Originally published in The Tribune-Review
“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”
No innocent human being should have to die with these words on their lips.
A police officer, tasked to protect George Floyd’s life, mercilessly crushed George’s neck for 9 long minutes. He has been charged with murder.
Is George’s death an isolated incident, one in which an officer of the law went rogue and violated the code of ethics he swore to uphold? Or is George the latest casualty in a long line of systemic slaughtering of lives?
“You promised you wouldn’t kill me!” — Natasha McKenna (February 2015)
“I can’t breathe!” — Freddy Gray (April 2015)
“I don’t wanna die young!” — Christian Taylor (August 2015)
“I can’t breathe!” — Eric Garner (July 2014)
“I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting!” — Michael Brown (August 2014)
“Please don’t let me die!” — Kimani Gray (Match 2013)
“Why did you shoot me?!” — Kendrec McDade (March 2012)
“What are you following me for?” — Trayvon Martin (February 2012)
“Officers, why do you have your guns out?!” — Kenneth Chamberlain (November 2011)
“You shot me! You shot me!” — Oscar Grant (January 2009)
These human beings, in all likelihood, would still be alive today if the color of their skin was fairer, if they had not committed the “crime” of being black in a country that spurns them.
And some Americans have had enough. Citizens are spilling into the streets to protest an establishment inherently plagued by systemic racism, one that tears apart the fabric of our society by taking innocent lives in the name of justice.
Yet we are stuck in a vicious cycle, one where systematic discrimination understandably causes protests. These peaceful protests are then hijacked by petty criminals and escalate into riots and looting, which inevitably further perpetuate systematic discrimination and injustice.
We must break this cycle, regardless of the inherent desire to voice our anger in the streets, regardless of the vengeance we so desperately desire.
We cannot burn down our own homes to make them hear our voices. We will only be left with char and ash.
We must let our voices be heard, not in the streets, but at the ballot box.
We must exercise our right to vote and cast out those elected officials who espouse policies that inflame hatred. Our right to vote is what will see an establishment that supports systemic racism burnt to the ground.
As Atlanta rapper Michael Render, aka “Killer Mike”, puts it: “Now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize. It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth. It is time to hold mayoral offices accountable, chiefs and deputy chiefs.”
In mere months, the 2020 United States elections will be held. All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate, and the office of president of the United States will be contested.
No amount of protest, looting, or street violence will bring George Floyd back. But exercising our right to vote and changing the faces of power can ensure that another innocent life will not be robbed from us.
Don’t let George Floyd die in vain. Vote.