After the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Aubrey, and the police being called on Christian Cooper, my first reaction to the murder of George Floyd vacillated between sadness and numbness. The feeling began as a tightness in my sinuses, the same feeling as the onset of spring. But a sneeze will not dislodge how the body internalizes racism. Long before this pandemic, there was something airborne, a pestilence that spread first amongst white folks before it began to attack our bodies. The tightness in the sinuses moves downward and closes the throat. Because of the connection between the nose and the eyes, sometimes they involuntarily tear. Like allergy season. But no antihistamine stops the throat from beginning to close. Not even firing 4 cops. Not even the mayor calling for the officer’s arrest. No investigation will protect the scarring of our lungs. It is already spread. It’s been airborne for over 400 years. It’s resilient as fuck. And today, I have to sit across the screen from my students and see their small chests become labored, the glaze in their eyes, hear the tremor in their voices. They already carry the stones of this plague in their bronchioles. How hard is it to fight when the air is weaponized against you?
The police have the nerve to shoot off canisters of tear gas in Minneapolis. To restrict our breathing, to restrain us with tanks and automatic weapons, to put the proverbial foot (or knee) on our necks in the hope that the voice of our resistance will be eternally silenced. That the warriors in us will die under their weight. That all we will do is record and tweet and squabble about the correctness of talking points. How unfortunate it is for them that so many of us are accustomed to wearing face masks, that we know how to breathe through cloth and N95s, that living with the respiratory ailment of racism means that tear gas ain’t a deterrent for us. The pollution of this air will not stop us from fighting for justice. Fingers have been around our necks for too long. Right now the police occupation of Minneapolis is viral on TikTok. Throwing tear gas cans back at officers is the new dance.
The courts cannot bring us justice. Officers in prison is not justice. Officers convicted is not justice. Officers indicted is not justice. Officers arrested is not justice. Officers fired is not justice. Officers suspended is not justice. Officers investigated is not justice. The system ain’t just, so how is it going to give us what it does not possess? What we demand is accountability under the law. And accountability under the law, while it is something we will fight for, is simply insufficient. It is a starting point, not a satisfactory end. The justice we seek can only be delivered by the eradication of the white-supremacist-capitalist-imperialist-cis-hetero-transphobic-ableist-fatphobic-settler-colonial-patriarchy that oppresses more than we can name in a runon sentence. Justice is triggers not being pulled, knees not being in necks, police not being called for telling you to leash your dog; justice is transparent communication in a workplace devoid of microaggressions; justice is the reparation of 400 years of abuse knowing that will not heal the wounds inflicted on our ancestors that have been carried in our genetic code, and that are salted as we endure the pain of being viewed and treated as something other than human.
Tired ain’t even the word. Especially as I conclude this, I learn about Regis Korchinski-Paquet being thrown from a balcony in Toronto to her death by police, who state that she committed suicide. And the tightness returns to my sinuses.