I Can’t Breathe

I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe. I can’t imagine. I can’t stop crying. 

I am usually pretty quiet about political issues. I have my own deep-seated beliefs about things, but I have never been one to think that my beliefs are the best or only beliefs people should hold. 

However, today, I find myself in a position where staying quiet is no longer an option. I may not have the right words… I’ve been at a complete loss for words since all of this happened. But I owe it to my friends and family in the black community to at least make an attempt. 

I have been sick to my stomach for days now, brought to tears by the inhumanity and injustice of other humans. And when I think of the sheer number of incidents that have happened recently, the number of people I have failed to stand for, I cannot tell you how ashamed I feel. 

The Charleston Nine. Treyvon Martin. Emmit Till. Philando Castille. Ahmaud Arbery. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. Stephon Clark. Jordan Edwards. Michael Brown. Oscar Grant. Alton Sterling. Jordan Davis. Aiyana Jones. Sean Bell. Walter Scott. Breonna Taylor. Botham Jean. Charles Kinsey. Arnaldo Rios Soto. Corey Jones. John Crawford. Terrence Crutcher. Keith Scott. Randy Evans. Yvonne Smallwood. Christian Cooper. George Floyd. 

Read those names again. They aren’t just names. They are real people. People with lives and families and friends and neighbors. They are just as human as you. And their lives were forever altered or snuffed out because perception drives reality, and modern America’s perception seems to be that the greater the melanin the higher the threat. 

But I don’t have to worry. 

See, my kids are “white enough” that I won’t have to discuss how to walk down a street or what to do if they get pulled over to avoid being killed. 

I don’t know the fear that my black friends encounter during a routine traffic stop. 

I don’t have to question if decisions were made about me simply because of the color of my skin.

I don’t know what it feels like to be followed around in a grocery store for no reason other than the way I look.

I never had to be coached as a child on how to behave around police so my life is not at risk.

I will never have to pick an outfit or do my hair with the thought of “what will make me look the most Caucasian for the occasion, aka the least threatening?”

I will never have to send my son out the door, reminding him to keep his head down and draw as little attention to himself as possible.  

I’ve never been perceived as a threat because I wore the wrong thing or styled my hair in natural curls. 

I have certainly never felt that, perhaps, my life matters less than others simply because of my race.

I have never experienced those things, and likely never will because I’m not black.

In fact, I’m so white I’m translucent, with nothing but entitlement and acceptance reflecting off me into the eyes of the even more privileged white men who surround me.

I am incredibly privileged, and I will never know what those things feel like, but I understand that others encounter it every single day, and I can make a choice to rally behind that community to prevent future generations from encountering the same things.

I used to believe the lie that I didn’t need to speak up. But that was my white privilege speaking.

Staying silent is not “being unified” and doing nothing is no longer an option. We have to come together and accept and admit that privilege and entitlement are true or  we will never do what it takes to be part of a real, lasting change. 

Choosing to turn a blind eye, belittling the facts to fit your own agenda, pretending that racism doesn’t exist… that is exactly how it is allowed to continue.

All change starts on an individual level. Before societal change can happen, we need to recognize and take responsibility for the changes that should happen within ourselves. We need to ACT. It’s easy to post things saying #blacklivesmatter, but do you actually live like that is true?

Do you choose to see the microaggressions in everyday life? Do you choose to call out bigotry when it happens? When someone in your circle is aggrieved, do you stand up for them? Do you risk anything? 

We cannot continue to allow this. When we see someone do wrong to another human because of their race, we have to DO SOMETHING. Maybe you need to let go of a friend. Maybe you need to stand up to your boss. Maybe you need to look inside yourself and find where you are wrong. 

Stop believing the lie that racism is dead. Stop saying you are sorry. Stop justifying evil!

We say we want accountability. We speak softly about justice. We know that what is happening is inherently wrong. But we cannot whisper anymore. We cannot stay silent and expect things to get better. It is time for us to violently and diligently tear down the constructs of our society that continually bring us to this place of despair and injustice.

Change happens by coming together, speaking up, and caring about the other members of our society even when what is happening does not feel like it is directly affecting us. There can be no change if we are unwilling to use our voices. Change only comes when people stand up, when we demand it, when we choose to make a stand. 

We have to fight against injustice, inequality, and unfair treatment of the black community.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

You must choose between right and wrong. 

Because “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.” – Jacob Frey, Minneapolis Mayor. 

About Shannon Joy

I am a single mama with two incredible munchkins. I confuse most people and the deeper you delve into the rabbit hole, the more lost you will become. I play a lot, work a lot, learn a lot, volunteer a lot and tend to do a lot... I love my life. The past few years have been an incredible journey, full of ups and downs. Thankfully, I have made the choice to see challenges as opportunities and it makes me so much stronger than I ever thought possible. I love to write and paint and feel that being creative is my God-given talent. I am so excited to share my life and experiences with you. Although I am a diamond in the rough, I known that I am being chiseled and hewn by experiences and grace and perseverance. I love comments and feedback, so please send a little love when you can. I will always try to respond personally and in a timely fashion.
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