George Floyd could not breathe.
Ahmaud Arbery could not breathe.
Breonna Taylor could not breathe.
Eric Garner could not breathe.
Trayvon Martin could not breathe.
Michael Brown could not breathe.
Black Americans cannot breathe.
The list of names at the beginning of this column is an abridged list of Americans who were killed. The unabridged list is much longer.
Names entered into word documents and official reports, lives reduced to singular moments where their skin color defined their fate.
Their last moments in this world were spent fighting for air.
The way they left this earth is an injustice. If you are not outraged at the treatment of black Americans and the death of those who have so wrongly lost their lives at the hands of racism, then you are part of the problem.
Racism did not end with slavery. It only began.
Racism did not end with the civil rights movement. It only grew stronger.
Racism did not end with our first black president. It only festered.
What are we doing to our black neighbors, friends, mothers, fathers, lovers, teachers, politicians, teammates: Our fellow humans?
Better yet, what are we doing to help them? Because they do need help. A nation built on the blood, sweat, and bodies of black ancestors is now a place where black Americans cannot breathe.
It is Unacceptable
The people above may have died in different ways, some at the hands of those abusing their power, some by white “vigilantes,” others by an opportunistic neighbor, but none of them deserved to die.
If you believe these murders were justified even in the most minuscule thought, you are part of the problem.
It is time for you to fix yourself because we do not have room for people like you in this society.
If you have rolled your eyes while reading this: fix yourself.
If you have shaken your head while reading this: fix yourself.
If you skimmed over this list of murdered black Americans at the beginning of this column: fix yourself.
Americans today hold an obsession with crime. Who killed JonBenet Ramsey? Who was the Zodiac Killer? We want to know why these people were killed, how, and who did it.
These are not the mysteries of life we should be focusing on.
Why was a black man shot while jogging?
Why was a black woman shot while sleeping?
Why was a black man suffocated to death by someone’s leg?
Why was a black man shot in the back, unarmed, fleeing from his murder?
Why were these lives thrown away in acts of aggression and unadulterated hatred?
The injustices our fellow Americans are facing are not just a black issue. They are an issue for every American.
If you do not stand up in the face of wrongdoings, you are no better than anyone else.
If you do not speak up with your privileged voice, then you are wasting that voice.
If you do not stop in your tracks and quake with the idea that a group of humans cannot breathe and fear for their lives, then you do not know enough about what is happening in our world.
“Lift every voice and sing”: sing of the change you want to see. Sing of the hope you know future generations will bring if we fix this. Sing of the love you have for your fellow human being. Sing for every black human you know. Sing for every black human you do not know.
Because if they cannot breathe, they cannot sing.
Do not hide behind any veil of ignorance. Do not walk timidly towards justice because this is not happening in your community. Be outraged for the communities this is happening to and work to ensure it won’t happen in yours.
Give black Americans all the oxygen that you yourself think you deserve.
Sing until the choruses of change and justice echo through every street in this nation.
Do not give up.
Do not lose hope.
Do not stop fighting.
Black lives matter. Now, let’s act like it.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who cannot breathe.
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