I can’t breathe

Yesterday afternoon my daughter and I attended a small, peaceful march in our town, Golden. I have lived in Golden for two years and I adore it; I also feel like in some ways I am meant to live here because I lived here for awhile as a baby and returned at age 39. Golden is many things, including a college town, a factory town, and a Denver suburb.

Golden has some diversity, no doubt, but it is mostly white. Most, though certainly not all, of the people who gathered around the creek to write positive chalk messages on the sidewalk were white. We all wore masks.

After writing the chalk messages, we walked for about 25 minutes carrying signs. Here are some of the chalk messages and signs, including my sign, which is first below:

One sign I did not photograph simply displayed George Floyd’s last words. The woman carrying the sign was near me. As I read them, over and over, I had to stave off panic. I had to stave off grief. And I kept hearing the white children marching around me, remark, totally innocently, about wearing their masks in to 90-degree heat: “I can’t breathe.”

Many white parents, especially those who never discussed racism, white privilege, or racial justice in their schools or in the homes they were raised in, feel at a loss about how to talk about race with their own children. I have done a fair amount of work in this area beginning in college, including a variety of work in education and the work of writing a book of poetry around racism. I am starting a virtual book club for white parents who are raising white children. We’ll read the book Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America, which you can read about in the link, but here is the basic idea: Talking about race means naming the reality of white privilege and hierarchy. How do we talk about race honestly, then, without making our children feel bad about being white? Most importantly, how do we do any of this in age-appropriate ways? We’ll meet through Zoom in 40 minute meets every two weeks to share passages that stood out to us, our thoughts about the reading, and our questions. I will guide the discussions and follow up after each meeting with resources.

Here is the schedule:

Sunday, July 5, 4:00 to 4:40 PM MDT: introduction, chapters 1 and 2
Sunday July 19, 4:00 to 4:40 PM MDT: chapters 3 and 4
Sunday, August 2, 4:00 to 4:40 PM MDT: chapters 5 and 6
Sunday, August 16, 4:00 to 4:40 PM MDT: chapter 7 and conclusion

To join, email me at kimoco704 at gmail dot com

To close, here are George Floyd’s last words:

“It’s my face man
I didn’t do nothing serious man
please
please
please I can’t breathe
please man
please somebody
please man
I can’t breathe
I can’t breathe
Please
(Inaudible)
man can’t breathe, my face
just get up
I can’t breathe
please (inaudible)
I can’t breathe sh*t
I will
I can’t move
mama
mama
I can’t
my knee
my nuts
I’m through
I’m through
I’m claustrophobic
my stomach hurt
my neck hurts
everything hurts
some water or something
please
please
I can’t breathe officer
don’t kill me
they gon’ kill me man
come on man
I cannot breathe
I cannot breathe
they gon’ kill me
they gon’ kill me
I can’t breathe
I can’t breathe
please sir
please
please
please I can’t breathe”

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