I CAN’T BREATHE

There is nothing new under the sun, is an idiom I heard often growing up, and something I still agree with to a certain extent. Life is cyclical. It can be used to describe cycles within all areas of life, in nature and fashion amongst others. And in this case it also applies to the treatment of Black men at the hands of the police. 

On 17th July, 2014, Eric Garner died in New York after being put into a chokehold while being arrested by Daniel Pantaleo. He was murdered. What happened to his killers? Nothing. Eric Garner lost his life and we saw no indictments. In fact his killer remained a cop and was only fired and stripped of his pension benefits in August 2019. Five whole years after Erics death but no justice.

However, there is nothing new under the sun. So lets fast forward nearly six years. 

On 25th May 2020, George Floyd died in Minnesota after Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, subsequently killing him whilst arresting him with three other police officers. He was murdered. His killers were caught in action on film, from multiple view points. Yet despite this, the initial decision was to simply fire all four police officers and no arrests were made.

‘I cant breathe’ were some of the final words issued by both Eric and George. Both of these instances triggered mass outrage, anger and despair amongst both the black community and throughout the world. Both of these events triggered Black Lives Matter protests.

I have seen many people ask what is different now? What has changed? We are no less outraged today than we have been in the past, witnessing the murders of our people at the hands of the police. We are no less angry, nor is the despair we feel any less then before. So let me connect the dots for you.

On the 1st December 2019, the world witnessed the first outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) with the index case being recorded as coming from Wuhan in the Hubei province, China. COVID-19 is thought to be primarily spread from person to person during close contact ‘most often via small droplets produced by coughing, sneezing and talking’. According to WHO, some of the common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of sense of smell. With complications such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on the 11th March 2020 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

As this virus swept across nations, crossed borders and navigated seas, suddenly the world found out that WE CAN’T BREATHE. COVID-19 didn’t care if you were White or if you were Black. It didn’t care if you were Chinese or if you were Italian, it didn’t care if you were American or if you were English. It didn’t care if you had just been born or if you were celebrating your 90th trip around the sun. We got to see that unlike humans, the virus did not discriminate. And while this was happening, we were losing black people in equally high numbers due to racism. 

But there is nothing new under the sun. The world has witnessed two black daughters publicly lose their black fathers due to racism. 

On the 4th April, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr , an African American, clergyman, civil rights leader and FATHER was assassinated. He was survived by his four children Yolanda, Martin, Dexter and Bernice. On the 25th May, 2020, when police murdered George Floyd, they too made his daughter, Gianna Floyd, FATHERless. In both instances the world was watching, and even as we see the footage with our own eyes, we are still expected to believe all the cover-ups and lies. 20 years from now when the children of all the black people killed as a direct result of racism are all grown up, society will play ignorant and pretend not to understand why issues still exist. They will cry victim, all while knowing that in standing aside, they are continuing this vicious cycle of racism and oppression. Just know we have seen you plant the seeds, and we know you have generously watered them too.

On 28th May 2020, I saw a picture going viral on the internet and across social media apps. It features Don Lemon and the headline “TWO DEADLY VIRUSES ARE KILLING AMERICANS COVID-19 AND RACISM”. So when you consider whats changed, well not much has. We have had pandemics before and we have had racism before. There is nothing new under the sun, after all. But you should also have considered that you couldn’t keep murdering and killing black people as we were being attacked on all fronts. Eric Garner couldn’t breathe, George Floyd couldn’t breathe, I CAN’T BREATHE but thanks to COVID-19 now neither can you!

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