Note: I felt called to write this original piece in December 2014, following the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Eric Garner. Some language has been updated, and the picture was edited to include George Floyd, the Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer. May the memories of Eric Garner and George Floyd, and so many others killed by racism, be for a blessing.
I can’t breathe – as I watch the injustice and racism in the United States and the world grow.
I can’t breathe – as I witness intolerance etched on bathroom stalls and spewed at others.
I can’t breathe – as I think about all of the mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who have to lay their loved ones to rest much too early.
I can’t breathe – as I struggle to understand their definitions of “doing their job”.
I can’t breathe – as I watch people have to work harder, or change who they are, to fit into ideas of whiteness.
I can’t breathe – as I scroll through comment after comment, tweet after tweet, of hate and bigotry.
I can’t breathe – as I feel the weight of the struggle on my shoulders.
I can’t breathe – as I hear and see the stories of police brutality.
I can’t breathe – as I see people more concerned with the nature of the protests than the injustices that harm and kill so many people.
I can’t breathe – as I feel spirits crumbling.
I can’t breathe – as I think about the people that can just ignore the issues and still “feel alright”.
I can’t breathe – as I see my optimism for humanity slowly slip away.
I can’t breathe – because injustice in our hometown, in our country, and in our world is suffocating us.
We can’t breathe.
This is amazing!!!
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Well written and truly heartfelt, Evan.
You have always been thoughtful, and an asset to the community.
I would encourage you to Breathe, because truly you still CAN.
And with each breath focus on the world you desire to create for your generation, and your children, and your children’s children.
Just as darkness cannot take away the darkness, it takes light to do that; When we focus on what we CAN DO, then we can begin to see how things might be changed.
I’m not suggesting you ignore the pain, death, and violence around us. I’m suggesting you dismiss its power.
And I’m asking you to focus on what is GOOD and RIGHT.
When we remain focused on what we truly desire, we will see the world around us change.
It is young people like you that gives me hope for a better future for our world.
I believe in a better world. It is my desire. it is my focus.
Please join in believing with me.
Our future, your future depends on it.
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Thanks so much, Carol! It’ll be a long process, but one worth fighting for.
Evan, this is simply brilliant. I commend your willingness to bare your soul to share your observations and feelings.
I went to High School with your mother. In the midst of all that less-than-flattering mid-seventies hair and clothing we were filled with hope. The newly minted civil rights laws gave us a sense that these problems of race and prejudice would soon become a thing of the past. We thought women had opened the door to their own equality and that those we viewed as ‘minorities’ we’re finally able to sit at the table of American bounty.
We were wrong.
In the years between your mother’s and my graduation, we’ve seen all of our rights slowly eroded, our privacy compromised, our casual prosperity crumble. It’s been easy, perhaps even fashionable, to become jaded.
Then here you are, writing from your soul. I know your plea here is achingly wounded, but in your plea is also the seed of a greater awareness. The lauded mind scientist of the last century, John C. Lilly, said: A program or behavior is the rule of our life until it is recognized and changed. The key to this quote, and the first step in change, is the recognition of what needs to shift.
Your writing is evidence of that recognition. In that, and in aware young adults like you, I find hope for the future.
So, please, keep writing. Show us what needs to change. If the world doesn’t get it at first, hold our noses to it until our eyes are opened. I know that’s a tall order. But, after reading this piece, I know you are up to the task.
It is my fondest wish you will witness the justice and equality you call for in your lifetime.
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Thanks so much for the encouragement, Paul! Definitely focusing on holding steady with everything and challenging what we see in our world.
Rabbi Harris at Temple B’nai Israel in OKC quoted your poem at this past Friday night’s Sabbath Service. My cousin’s daughter Morgan Jackson was helping lead services on the eve of her bat mitzvah. I was so inspired by your poem. In the wake of tragedy, sometimes a poet’s voice can make sense of all the senselessness that we live through day to day and shine light where there wasn’t any before.I hope you don’t mind if I share your poem on my Facebook page so that it may inspire other people.
You’re a remarkable young man. I have a son who is a freshman at UT Austin. And I see that there is great hope for the younger generation. Shalom berakhah ve-tovah.
Lynne & Harold Jacobs
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Thank you for your kind words, Lynne. Please feel free to share!
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