If he can’t breathe, neither should they


Photo credit: Edward Leavy Jr. for the Green Left


By Stephanie Majinian



Words are being chanted.


A sea of fists and signs of all shapes and sizes flood the sky.


The sounds of people yelling over one another erupt across cities in all 50 states.


Windows smashing, human walls being formed, images of vandalism, and confrontations with one another are blasted all over the screens of news media and social media. 


This is what a tired America looks like.


On May 25, three words of a black man that would grow to become infamous were uttered: “I can’t breathe.”


These three words would become to be one of 46-year-old George Floyd’s last words as white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him.


Three other officers were present at the scene, not doing anything to assist Floyd or advise their colleague to civilly handle the misunderstanding, which was over an assumed-to-be counterfeit $20 bill. 


No one intervened while the confrontation was occurring, but his death was captured by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier. Once posted online, the videos of Floyd’s murder began to go viral, sparking anger that had been boiling within people. Thousands, soon to be over a million, shares, likes, and comments flooded the internet. 


Thousands upon thousands of people began tweeting, Instagramming, and sharing the photos and videos of the murder on other various social media platforms, causing the case to get more and more attention overnight. 


Riots, protests, and acts of looting sparked in the streets. Multi-million dollar corporations such as Target were looted, destroyed, and vandalized.


What could have been another statistic to add to a yearly chart of how many black lives were lost in the merciless hands of police officers blossomed into an uproar of the #blacklivesmatter movement entering the trending sections of social media platforms, both national and international news media reporting on Floyd’s death, demand on police force reform and even abolishment, a demand in racial equality, and an immediate call to attention on how many black lives are lost daily.


Notably, rightfully so.


For hundreds of years, black people have been protesting peacefully. Public speakers, poets, authors, and educators alike have done their best to tell the stories of their ancestors, their families, and themselves to both listeners and deniers. Doing everything they can in peaceful yet powerful ways, who is there to listen? 


How can a group who is targeted by the force that is meant to protect us be taken seriously?  


The modern police force originated from slave patrols. In 1704, slave patrols were created to police slaves, especially runaway and defiant slaves according to Police Studies Online. Once slavery was abolished, the slave patrols evolved into the police force. The similarity in badges can even be seen today.


For hundreds of years, black people have been the main target of the police force and are subject to police brutality for that reason: some may call it deep conditioning, others may call it learned behaviors and misinformation distributed by peers. Whatever the term may be, the main, disturbing, and disappointing message is that black people have been oppressed by the police force for far too long. 


Change is needed and it is needed now. 


But how would one bring attention to a subject that a country seems so passive about?


The riots that are seen as violent and unnecessary seem to be the answer. 


It tends to be forgotten that America’s independence and freedom came to be through similar actions and tactics in the first place. Through active rebellion, resistance, and determination, the very things that Americans value were achieved.


Our country was built upon the labor of Native Americans and black people, achieved independence through a terrible war, and has had a bloody history splattered with years of discrimination, prejudice, and systematic racism against its people. Most of this hatred has been projected towards minority groups. 


These very minority groups such as the LGBTQ+ community brought attention to their struggles and hardships through rioting. The infamous Stonewall riots forced the country to zero in on the struggles of queer people. This attention was brought to the situation as peaceful protests were ignored, mocked, and not taken seriously by any means. These riots were also led by strong black women that selflessly wanted freedom for all marginalized groups. 


Although people were hurt, traumatized, and scarred during a historic event, it was a step closer towards achieving equality, even if that step was one out of a million more to be taken. 


The same principles are being applied to what must be done to erase the evident racism that is seen in our world in real-time.


The battle of racism is a long and hard one to be fought, and people have had enough. All of the previous times the Black Lives Matter movement has taken charge and has achieved national and international attention has been in the heat of the moment. It was trending with celebrities and ordinary people on the internet, only to die after a few weeks of protests and calls to attention to the importance of black lives. 


However, this time is different: the rioting, looting, and protests force the world to pay attention.


Enough is enough. 


Enough is enough of black lives like George Floyd’s, Breonna Taylor’s, Michael Brown’s, Tamir Rice’s, Aiyana Jones’, Tony McDade’s, Eric Garner’s, Sandra Bland’s, and Philando Castile’s to be lost because of the unforgiving wrath of police brutality. 


With a president that is condoning violence on his own country’s people, why is it justified for police to shoot, but the people should not resist?


Why is it justified for people against fascism to be labeled as terrorist groups and “thugs” when their friends, family, and ancestors have been murdered for years for no reason besides the color of their skin?


Why is it justified for hundreds of arrests, violence, scare tactics, and rubber bullets to affect citizens who are both rioting and peacefully protesting against racism, but nothing is done about people protesting coronavirus safety measures?


If protesting racism for over 400 years the peaceful way has not worked, then why is it surprising that this is what it’s come to?


Why is it shocking that people are hurt, fed up, and are taking any measure possible to see real reform and change?


It is time for the privileged to recognize the real problems in our system and world, regardless of how uncomfortable it is. 


It is time for change to happen in America.