I Can’t Breathe
I was choked out when I was maybe eleven years old. A few more seconds and you wouldn’t be reading this post decades later. I would’ve never heard of Tupac, Biggie, Wu-Tang or Jay-Z because my preteen one hundred pound body would have been buried six feet deep. When a person is being choked they almost instantly lose their ability to fight back. Panic sets in when you realize you can’t breathe and you struggle to speak those words. Blood rushes to your head and your face begins to swell. If it goes on too long, like it did with me, you black out; if you’re lucky enough to survive the encounter, you wake up with broken blood vessels in your face and eyes and the awareness that one bad decision by another person can end your life.
Once a year the catholic school near my public elementary would throw a carnival near the intersection of I-96 Service Drive and Telegraph Road in Detroit. It was the only carnival for miles and drew a lot of people who wouldn’t normally interact with one another and my family would go nearly every year. I never understood how the same 6 year old black girl who attracted comments from strangers like “She’s such a pretty little girl”, became a threat just by aging seven years.
This past weekend at a church carnival in Norristown, P.A. a 14 year old black girl was placed in a chokehold by a white police officer. The police will tell you they came there to stop a brawl, it was chaos, that no unnecessary force was used. Countless individuals died by the hands of the L.A.P.D. in the 80’s and 90’s because someone cut off their air supply. Eric Garner died in 2014 by the hands of the N.Y.P.D. after being choked out for selling loosies*. Thankfully the teen survived the encounter. She may choose to expose them, or bury them for decades like I did, but the scars remain. Merriam-Webster’s definition of terror is a state of intense fear. You never forget the fear of not being able to breathe.
*loosies- individual cigarettes or loose cigarettes.
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