“Over the past decade, The New York Times found, at least 70 people have died in law enforcement custody after saying the same words — “I can’t breathe.” The dead ranged in age from 19 to 65. The majority of them had been stopped or held over nonviolent infractions, 911 calls about suspicious behavior, or concerns about their mental health. More than half were black.” – The New York Times
“I can’t breathe” are the last words for many Black people whom encounter police in America.
Even if death isn’t the result, a feeling of supreme suffocation floods our minds when the storm troopers for the system of white supremacy invade our privacies and demolish our human dignity.
Being oppressed feels you can’t breathe, like you can’t get oxygen – a prerequisite of human life. Being oppressed also literally takes your breath as well.
This is why “I can’t breathe” has become an iconic and go-to phrase for protesters and activists alike. So many black people have died saying the last words “I can’t breathe” the phrase is now symbolic to the realities of being black in America.
“Autopsies have repeatedly identified links between the actions of officers and the deaths of detainees who struggled for air, even when other medical issues such as heart disease and drug use were contributing or primary factors. But government investigations often found that the detainees were acting erratically or aggressively and that the officers were therefore justified in their actions.
Only a small fraction of officers have faced criminal charges, and almost none have been convicted.”The New York Times
It’s recognizing the reality and consistent pattern of police brutalizing and suffocating black people to death.
Not only that, but it’s also reminding the world that those black people’s lives mattered, and their last of words of “I can’t breathe” is a call out for justice that we must make manifest.
We will not be able to “breathe” until the system of racism (white supremacy) is dismantled and black people can live as free human beings, on this earth. Then we can breathe again, as people free from oppression and subjugation.
Click Here to read New York Times article about the tragic history of the 3 words, “I can’t breathe” in America.