Five Years Later and We Still “Can’t Breathe”

“Demilitarize the Police, Black Lives Matter.” November 10, 2015. Johnny Silvercloud

The photo you see before you was taken in 2015. Five years later and we still “can’t breathe.” In fact, it has been more than 150 years that we can’t breathe–we can’t live. I say “we” because racism and its long lasting effects have proved to be as deadly as a pandemic virus, if not surpassing it. We have all been affected by the stronghold in that we all participate in this dis-ease. Humanity is has a knee on its neck, its RACISM. The worst thing is being in denial, especially when one can’t get past that first step of grieving the laying down of one’s own privilege. The black, brown, and indigenous communities of our country have obviously grieved the most. It wasn’t just George Floyd–may he R.I.P.–that couldn’t breathe. If we don’t open our eyes and take action we will continue to asphyxiate under the knee of racism along with all of those who have suffered and died by brutality and violence, fed by implicit bias, prejudice, racial-phobia, white supremacy, and systemic racism.

Ownership. It’s time to assume one’s responsibility. As a Latino, I call on my fellow Latinx siblings to rise up and unite with our black and brown family, even if you are from the lighter shade of skin colors. Use your privilege to the advantage of another who has less privilege than you! White folk, we need you now more than ever, but you have to listen! Put aside everything you think you know and learn from the majority of the people of color who are crying out in the wilderness of their struggle. Understand that we all play an unconscious role in supporting covert systemic racism.

If one of us can’t breathe, none of us can continue wasting our breath being idle. Genesis 2.7 reads, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (King James Bible). Floyd’s breath was sacred because it was given by God–the same breath that you and I have in our lungs that should be invested in declaring justice. George Floyd along with Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and Breonna Taylor, and others were made in the image of God in the same way you were. We must honor and protect all of the people that share in that sacred image. Fighting violence with violence won’t be the best way, but I believe we can all breathe without our necks knelt on–that black and brown people can breathe better when they walk out their home door, without their neck knelt on.

Black Lives Matter. Slavery isn’t over, its effects are here today and protected under the disguised 13th amendment (for which I will write about on another blog post). Who thinks the day is saved and all is as normal as it should have been with a housefire extinguished? If and when the fire is put out, walking away doesn’t change the fact that–while the fire may be out–the house is no longer the same. It may be destroyed, in whole or in part, and we don’t get to turn our backs and not see that the fire’s effects are still tangible afterwards. Racism is still affecting black and brown communities even after colonial slavery and Jim Crow. That is why we still “can’t breathe.” Ask yourselves why COVID-19 is affecting primarily people of color?

No one person needs to have all the answers, but I suggest we continue working to lift the knee of racism of humanity’s neck–especially black and brown people’s–because if one can’t breathe, we all still can’t either. No more! If I can breathe, I am going to fight like hell so that you can too.

Amén, Amin, and Asé.

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