"I Can't Breathe" - A Collective Trauma is Made Audible

Sometimes the things that happen to your neighbor hit too close to home.  One witnesses from afar the trauma of the miscarriage of justice; of the inhumanity of one human being towards another; of the sadness of the loss of a life gone too fast, too soon.  All surge together in a perfect storm that floods generations of massed souls drowning in a collective bereavement that says "I can't breathe."  Like Jesus said, "What you've done to the least of these my brothers, you've done also to me."

Diasporic Discontent

That the daughters and sons of African descent have suffered more than their allotted share of serially-inflicted injury, abuse, trauma and hurt at the hand of the oppressor is a painful fact of existence for those who are even casually acquainted with the vicissitudes of BWB (breathing while Black).  The burden of race, which the Negro has carried for at least as long as Linnaeus' racist hierarchy placed Africanus dead last, is as palpable and real as the melanin in our ebony skin.  W. E. B. Du Bois poignantly argues that Black Americans carry a dual consciousness:  of being Black in America, citizens of a country that has never accepted their personhood nor their citizenship.  And Eric Garner's dying words are heard above it all:  "I can't breathe." 

The Lynching in Progress

The long arm of the law reached around Eric Garner's throat and did to him as has been done to so many unwanted citizens before him.  But this time no poplar tree was necessary.  This represents progress, the kind of progress that is characteristic of the new, mythical, post-racial America.  Smoking cigarettes may get you cancer; but selling loosies while Black, or walking in the middle of a street while Black, will get you killed.  "I can't breathe."

A Recurring Nightmare

The young boy was awakened out of his sleep, gasping for a breath of air.  A look of terror and fear steals across his brow as his spasmodic bronchioles tighten and close.  Finally, miraculously, the airway clears just enough for him to cry out, "Mama!  Mama, help!  I can't breathe!"  A mad dash out of the house, into mama's white Lincoln Continental and to the County Hospital ER ensues.  "Bronchitis," the attending physician dryly offered.  "Be sure to stay under the covers and keep warm while you sleep."  The boy fears going to sleep at night because of the nightmare that suffocates his American dream.  "I can't breathe."

Removing the Noose

America, it's high time to remove the noose from around Black necks.  No more "Stand Your Ground" laws and racial profiling and school-to-prison pipeline to choke away the dreams of Black Americans.  No more police brutality and militarized policing and excessive use of force.  No more income inequality and mass incarceration and mandatory minimums.  No more!  Remove the noose of racism once and for all, so we can all finally breathe freely!

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