I have written a lot about the importance of breath.
I have written about breath as a necessity for both life and singing.
I have written about breath as a vehicle of spreading the virus.
I have written about breath as something to be held or taken away in moments of extreme emotion.
To take away one’s breath has another meaning right now.
When I first saw the article about George Floyd on Facebook, I saw the words “I can’t breathe” and thought it was an article about Eric Garner, who also said those words. I didn’t open it because I thought it was an old article and maybe it was the anniversary of his death.
It wasn’t till later in the day that I heard what had happened. And I stayed quiet about it on social media, which is not like me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It wasn’t that I hoped it would blow over. I was angry and I knew that this was not going to be wept under the rug again.
I was ashamed.
Not of being white.
Not of being privileged.
I was ashamed because I was raised by people who were willfully ignorant, who were limited by their circumstances of their own upbringing and their own choice to stay that way, who were prejudiced toward anyone who was not Christian, who was not white, and who didn’t stay in their lane. I was raised by people who used racial epithets around the house as easily as they said “Go clean your room.” By people who saw other races/ethnicities as less than in intellect, in beauty, and in moral character. And who were proud of that and of themselves, because they were white people, and therefore superior.
I know where I came from, and I have evolved, but there is that part of me that is afraid that I do not have the right to say anything because I am from that background. That I don’t deserve to speak out.
But I will speak out because we all have to speak out.
Because George Floyd’s last words were:
“I cannot breathe
I cannot breathe
They’re going to kill me
I can’t breathe”
We breathe to live.
George Floyd should have been allowed to breathe.
George Floyd should have been allowed to live.
Eric Garner should have been allowed to breathe.
Eric Garner should have been allowed to live.
They should all have been allowed to live. And to continue to breathe.