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The Multilayered Meaning of “I Can’t Breathe” – Pt 2

by admin on 10th-December-2015
Amber Coleman

Amber Coleman

In my last essay, the multilayered meaning of I can’t breathe part 1, we established that the recent deaths of Black men and women at the hands of White police officers are the result of: economic disparities, emotional depravity, and the abuse of power. These results have all been created by fear: fear of Blacks inflicting physical harm on police officers and fear of Blacks rising out of economic and emotional subservience. The first fear comes from negative stereotypes of Blacks within mass media outlets, the second fear is a symptom of a mental/emotional state that is codependent upon the accolades and status symbols for a false sense of self. We came to these conclusions by first asking fundamental questions, instead of beginning with misguided assumptions. By approaching these complex issues with objectivity and curiosity, instead of insufficient assumptions, we come closer to a racist-free North America.

Now that we’ve established the why, we can move on to the question, how? How did we get here? How did Black people become the face of mortality at the hands of White police officers? We will have to dig into North American history to answer that question…

History Explains the Present 

The evil and ignorant fear that inspired the recent deaths of Black men and women at the hands of White police officers, is also the same fear that has inspired every human tragedy in history, from the Jewish holocaust, to the European colonization of the Americas and more relevantly the Atlantic slave trade.

The Atlantic slave trade began with the King of Congo and a European Prince, together making the political decision that rich humans would begin enslaving poor humans. After making this decision and solidifying it with policy, rich Africans and Europeans began enslaving poor Europeans and Africans. Overtime, the primary identity of a slave became African, and Europeans began transporting African slaves from Africa to the Americas. The African enslavement in North America lasted a total of 300 years, the enslaved Africans were without an education for a total of 250 years and without the right to vote or run for office for over 300 years. This inaccessibility of education has obviously had past and present effects on our access to competitive jobs, higher education, trade specific skills, money, housing and the right to a decent quality of life. To add even more perspective to the current state of Black Americans, Black enslavement has only been abolished for 150 years. Given this history of Blacks in North America being economically politically, mentally, emotionally and educationally oppressed for over 300 years, the starting point of Black Americans compared to that of any non-Black in North America, is unfair.

Stats and Understanding

These stats help us understand the Black Vs White financial and educational gap. Our history explains why Black Americans are overrepresented in the public sphere, where crime is addressed publicly. But despite the insight that history provides into the present, we do not want to lower the standard of a healthy lifestyle in North America in order to accommodate the depravity of our past. Instead, we need to keep the general standard high and provide educational subsidies, mentorship programs, financial and social incentives health care and mental health care incentives for communities with unfair starting points.

Choices 

Even though the government can provide us with help, it is up to us to take advantage of these subsidies. We are all dealt a hand of cards, some people get a hand with a lot of privilege and a little bit of oppression, while others get a hand with a lot of oppression and a little bit of privilege. To be sure, all of our hands have some amount of privilege and some amount of oppression. The ultimate test of will-power and character is what we do with the hand we are dealt, no matter the starting point.

Despite this reality, most humans do not do extraordinary things with their hand; this not contingent upon race, gender or economic status, this is dependent upon how much determination, or lack thereof, we have.

Some people start their lives with a lot of privilege, but do not do anything with it: despite their easy accessibility to health care, wealth and education, they still have bad health, they don’t follow their dreams, and have no perspective on life. Others start their lives with very little privilege but do so much with the little they started with; they have great health, follow their dreams and have a positive perspective on life.

Despite the terrible, horrific things that have happened to us all, we are all responsible for unconditionally accepting our starting point in life and deciding what will become of it. People can come alongside you and walk this journey with you, but no one can walk it for you. The government can do its part of providing educational subsidies, free health care and creating mentorship programs, but it’s up to us, if necessary, to utilize these facilities as a means of creating good health and self-sufficiency.

This is Part Two of a three-part series. Next week, I will share with you my final essay on, The Multilayered Meaning of I Can’t Breathe.

Category: Point of View.
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