On Breathing

I’m running. It’s the first time in two months. I was supposed to lay off running to heal the contusion in my ankle. It feels better now, but it still twinges, and my breath comes in semi-regular raggedy sips.

I didn’t think about what I looked like as I laced up my shoes and stretched in the driveway. I didn’t think about my skin as I started jogging up my street. I’ve never had to. The system serves me. People who look like me don’t question how to make themselves look safer. People who look like me are the default. Safe. Breathing.

I round a corner and follow the curve of the street gently downhill. Gravity takes me. I go for it. The road crests back to flat, and turns up. I’m tired. I take a breath and something catches. I’m coughing. I’m really coughing. Breathing hard in and out, foot over foot, to the end of the cul-de-sac. Cough. Can’t breathe. I put my hands on my knees and bend over.

I close my eyes. I see what I don’t want to see. I see what I’ve been thinking about all day. George Floyd on the ground, the cop’s knee on his neck. For four minutes. He can’t breathe. He’s trapped. He’s being murdered. He didn’t choose this. Strangled on the pavement. He can’t breathe.

I’m not shocked. I know this is the latest addition to centuries of violence against Black bodies. I know this capitalist state is built on and maintained by white supremacy. I know about Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and Christian Cooper and Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and Eric Garner and. And. And.

And.

And.

I cough. I breathe hard. Innocent Black people murdered at the hands of the state. I’m running, but Ahmaud can’t run anymore. I will return to my house soon; Breonna wasn’t safe in hers. They can’t even be. All of the hate. All of the racism. All of the hypocrisy, everywhere.

Like the murders. Like the school shootings. Like the people who want teachers to carry guns but who won’t wear a mask to the store. Like this weekend, when the Governor of Kentucky was hanged in effigy by people who take COVID-19 as a hoax and quarantine as oppression. People who want haircuts show up with guns and leer at the police and no one reacts. And in Minnesota there is tear gas and there are rubber bullets at people protesting police brutality and white violence.

And there is George Floyd, and he can’t breathe.

I catch my breath. The sun retreats behind a cloud. I stand up and look around. I’m a slow runner and my body hurts. But I can pull air into my lungs and sigh it out again. I can speak. I can breathe.

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A protester in Minneapolis on Tuesday, May 26 after the murder of George Floyd. Getty Images/New York Magazine.

If you can breathe, please check out the links below. It’s way past time for us to take action.

 

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