I can't breathe!

Letters to the Editor

I can't breathe!

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

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Dear Editor,

The silent killer has caused many black Americans to scream “I can't breathe”, and I am not talking about COVID-19. I am talking about racism in the 21st century.

It was on Wednesday that I saw the video of a 46-year-old African American man, George Floyd, who died on Monday, May 25, after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground and pressed his knee into his neck. He pleaded for help, repeatedly saying, “I can't breathe! I can't breathe!”

I felt a great sense of anger and dejection after watching a human being begging for his life but who was totally ignored. I saw the hopelessness in his eyes as he cried out for his mother. All I could see was my child lying on the ground, and then it dawned on me: My son is not exempted from this treatment, neither my Jamaican brothers.

As the video spread like wildfire on social media protests erupted. Thousands of people, both black and white, have taken to the streets in cities to protest Floyd's death and demand accountability for the officers.

Where did this senseless behaviour begin? Racism emerged out of the rise in the slave trade in the 18th century. Black people could be bought and sold like property and treated — or mistreated — as their owners wished because they were regarded as something less than human.

The basis for this idea had already existed in European culture in general, and in Catholicism in particular, which held that those who were not believers in the 'one, true church' as inferior beings. Around this, in the era of slavery a whole system of beliefs was erected which attempted to prove that blacks were less intelligent than whites, with smaller brains and a capacity only for manual labour. They were seen, moreover, as uncivilised and barbaric. The existence of the great black civilisations has been hidden from history right down to the present day.

So now you understand why the white police officers did what they did. Black lives do not matter to them. They don't see blacks as people; we are subjects. Something is wrong with that picture.

Don't you see history repeating itself? Aren't you sick and tired of “isms and schisms” that have been destroying us as a people? As a black person, I have no control of what my colour is. So why do we continue to suffer? This should be the concern for all Jamaicans, because we have brothers, uncles, and cousins who reside overseas. Racism is real, and you don't know if you will be the next victim.

The truth is behaviours like these will cause one to cry out “I can't breathe” because of the prejudice, discrimination, or hatred directed at someone as a result of the colour of his/her skin. We have to reach the point where we see people as people, people as equal.

Tameka Samuels


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