I am tired, and I don’t mean the, “I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep” kind of tired either. I am emotionally and mentally exhausted. As we should all be aware of, there was a recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in which 9 innocent men and women were shot and killed in their house of worship. The shooter sat among them for about an hour before he said, “You’re raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go.” When I heard the news that night, I was saddened, but I wasn’t surprised.
For years we have been facing difficulties as blacks within this country that seem to be repetitions of the past. Think about this, what does the shooting in Charleston remind you of? It should bring you memories of the Birmingham church bombing in which 4 young girls were killed.Both situations occurred in a place that many of us go to in order to feel safe and at home. That comfort is being taken from us. There should be no reason for us to have to look over our shoulders in a place that we go to in order to practice our religious freedoms. When the shooter was apprehended, we couldn’t help but notice that he was given a bulletproof vest. The irony. I couldn’t help but think about what would the image have been if he were a black man that shot 9 white individuals. I’m pretty sure, a bulletproof vest would not be something that the police outfitted him with. We can’t breathe.
This event made me think about the other racially charged events that we have faced in recent years. The first, we’re all familiar with is Trayvon Martin. Shot and Killed on his way home from buying skittles and an Arizona. His crime? Being black while wearing a hoodie. What sentence was his killer given? Freedom. We can’t breathe.
What about Eric Garner, killed on the streets of New York for allegedly selling cigarettes? While the entire incident was filmed, not once did the man pose a threat to police officers, yet when they held him in a choke hold on the ground, they did not let go when he said “I can’t breathe”. We can’t breathe.
The case with Jon Ferell sticks near and dear to my heart because I went to school with him. He was one of the most endearing, non-confrontational,and quiet people you could ever meet. He was shot and killed by police officers after getting into a car accident and walking to a house near by to get help. The woman who’s house he went to called the police, and when they arrived, you can guess the rest. He survived a car accident, just to get killed by the same people he needed help from. WE can’t breathe.
Let’s not stop there. This month, police were called to a pool party. I watched the video of the commotion and I couldn’t help but notice how the officers had minority children apprehended while the white teens watched. In the midst of this, a teen girl was forced to the ground in her bathing suit and the officer held her down with his knee in her back while she cried, “Call my mama!” to her friends. WE CAN’T breathe.
I can’t stop there. Walter Scott was shot in the back 8 times by an officer before the same officer staged the crime scene with his own weapon to make it appear as if Walter tried to hurt him. Mike Brown was shot while his hands were in the air (the universal sign of vulnerabiility). WE CAN’T Breathe.
All of these images have become too prominent to go on as if this country is still “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. We’re loosing our people day by day. It pains me to see the looks on the faces of the mothers, children, and wives of the victims. Seeing the mother of Mike Brown reminded me of Emmett Till’s mother at her son’s funeral. Parent’s have enough to worry about when it comes to their children. However their safety with the police should not be one of them.
It’s time for us to wake up. We can’t have a march here and there, for a week. We can’t black out our profile pictures for 3 days. We can’t stage lay in’s and use hashtags, #PrayForCharleston and expect that the next morning is going to be better. We have to come together to make real change, starting with ourselves because WE CAN’T BREATHE.