Tshweu Moleme Can't Breathe
Racism suffocates. Eric Garner’s prophetic words, “I Can’t Breathe,” echoed a history of blood, tears, and sweat. Blood out of cracked, beautiful brown skin, often chained, bound for a world unknown, from one’s ancestral land, Africa. Bodies whipped, biting winds at sea.
A bloody journey that ends up with some hanging on trees, or killed by someone who is welcomed with great hospitality into a house of the Lord (Charleston, SC), yet he turns on those inviting him in. Found, he is taken to Burger King, treated by police. The killer is indoctrinated by those who believe the loss of a black life to mean a successful continuation of a ritual that assures the perpetrator a long life of superiority, while the victim is sentenced to inferiority.
I can’t breathe, cried the chained slave. I can’t breath, cries their descendents, today. Garner’s tears were a stream conveying messages to his people, ancestors, and a world that doesn’t care for his pain. His people are to know pain as a constant. To ancestors, there’s a cry for spiritual strengthening. Blackness can’t breathe - a long cry, from 1619 till present.
Toiling for centuries, your blood as substitute for water mixing mortar that establishes an empire. The oppressor feeds off the sweat of the oppressed; his power fuelled by the blood of the oppressed. You get pain and the wickedness of the oppressor, in return.
Garner bled, cried, and worked hard on earth. Yet he suffered the very fate of his ancestor who was brought to a land unknown to them, laboriously milked and suffocated.
For centuries, the oppressor has programmed himself as one who knows no survival without inflicting pain on another. Thus, the oppressor must deprogram. The oppressed must resist and decolonize; force the oppressor to deprogram.
Chokehold, no more!
Tshweu Moleme is a University of Toronto based scholar.