The video of her exchange with Christian Cooper is enraging for the mere fact that she knew, she knew exactly what she was doing when she gleefully informed Christian Cooper that she would call the police and tell them an “African American Man” was threatening her life. She knew exactly what could potentially happen if the police came and saw the two of them. You heard it in her tone, the sinister energy that accompanied every word, the performative tears she cried as she informed the police that her life was being threatened by this African American Man. What was Christian Cooper’s crime? He’d asked her to put her dog on a leash in an area where dogs are supposed to be put on leashes. He asked her to follow the rules, rules she felt did not apply to her. In a world of bad people, Amy Cooper is the worst, not least because she knew that the police would take her side because she is a White woman against a Black man.
This was Emmett Till all over again and as in Till’s case, his supposed infraction was simply being cheeky as a fourteen-year-old, as any fourteen-year-old child would. Till was captured and massacred by Carolyn Bryant’s (his accuser) husband and his half brother for his perceived cheek. It would take decades for Bryant to admit she lied. Like Bryant, Cooper wielded her knowledge of the system and sought to use it to incriminate Christian Cooper because he dared tell her how to act in public and he should never have been able to do so because she saw herself as far superior to him.
The murder of George Floyd set the world ablaze. In the course of the outrage, we would come to learn of Breonna Taylor who was shot eight times in her apartment as the police executed a no knock warrant on the 13th of March. The officers were in search of people already in custody. Breonna would have been 27 this month and no officers have been arrested for her murder.
We cannot breathe.
We cannot sleep.
We cannot be.
The world is on fire right now and it must take the heat and stay in that kitchen. “I can’t breathe” Floyd pleaded with Derek Chauvin as he knelt on his neck, hands in pockets for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, two minutes and fifty-three seconds of which Floyd was unresponsive. Imagine what such police officers have done when there was no one was watching? This was murder. No matter what he did, he did not deserve to be treated in such a way. He did not deserve this.
No matter what he did.
I want that to sink in because when the media try to paint George Floyd as anything other than the man he was, remember that the police brazenly killed him whilst the world watched. And the media will change the narrative surrounding George Floyd: it will become more about putting Floyd on trial to discredit his character with whatever infractions, minor or not, they can dig up as they do with any Black person who has died at the hands of police. Infractions that had nothing to do with how he died. How he was murdered. Do not allow that to happen. Words matter, because they frame a narrative about a person, they inform us of a person and their life before we meet them. We see it in Hollywood movies and cop dramas, and books etc. cops are allowed to be nuanced, and complicated, and frustrated and well-rounded and brazen and bold and fractured and broken… they are allowed to be all the human elements that applies but a Black person is not allowed to be any of those things, instead we are seen at thugs, and miscreants and angry and difficult and aggressive etc.
How is it that cops do not see the human first, and recognise the many complications applied to them by these narratives? That, is a privilege.
White privilege is not that your life has not been hard, it’s that the colour of your skin does not further compound the bullshit we have to go through as human beings, which therefore puts us, Black people, at the back of the line. It is knowing that as Black people, we always have to accommodate ourselves in spaces that aren’t even open to us in which we find ourselves, from the macro level in the the boardrooms to the micro level in the department stores having to make sure you print out your receipt (an action that is now optional) upon leaving a store for fear of being unable to prove your purchase.
Racism is language because it denotes intent and frames actions, it’s the dog whistle of what is not said but implied, it’s the compound meanings of words said in ignorance. It is conforming so as not to confirm the stereotypes applied to us.
A man was killed by the police. An African American Man. A father. A Brother. A husband. A friend. A Black man… pleading for help and his dead mother; I can’t breathe… let that sink in as the world continuously cries out for justice and peace.