REST IN PEACE
The last words of George Floyd
“I can’t breathe”
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.
Man I can’t breathe. My face.
Just get up.
I can’t breathe. Please.
I can’t breathe shit.
I can’t move.
I can’t. My knee. My nuts.
I’m through. I’m through.
I’m claustrophobic. My stomach hurts.
My neck hurts. Everything hurts.
Some water or something. Please. Please.
I can’t breathe officer. Don’t kill me.
They gonna kill me man, come on man.
I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.
They gonna kill me. They gonna kill me.
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
Please Sir. Please Sir.
Please I can’t breathe!”
George Floyd’s dying words at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin
Cry for his pain when you read them.
And maybe ponder this. George Floyd’s death is symbolic message for all black men who suffer violence from powerful oppressors. Billions can’t breathe. Hundreds of millions of men, women and children can’t breathe because of historic white domination of economic systems maintained over centuries through royalty, corporations, banks, governments and armies and manifest through enslavement, colonialism, imperialism and present day institutions like the World Bank and IMF.
And god help you if you speak out. They’ll remove you as they did MLK and Lumumba, Malcolm X and Fred Hampton .
Achille Mbembe, Research Professor in History and Politics at the University of the Witwatersrand has written:
“Before this virus, humanity was already threatened with suffocation. If war there must be, it cannot so much be against a specific virus as against everything that condemns the majority of humankind to a premature cessation of breathing, everything that fundamentally attacks the respiratory tract, everything that, in the long reign of capitalism, has constrained entire segments of the world population, entire races, to a difficult, panting breath and life of oppression. To come through this constriction would mean that we conceive of breathing beyond its purely biological aspect, and instead as that which we hold in-common, that which, by definition, eludes all calculation. By which I mean, the universal right to breath.”
And while billions of people can’t breathe, their home planet can’t breathe either. Corporations have sucked the life breath out of our home planet – the skies are sick, the seas are sick. Our intensive food system depends on shameful animal welfare and polluted soils.
George, you should have lived a long life. Like Dr. King, and all the others, we grieve that you too lost your life at the hands of yet another vicious white person. But God willing, you are with your beloved mother, beside whom you were buried, looking down upon us. Together, you’ll see that your life cut short will not be in vain, you are seeing that all colours and creeds are marching for you and that your name is inseparable, bound up with the angry, urgent, desperate international demand for profound system change.
And in those numbers marching and helping pull down statues are white folk who know their job is to decolonise the minds of white society too. To bring greater consciousness to working class white people who have no idea they are being propagandised – for generations they have drunk the imperialist kool-aid and been knowingly or unknowingly suckered into thinking that they have more in common with their fellow white wealthy leaders than people of colour in struggle.
When George Floyd woke up on what was to be his last day on earth, he had no idea, as he uttered those terrible words, begging for his life, that he would trigger a tremor to shake the foundations of global society as we know it. Criminal justice, health, housing, education, media, sport and culture – they are all under the floodlight now. But we must not take our eyes off the bigger picture – this is not about any one of those causes alone. It is about system change. It is about replacing croney capitalism and nasty neoliberalism with a system that is just, diverse, participatory, green, female, co-operative, sustainable and safe.
For decades, civil society has been offering up critiques and solutions.
We can do no better than to turn the man who marched for 13 years solid and whose life was taken because he just became too dangerous. In 1967/68, at a time much the same as now, Dr. Martin Luther King pushed for the Poor People’s Campaign and his Economic Bill of Rights. His ‘triple evils’ – economic exploitation, racism and militarism – are more prescient now than then.
And not just for the USA – but the entire world.
“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.
“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” – Speech to SCLC Board, March 30, 1967.
We at MLK Global call for a renewed ‘internationalising’ of Dr. King’s vision. In particular, for global civil society to unite around his ever-more relevant demand for an end to the inter-connected ‘triple evils’ of economic exploitation, racism and militarism.
MLK Global believes that Dr. King’s analysis of the underlying structures that reinforce inequality speaks to peoples across the global north & south who share a deep desire for long-overdue change.
MLK Global wants to see a renewed awareness of his 5-point Economic Bill of Rights, re-envisioned for today. Economic inequalities, racism, militarism & climate change are destroying families, communities, nations and the very planet we live on. The time to fulfil Dr. King’s vision of a “radical redistribution of power” is now.