Monday, June 1, 2020

I Can't Breathe

The Webster Dictionary defines “breathe” as: a) to draw air into and expel it from the lungs; to take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide through natural processes.  b) to inhale and exhale freely.

My mother whenever she was overwhelmed with domestic chores or perhaps her own thoughts, would say to my siblings and I, “Please I beg you all to give me a little breathing space”, as we gathered around to make much of her or tug the hem of her dress for food or something else. In my mind, I could never understand her “sometimish” response because no one was holding her nose and squeezing it tight to cut off her air supply. So being the obedient children we were raised to be we would scamper away before the count of three. No questions asked of Mama and the breathing space she wanted.

Now, I said all of that to raise the topic of some Law Enforcement officers, Policemen/Cops, in our society who don't quite understand the statement “I can’t breathe” whenever it has been repeated several times by a suspect who is pinned against the ground. I don’t know the details of policemen-training so as a civilian I am not at liberty to say they are wrong or right. Nor would I even consider that they are doing a game of play wrestling like little boys do. Little boys can be mean when they fool around but not to cause grave harm or injury. But if commonsense must prevail, as a Policeman, I would pay attention to the suspect pleading for help or mercy. Never believe that the suspect is trying to weasel a way out of an arrest or situation. Call for advice of backup helpers.  Get that teamwork going. Do not make a decision to the detriment of others or even yourself.

My grandmother loved to repeat the Jamaican adage, “Bullfrog said what is joke to you is death to me”. This adage rings through daily in many of our lives yet we do not take heed.  The statement “I can’t breathe” has become one too many these days from suspects who are pinned against the ground by a police officer. Be it in an arm-hold, neck-hold or whatever the tactical training is, “I can’t breathe”, should be given prompt attention. Don’t take it for granted. Unfortunately, Minnesota experienced an arrest of a suspect who was pinned against the ground crying “I can’t breathe” to the officer who remained on top of him with his knee locked into his neck. The suspect yelled I can’t breathe more than once yet the officer remained in his composure: knee in the suspect's neck and hand in pocket until the suspect became silent….

The May 25, 2020 video account of the death of suspect George Floyd was hard to watch. It was real. My emotions were real. Hence, I wrote this poem called "I Can't Breathe":

Tah-tah! Exercise power with good judgment and commonsense. 

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2020



  2. To the police, I can't breathe means, I can breathe, I am exchanging air. If this is a technicality in training, it must be addressed and outlawed because, it might be an okay tactic for some, but deadly to others, Mr. Floyd is an example. What's okay for the goose is a death sentence for the gander. Moreover, I fail to think that a knee to the neck could ever be included in police restraint training.
    It is time for the police force to and dismiss rogue cops before there is one more senseless killing of an unharmed black man.