If he can’t breathe, then I can’t breathe

Current Events & News, Who We Are | 06/08/2020

Ashley Thomas
Regional Organizing Director

I will never forget how I felt while watching the George Floyd video. It snuck up on me, on Facebook, unexpectedly. Imagine it: I had what I considered a great day working from home, and my kids were out of school for the year so I could rest my “teacher hat” a little bit. I log into Facebook and start scrolling and there it is, without warning, a video of a police officer, yet again, murdering another black man. This jolted me back to the powerless feeling of when I’ve heard of countless other murders across our country, including Philando Castile’s. Imagine being in a position to raise beautiful children that can do everything right but never enough to deserve protection from a group whose job is to protect ALL people! It is a feeling that maybe we still live in a time where other people and our systems still consider us a fraction of a person. Maybe?

Imagine, training programs being developed across the U.S. to cover “how our black youth can better interact with the police” (in my most perfect voice) with curriculum for black parents that gets updated depending on the most recent public murder of another black person. I am sure you are exhausted reading this … it is exhausting. It is exhausting to LIVE IT, EVERY DAY! I’m so tired, but I don’t have the luxury to not fight this and stand up to systemic racism! When Mr. Floyd was murdered it happened to every black person. We felt that pain and saw ourselves and our loved ones struggling to breathe. If he can’t breathe, then I can’t breathe!

I have watched the reactions caused by the pain and fear as we all watched another video of one of our brothers dying at the hands of someone who saw no value in his life. “I can’t breathe” is a statement ringing across all social media, and I really feel like I can’t breathe! I began gasping for air as if my lungs were restricted by some force of nature, as I watched the last air leave the body of George Floyd. For blacks in America, we can’t breathe until our breath, body, mind, and spirits are shown valuable in this system and the institutions that have perpetuated racism need to acknowledge that they never intended this system to work for our good. If he can’t breathe, then I can’t breathe! The fear has made me feel as if I can’t breathe — the hopeless feeling of so many in our community, the protests that always start peaceful but don’t always end that way due to violence often ignited by police officers or others not concerned about the true message of the protesters. I can’t breathe, and I won’t stop telling you I can’t breathe if my fellow brothers and sisters can’t breathe!

I’ve decided police brutality across the U.S. and equity issues in the U.S. will not kill our voices nor the actions towards change. I have to fight, I have to stand up, I cannot feel defeated and neither will I give up because our future depends on all of us, NOW, to keep pushing for equity. We don’t just want equality, we want equity so we get everything that we need to achieve, thrive, be safe, receive a quality education, and have a fighting chance for a fruitful future. We have earned that from the blood of our ancestors, we deserve that like everyone else in this country and we will NOT accept anything less! If he can’t breathe, then I can’t breathe!

I encourage those of you who have felt anger, fear, hopelessness, sadness, pain, hurt, and powerless to find your way to collaborate with other likeminded people in your community to organize, strategize and mobilize. We will only reach great heights if we understand and are aligned with goals. We cannot afford to argue, yell and fight for equity without telling the people in power exactly what equity is by our definition — not their definition. Stand together as we can only win this together! If he can’t breathe, then I can’t breathe! Black lives are worth it, and we will not stop until living while black doesn’t mean that I must stop breathing or living to make the world SEE ME! BLACK LIVES MATTER!

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