“I Can’t Breathe”

The death of George Floyd occurred on May 25, 2020, when Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, with almost 3 minutes of that occurring after Floyd was unresponsive. Government-sanctioned brutally took Floyd away from his family and, as a suspected black man, he was cut off, destroyed without the benefit of trial and conviction. How are the next potential victims to be content to look upon the murder of their neighbor and sedate their rage? And how does one explain why ethnicity is the distinction by which black people are denied legal protection and virtually every other necessity of survival?

It is not only people of color who must protect the next George Floyd. It is the responsibility of all members of this nation to evolve into a challenging role as Americans who believe in justice and equality. None of us can afford to step away from the day-to-day duty of promoting impartiality and nondiscrimination.

Black people should not remain on front-page news until they are forgotten in the history of an imperfect democracy.

It is easy to understand that the black and brown population of this generation of Americans who, because of the operational racism of economic, political, and educational power, have been systemically denied any of the benefits of a system of equality. They are angry because they have been defrauded, cheated, and ignored by those who make higher policies about equality but do not enforce them. The only doors that are open to even a small percentage of black and brown people lead them to grossly inadequate housing, segregated neighborhoods, and they are now saying in long-overdue tones of anger that we must have better because we deserve better.

The black man in America still struggles to be free, yet law enforcement still is part of the problem, with its indifference to the life and deaths of black and brown people, rather than choosing to be part of the solution. Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police.

To perpetuate this disproportion, it is essential that the government will not admit the evil that they govern by. Much of that hardship and suppression is the social and political bedrock of its material advantage.

Creating a ghetto has done more than psychologically oppress and displace a people — it makes them expendable. It only follows that basic rights are denied and their neighborhoods have become characterized by broken skeletons inhabited by people of color. These are people who have nowhere else to go. Ghettos have systematically been created as a tool to marginalize black communities where they are forced to live, establishing two tiers of society, one for the oppressors and one for the oppressed to intensify the grotesque nature of the trap.

Let me say frankly that this challenge will not be diminished by attempts to suppress black men with punitive measures. Shouts for law and order serve only to deepen the growing divisions that immobilize the community, and can never replace a working commitment for change or those who remain silent.

We must highlight that the revolt now sweeping our nation indicates a deep and severe crisis bound to so many of the tragic injustices and inequities in our national life. That crisis will not go away.

We all have a choice. Part of that choice is to focus our energies towards building a lasting movement to end bigotry and inequality through democracy and just leadership and providing support to a moral compass that includes the ethical vision that enhances a diverse nation.

The mission of justice and equality has never been more important than it is today during these perilous times for this nation. Though black people face unprecedented challenges and threats to their safety and well-being, going backward is not an option. No matter who holds the reins of political power, equality must move forward in our mission to ensure that every person benefits. The author James Baldwin once said, “What is it that you wanted me to reconcile myself to? I was born here more than 60 years ago. I’m not going to live another 60 years. You always told me that it’s going to take time. It’s taken my father’s time, my mother’s time, my uncle’s time, my brothers’ and my sisters’ time, my nieces, and my nephew’s time. How much time do you want for your progress?”

  • Khalilah Sabra (@khalilahsabra)
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MUSLIM AMERICANS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND DIVERSITY (CARY/CHARLOTTE)

 by the author.

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Khalilah Sabra

Khalilah Sabra

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Dr. Khalilah Sabra, LL.M, (@khalilahsabra): Muslim American Doctorate in International Law, Executive Director (MAS Immigrant Justice Center)