Waiting to Exhale - 4/25/2021

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

The Blood Speaks

Whenever innocent blood spills, vengeance is near

The perpetrators are eternally hounded by fear

When a soul departs from the actions of another

The spirit leaves the body, but the blood is tracking its offender

From the cry of Abel from the hands of his brother Cain

To the neck of George Floyd

The blood is still speaking and will not be ignored

©2020 C. Maddox

This nation is in a perpetual state of mourning on three fronts; loss of life due to COVID-19, loss of life due to mass shootings, and murder by the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. With a front-row seat, the world has witnessed the Red, White, and Blue clothed in sackcloth and ashes.

Our mourning continues with the trial of a police officer who murdered a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd. George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, after being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store in Minnesota. His murder was broadcast live across the nation. Due to the nature of the current pandemic, we are confined to our homes with unlimited access to media outlets to watch the trial. We are now witnesses to the callousness of humanity when racism and hatred permeate the soul. This televised lynching was and still is inescapable, even for those with a privilege card. This senseless loss of life is not limited to the doorsteps of marginalized people. It is on everyone's doorstep now. The whole world watched as a police officer casually dug his knee into the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds as he cried out, "I can't breathe."

"I can't breathe" is a collective cry for all Black people. We can't breathe when we see unarmed Black people continuously killed at an alarming rate with no accountability. We can't breathe when lawmakers purposely change the voting process to make it difficult for people of color to vote. We can't breathe when glaring inequities in the educational system become a gateway for the school-to-prison pipeline. We are holding our breath, waiting for change, waiting for equality, waiting for accountability, and waiting for the bleeding of lost lives to cease. We are waiting to exhale!

The proverbial knee on the neck represents years of injustice that has been on the necks of Black people for too long. For too long, we have been alienated from our inalienable rights. For too long, we have been treated historically like commodities instead of human beings. For too long, we have been unseen, unheard, and dehumanized. Yes, they see us in the flesh, but they ignore our humanity. It's heartbreaking when we have to remind the world that Black lives matter. The murder of George Floyd is an official court summons given to America, forcing it to confront and rectify 400 years of injustice upon the lives of Black people. It is the catalyst to dismantling the systemic inequities marked with the fingerprints of racism and shaking the foundations of the blue wall of silence. Will America show up to the court of the marginalized? Will it finally realize that "all men are created equal" never applied to Black people? Will it finally realize that Black people have been fighting for those "certain unalienable rights" for over 400 years? Will it finally realize that we have been marching and protesting for rights that already belong to us? We are waiting to exhale!

The continuous cycle of back-to-back trauma for Blacks in America bears the same effect from the biblical story of Job. The story of Job is riddled with one tragic event after another without time to recover from the last event. The moment we feel as though we can catch our breath, we get another breaking news alert of yet another life taken. Every event puts us in a perpetual state of trauma without recourse or recovery. People are tense, angry, cautious, suspicious, and ready to erupt at the slightest sign of inequality. When will we breathe? Our ancestors exhaled in 1865 after the abolition of slavery, but we held our breath again because of Jim Crow. We exhaled after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but we held our breath again due to constant measures to disenfranchise people from the right to vote. All Black people feel the unnecessary struggle in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We have a civil rights cloud of witnesses who gave us the blueprint on fighting for our rights. They are cheering us on with words of encouragement. Congressman John Lewis said, 'Get in good trouble." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "The time is always right to do what is right." Stokely Carmichael said, "Our grandfathers had to run, run, run. My generation's out of breath. We ain't running no more." Fannie Lou Hamer said, "When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don't speak out, ain't nobody going to speak out for you." Ida B. Wells said, "The way to right wrongs is to shine the light of truth upon them."

We have the power to breathe. We don't have to wait to exhale. We exhale first through prayer. There are forces that exist that cannot be dismantled with the stroke of a pen, but with the power of prayer. We exhale through legislation and reform, with our vote, speaking truth to power, and through our actions. We may have different methods, but we are on the same team and in the same fight. When we exhale or take action on all fronts, we will see justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. We CAN breathe!

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