How can we Breathe when a disproportionate number of African Americans are pulled over by police officers because they are driving while Black? How can I Breathe when a disproportionate number of people of color are incarcerated? How can we Breathe when Black folk are racially profiled while walking down the street because you thought I looked threatening or looked like someone else? How can we Breathe when African Americas are routinely faced with systematic obstacles that are designed to keep them from getting ahead? I can’t Breathe – It seems as if this is the on-going outcry of African Americans in this country. Why do I have to tell my Black sons to drive carefully when in certain neighborhoods? Why do I have to tell my Black sons to keep their hands on the steering wheel when being unfairly pulled over by a police officer? Why do I have to tell my Black sons who are articulate, college educated and respectful that they have to be twice as good. Why…because folk only see the color of their skin. When did it become a crime to be Black? When did it become an abhorrent act for God to create one in his own image in a perfect way while placing melanin in their skin? Because of what some folk think about my sons, I have given them wings to fly beyond what they could ever think or imagine because God created them perfectly to change the world and “Yes” their Black is Beautiful and to never let anyone convince them otherwise, not even me.
For far too long, African Americans have been treated as if they are inferior in all areas of life. One can look at many social economic arenas and see that African Americans have been pushed down, pushed back and are never given the advantages as those that don’t look like them. I can’t Breathe is an outcry that African Americans have and are being suffocated by the treatment of folks even though they have worked hard to be counted in a country that has never seen them as equal. The recent horrific incident that occurred in Minneapolis, MN to George Floyd at the hands of police officers is a vivid example that nothing has changed in our country and it seems that we have not moved to far from the times of 1968 when African Americans marched to make a change in a city that seemed to have embraced a racist mentality. I can’t Breathe because folk who look like me continue to die because of their skin color. Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Delrawn Small, Ahmaud Arbery, Brianna Taylor, Sandra Bland to name a few, were all killed because of someone’s abomination of people of color. When will this stop? As we reflect back over the senseless killing of Black folks across our country at the hands of white men over the last few years, it makes one think that we have been set up to never move beyond the places that we have been pushed into by a system that is designed to fail people of color. “I can’t Breathe” – This is an outcry that is felt around the world as we say, “Enough is Enough.”
We have seen images of people across this country both Black and White standing up to racial injustice even in the midst of a pandemic. In a time where we should be practicing social distance, people are coming together as they have seen the disparity of how Black folk have been treated for many years because of the color of their skin. When will we be able to Breathe? When will we able to go in a store and not have someone follow us around? When will we be able to live comfortably in a world that looks at us differently? When will be able to drive and not be racially profiled? We just want to Breathe!
In our great city, it is time for us to stand shoulder to shoulder (Black people, Brown people and White people) in the midst of this unrest and demand that a system that was not designed for Black folk be dismantled because WE MATTER…we mattered yesterday, we matter today and we will matter tomorrow. Change starts with us. What will be your part in bringing about equality? What will be your part in ending HATE and embracing LOVE? George Floyd’s death should not be in vain but should be the start of something this country has never seen before as we stand up and say, “It is our right to BREATHE.” So, LET US be the change that we want to see. LET US be the change that our children need to see. LET US be the change as we engage in peaceful protest against civil disobedience. LET US be the change as we support businesses owned by people of color. LET US be the change as we mentor boys and girls who have lost hope for a better tomorrow. LET US be the change that God has ordained. It’s time to stand as ONE to fight the injustice that continues to plaque people of color. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech, “I Have a Dream”
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” MLK
Enough is Enough…We just want to Breathe!
Anthony T. Branch
Chief Operating Officer
Memphis Leadership Foundation