I have found myself completely confused, conflicted, angry, unknowing….and also knowing that this cry, that George Floyd said in a way that looks like for the first time the world heard, is a cry that has been said soooo many times. So many times. Possibly as I write this article, a few people across the world are saying the same cry and hoping that the person “kneeling on their neck” will hear, realise that it is not the desired effect, and move. Unfortunately, as many times as we can count corpses, the person kneeling does not move until it is too late……
I chose to talk briefly to only 5 shades for now:
The White T-shirt represents the oppressive and exploitative corporate culture that leaves multitudes in disadvantaged position in a way that they have to jump million-plus hoops to free themselves from poverty that is created by the socio-political decisions by a small group of selfish, self-centered people. At the core, what is weaponised is education. In my country multitudes are provided education that makes them laughing stocks. In my country 30% is a pass mark. This is a badge of scorn that is hung on the neck of every child whose parents cannot afford sky-rocketing fees in private schools, or sky-rocketing logistics costs to transport their children out of the townships, to formerly white schools for a chance as stepping out of poverty because their education can open some doors. The shame of giving young women R250.00 social grant per baby instead of using the money to educate them and provide child-care centers that are state funded, to ensure that they are able to pick themselves up and create a better life for themselves and their children. The shame of using class privilege to keep the majority of South Africans out of decent quality of life where their school buildings are appalling and leaders sleep at night. I could go on and on…guess what, these children, their families and their communities cannot breathe … the shameful strategies that feed politics have got their knees on their necks! THEY CANNOT BREATHE!
The Pink T-Shirt represent gender violence, rape & femicide. The number of corpses of young women in South Africa just in 1 week says it the loudest, mostly to men who promised to protect them. And no, gender equity and expectation for protection are not contradictory. Everyone who declares love to another says that “I will protect you”, emotionally, socially, physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually. So no, women are not crazy to trust people who tell them they love them. Women and children are not crazy to trust men in their homes; family members, friends and indeed strangers. As human beings, we surely are here for each other…because it is inconceivable that human beings should be protecting themselves from human beings…. how will that work? NO, EVERY VICTIM OF RAPE CANNOT BREATHE. EVERY VICTIM OF ASSAULT CANNOT BREATHE. EVERY VICTIM OF FEMICIDE CANNOT BREATHE. I am not leaving out all women who are perpetrators of violence.
The Gold T-Shirt represents economic exploitation that goes back to slavery days…that continues unabated even today. Miners are the poorest people participating in wealth creation in the world. When people recklessly equate poverty to laziness they actually without realizing what they are saying, say that hard work pays. They are saying that when you work hard you receive the reward of your hard labour. So then, why are the most hardworking people poor? No one can argue that they give their work their all. No one can challenge their commitment, loyalty, and dedication. These powerful qualities that all wealth-creation organisations claim will bear fruit to the handworker. So then, where is their reward? Who stole it? When they ask, how do we treat them? Every protest, underground sit-in, strike….it is again with all of what they have saying “I can’t breathe…” Who cares? And it is so for all workers in their different degrees of investment for a better life for themselves and their families… in vain …. all employees who are exploited CAN’T BREATHE!!!!!!
The Green T-Shirt represents the environment. Crass materialism, crass greed, demonic power mongering are all at the heart of total disregard for the crazy impact that irresponsible methods and solutions have in destroying nature. From poaching, hunting of endangered animals, to using chemicals that everyone knows destroys vegetation, to mountains of plastic that companies cannot let go because of financial benefit, the releasing of toxic waste into rivers, dams and into the soil to kill and contaminate, the impact on sea live, deforestation to make space for more concrete trees that deplete the cosmic balance….every single selfish act that leaves the environment poorer, and thus leaves the human population poorer….. the more we see documentaries of whales dying from suffocation with plastic choking them, is the more we allow producers to continue to produce….the only beneficiaries of this irresponsibility are businesses who make tons of money from selling them…..do not tell me about job-losses. They have become the tagline for exploitation of the poor. If there was interest, by now an alternative to plastic would be available, and just as many people would be employed to produce it. So a big fat NO. The environment CAN’T BREATHE!!!
The Black T-Shirt represent racism, and specifically, discrimination again an African, because of the color of my skin. o If I could write black on black I would…. I do not have many words except the following:
- If you did not choose to be born white you have nothing to boast about. If I were you, I would look at what I could use my color for, so that the color of my skin does not leave anyone poorer than I found them.
- If you believe that your skin color when it is white is a privilege, then more is expected from you. The more you have, the bigger your responsibility, because anything extra in your care is not for you, but for you to use for other’s advantage.
- If it is upon you who lives and who dies, rise to the occasion. Showcase that this huge privilege and advantage is not misplaced. Use it so that the world is a better place for all who live in it….
- If your skin color gives you power over others, do not behave like a scared, disempowered person. Do not attack those who are weak, otherwise you are actually saying to the weak, that you are weak and they are strong, and you must keep breaking them when unarmed because if they discovered their power, you would not survive.
- You leave me completely confused. My compassion for your existence in lack and my total fury at your arrogance leave me tongue-tied. I do not know what to say to you, because I do not know what I am feeling, what I am thinking, and what to do.
- At the same time, what makes me give peace, harmony and “mutual -respect” another chance is because of my hope, like George Floyd’s hope, that you will hear me, see that what you are doing is wrong and unnecessary, and you will get your knee off my neck, because damn, I CAN’T BREATHE, and because you did not give me my life, it is not up to you to decide when I must stop breathing!!!
There are many more colors…many many more…religion, culture, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic grouping, health conditions, language, belief systems ……….there are many colors, all representing the different knees that are taking life out of God’s creation……get your knee off people’s necks and nature’s neck…..