Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh Can't Breathe

I Can’t Breathe

I can’t breathe…separation of the living from the dead.
I can’t breathe…echoes of Eric Garner’s last words
I can’t breathe…panic words seeping out under the weight of George Zimmerman’s attack
I can’t breathe…reflected in the blood flowing from Michael Brown’s body
I can’t breathe…confused thoughts in the mind of a 12-year-old playing in the park
I can’t breathe…ignored by police officers, who are paid to protect lives.
I can’t breathe… utterances of African slaves on the middle passage.
I can’t breathe...stammered by over 5,000 “strange fruit”, as they hung from American lynching trees
I can’t breathe…whispered by Goodman, Swerney and Chaney as they gave their lives for civil rights
I can’t breathe…a mother’s response to the senseless death of her child.
I can’t breathe…symbols of communities suffocated by unjust policies, practices and laws
I can’t breathe… t-shirts that liberate Rhoden’s “$40 million slaves”
I can’t breathe...magnet for backlash from coaches and owners
I can’t breathe…protected speech under 1st Amendment
I can’t breathe... anthem against police violence
I can’t breathe…words that unite hearts across bodies of racial, class and religious difference
I can’t breathe… unearthing racial division and historical amnesia
I can’t breathe…  silent cry of callous hearts, whose humanity is dying with every racist and fearful act.
I can’t breathe…warning sign of a criminal justice system that is run amuck
I can’t breathe...wake up call for a silent President
I can’t breathe…mandate for legislative change
I can’t breathe...rallying cry that awakens a sleeping giant?
I can’t breathe…rebirth of democracy?

Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh (ACE Fellow 2010-2011) is Professor of Political Science and Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at the University of Oregon. She is a member of the Indiana and Oregon Bar Associations.

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