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!

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

One of the most positive things to come out of the tragic murder of George Floyd is the mobilisation and unification of black people internationally across the world. It is encouraging to see others join us as we stand, march, kneel and lie down in peaceful protest against racism and the mistreatment of black people everywhere. 

Only good can come from people speaking up, speaking out and effecting change so that we can break the cycle and see a different world for future generations. I too have been using my gift and voice in an attempt to assist with this. But there is a darker side to everything that is happening. 

Firstly, I would like to touch upon the frequent volleying of the phrase “All lives matter’, whenever anyone says ‘Black Lives Matter. To be frank, it is equal measures of ignorance and arrogance that has people spouting that phrase. They know full well that there is no correlation between the two phrases because that would require you to say that we are all equal. In reality, given the choice to spend just one day of your life having to live how a black person lives, you wouldn’t take it. This is not a competition, this is our lives. We do not get the choice in not spending a second of any day being black. I am black, black before I am anything else. It is the first thing that someone notices upon meeting me. So please, kindly shut up, if when you hear someone say Black Lives Matter, your tongue itches for you to say All lives matter. DON’T.

Secondly, this is not a fad or a phase for us. When a couple years have passed and this is no longer a little pet project for you; It is still going to be the reality for us. This is neither a nightmare or dream that any black person on earth can wake up from. Do not trivialise how any black person feels about any of this. We do not need you speaking over us, ridiculing, sidelining or excusing away anything that we have experienced as a direct result of racism. 

Thirdly, do not use our agenda for your own gain. Hijacking a cause which is trying to prevent the future murders of a historically oppressed and disproportionately prosecuted group of people is extremely repugnant. I am seeing industries, corporations and people who are known to have been anti black, anti black lives matter or covertly/overtly racist in the past try to ride the PR wave of what is happening. We are not blind. We see you and we also see what you are trying to do. So to the NFL that blacklisted and actively pushed Colin Kaepernick from the league for merely taking a knee in peaceful protest we do swallow your lies anymore then you do. You fool no one when you say you are ‘committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs, and partners’. I would in fact go one step further, and call for the immediate resignation of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. If we were talking loss of funds and not active systemic racism, the board and shareholders would have already made you step down. Poor management should have the same consequence. And to Ryan Michaels, the paper that your apology is written on isn’t even worth using to wipe my arse. Please read the room and take a seat. We do not need your disingenuous platitudes and excuses as to why you treated ‘Kaep’ the way that you did. Familiarity with his name does not make you more endearing to us, in fact it disgusts me further that you could treat someone like you did. Especially when you know them well enough to give and use a nickname like that. You are tone-deaf! I should say tone death, as your claim that you were defending those that died for the flag is bullshit. Black people died for your flag, your country was built on the backs of slavery, and oppression.This country that you claim to be so proud of isn’t even yours and its always seemed very cheeky for me to hear white Americans label everyone else when they themselves are the intruders in this story. So as I call for the NFL to assist in permanently shutting you up by removing your platform I say this. You have the blood of #GeorgeFloyd and countless others on your hands. If not for YOU and others like you we may have seen changes and a movement into the right direction. You are part of the PROBLEM and consciously chose to be so! You want to apologise now? It is up to ‘Kaep’ as you affectionately call him whether he accepts this poor excuse of an apology, but for me? I say 4 years too late! 

Do not think they are the only brand that has tried to pull the PR stunt. L’Oreal, talk to us because something is not quite adding up. You might have the memory of Dory from Finding Nemo, but I can tell you now that we don’t. For you to post onto your socials that ‘Speaking out is worth it’ when you are the very same company that fired trans-model Munroe Bergdorf as a direct consequence to her speaking out about racism, is audacious to the nth degree. So to all the brands trying to spin PR out of this, we see you. YOU fool no one but yourselves, and when I get a bit more time I am coming to call out each and every one of you. 

Fourthly, you may have noticed my posting yesterday where I asked black people now speaking up about racist treatment that they had in the workforce what is different for them now. I didn’t get a response from anyone, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to. I think that it is fantastic that people are speaking up now, that they feel comfortable enough to speak up now. However, I would like to know if anything has changed for them now. For me, I have always been quite vocal on things that displease me. Suffering with both social anxiety/ general anxiety and panic attacks, I am the first to admit that speaking up and speaking out is not easy. Despite that, the experiences of my youth and childhood have left me unable to accept being a victim or allowing someone else to treat me as such. If one thing doesn’t change, nothing will. Speaking out was never a bed of roses for me, it was never without repercussions. Every action has a reaction, mine non withstanding. So as I commend each and everyone of you who has bravely chosen to speak out now, I also query what you did. We are seeing you list how you were treated and I want to know what, if any action you took after. 

Lastly, I would like to touch upon a group of issues that fall within this. 

To the people that look to black people for entertainment, we are not your entertainment. If we choose to enter those fields that is our choice, do not look to us during this time to put a smile on your face.

To the people that are using some of the confusion right now to cause chaos. Stop it. I am happy to see so many of you get the recognition you deserve as social media and the internet leads to consequences and the law catching up with you. 

To the propagators behind the racist hashtag #WhiteOutWednesday, we choose not to see you and I will acknowledge you no further. 

To those that have reached out to me asking for my take on this, or wanting me to check their work or help them write something. I have no answers and can only tell my point of view. I will end by saying that some people should be interviewed to tell their stories and others should tell them themselves. So as I watch this unfold with the rest if the world, know that we see it all and we wait for the real slim shady’s to stand up!

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