I Can’t Breathe


I’ve written before about the police killing innocent black men (Stephon Clark, Antwon Rose, Jr. and, of course, Trayvon Martin), but what happened to George Floyd is perhaps the most grotesque example yet, even more so than the killing of Eric Garner, the incident that it so tragically resembles. It’s not just that both of them were crying “I can’t breathe” before they died. Eric Garner was arrested for nothing more than selling cigarettes without tax stamps, while George Floyd was suspected of passing a forged $20 bill. Talk about crimes against humanity! Putting the issue of cold-blooded murder aside, don’t you think it speaks to a country with its priorities a tad out of whack? With all the problems this country has, why are policemen devoting their time to such absolute nonsense? And in both cases, it wasn’t just one policeman who made the arrest, but multiple officers (Floyd’s care seemingly required four officers on the scene, while Garner’s required five, two of which were plainclothes). What a waste of human capital—and taxpayer money!

The question is why our society devotes its scarce resources to arresting black men while so many urgent and important needs go wanting. Because the crime was being a black man in America, and both Eric Garner and George Floyd were caught in the act. The murders of Eric Garner and George Floyd were about domination, not law enforcement. Make no mistake, putting your knee on someone’s neck while they plead for their life isn’t something that should be covered by police training, it’s sadistic hatred, pure and simple.

“I Can’t Breathe” Reflects the Situation of Far Too Many Black Men in America

Black Protester

“I can’t breathe” not only attests to the cruel violence George Floyd and Eric Garner were subjected to, it expresses all too well the situation of far too many black men in America: they can’t breathe because they aren’t free to live, let alone pursue the happiness they’re promised in the Declaration of Independence. And I’m not just talking about the millions of black men who are incarcerated in our country.

And can anyone avoid thinking about Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players “taking the knee” on behalf of their fellow black men, and how people cheered when President Trump called them “sons of bitches” and said they should be fired? For me, it’s all too clear that white America needs to do a good deal of soul searching as to why it hates (and is so threatened by) black men. I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with all the atrocities committed during 250 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow. In other words, the answer ain’t pretty!

Finally, I’m sick of hearing about “healing,” the “healing process,” and “letting the healing begin.” I don’t want anything to “heal,” damn it! “Healing” implies that something was healthy before it was injured. But the situation of black men in America has never been healthy.

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