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The Multilayered Meaning of I Can’t Breathe – Pt 3

by admin on 24th-December-2015
Amber Coleman

Amber Coleman

In the second installment of the Multilayered Meaning of I Can’t Breathe, we established that the North American history of ab-using power explains the depravity of our present: history, explains the Black vs White education and financial divide. We also established that the ills of our history justify our government’s spending on social programs that teach people how to help themselves, provide subsidies for housing and education, and design incentives that create avenues for people of color to take on leadership roles. The result will be greater diversity in every context, thus ameliorating racism and accentuating classism. Lastly, we highlighted the personal responsibility of every individual to accept their right to self-determination, to unconditionally accept their starting point, and to undertake personal responsibility of what becomes of their life.

A Universal Experience 

We’ve changed the Black lives matter narrative from an arbitrary conversation about racial hatred, to an objective conversation about the ab-use of power. We’ve reconstructed the Black lives matter narrative into a more universal narrative and experience. A narrative that all of us—no matter our racial/sexual/economic identity—can relate to. In each altercation involving a White police officer, and a Black civilian, we all—black and white—can relate to the victim and the villain in these scenarios. The major issue with all of these altercations, is that lives were taken, which is a major problem. The fearful are too fragile to willingly admit that they can relate to a slave, or a slave’s descendants. But we all can. We all can relate to social, physical, emotional, political and economic oppression. If we are not oppressed by not having enough money, we are oppressed by our love of it. If we are not oppressed by our lack of higher education, we are oppressed by our reliance on it for personal esteem. If we are not oppressed by our lack of a voice in the political spectrum, we are oppressed by embodying the qualities that it takes to overlook an underserved community. We all experience oppression, because we are all slaves. Acquiring wealth doesn’t make you any less a slave, it just makes you a different kind.

I Can’t Breathe 

Because of intellectual laziness, baggy pants and hooded sweatshirts have been colored Black-American, and thus given a negative connotation. Instead of acknowledging their roots in the prison system, and also acknowledging that crime is what lands humans into jail, and that crime is always a sign of economic disparity, instead acknowledging the layers, we allow fear to inform our assumptions and we demonize the hoodie wearer. Eric Garner, devoted husband, father of six, was accused of allegedly selling illegal cigarettes in Staten when he was approached by police officers. After a short altercation with the police officers, excessive force as applied to Eric Garner and he was illegally placed in a choke hold. On his way to his death, he shouted “I can’t breathe”, eleven times. If Eric knew that the police officers that applied excessive force and placed him into the chokehold that caused his death, if only he knew, that they couldn’t breathe either.

This is the final installment of a 3-part series entitled The Multilayered Meaning of I Can’t Breathe. 

Category: Point of View.
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