Privileged to hold my breath

I have been given the privilege
To hold my breath
To make this choice:
I cannot watch that video
I will not watch that video
To see
          How George Floyd is being killed
To hear
          How George Floyd is being killed
To hear
          His breath failing as he tells the whole world so
And Derek Chauvin
          On duty
To see
         Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd
         On duty

I cannot willnot watch and hear/ A pain, a fear
I do not know/ Yet know of it
How oft?/ How often
I hold my breath in privilege

The equation of racial prejudice:
Black unarmed > still certain to be suspicious
                                                  = dead-certain
White armed > centuries-certain to be right
                                                  = white-right

I cannot willnot watch and hear
Not anymore.
            Any more.
                                              . . .
I am privileged to make that choice
I am privileged not to feel
My breath being stolen
My life being taken by
             A policeman on duty
             A state terrorist of white state terrorism
I am privileged
To hold my breath
My breath

I too (not #metoo) know racial discrimination:
It always worked in my favour

On the train in Assiut, when the police checked every carriage for terrorists
I was too “obviously” not one of them to be even asked for my ID

Passing through the wall that separates the state of Israel and the ? of Palestine
They wave me through

On a crowded minibus in Lilongwe
I receive the conductor’s apologies for being in (but not of) the crowd

In front of the stage at a music festival in Johannesburg
Where security keep the crowd away – except me and my camera

Where I grew up, a police-state dictatorship of Germany,
I had to DO something to be discriminated against, not just to BE

When I protest that privilege which
        I never asked for
        I slipped into at birth
                  Into that white hospital
                        Into that white linen
                              Into that white skin
I exert that privilege with a voice
That receives attention
That will be heard
Unlike George Floyd
I have been given the privilege
To hold my breath

That fantasy kept me awake: three policemen
Are taught what it means to live
In fear day in, day out
In an American prison
Disproportionately full of black inmates.
A violent-wishful prejudice, that too
Mine, too

I have been given the privilege
To hold my breath
What I can do with it
To become aware
My=Our white privilege
No entitlement
No white-right

Breath ≠ no white-right

I have been given the privilege
To hold my breath
                  And to not withhold it
To speak up
Against racism
                            ( – easy)
To act
Against racism
                            ( – less easy)
To stand by
                 Breathe with
Those threatened by racism
                                        ( – a #blacklivesmatter of life and death)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.