EAST WIND: I Can’t Breathe

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By MIYA IWATAKI

Our lives have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic and the new normal of masks and social distancing we are now living to fight this insidious virus. Now over the past two weeks we have been experiencing and exorcising another virus also simmering in the deep recesses of America’s DNA. A history, a seemingly unending catalog of racist violence, death by police especially targeting the Black community.

Some incidents, just the tip of the iceberg, are revealed below. Vincent Chin’s name is included. He was beaten to death in Detroit by two out-of-work auto workers who thought he was Japanese, during a time where the auto industry was declining, and Japanese imports increasing. Their punishment: $3,000 fine and no jail time. I included Chin to remember that communities of color have a shared history, and a shared need to fight for justice. We are all in this together.

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I Can’t Breathe. George Floyd’s last words, 8 min. 46 sec. of agony; his final tortured breath and 46 years of life extinguished under the merciless knee of a Minnesota policeman. Stirring outrage and unprecedented protests here and internationally. From systematic executions targeting ’60s Movement leaders like Black Panthers Fred Hampton and George Jackson, today police killings have become less discriminating and more widespread. In 2019 1,098 people were killed by police violence. Today the world cries out in solidarity, BLACK LIVES MATTER! 

Breonna Taylor, 26, EMT shot dead in her home, Louisville, Ky., March 2020

Laquan McDonald, 17, shot 16 times by Chicago policeman, Oct. 2017

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, unarmed jogger shot by 2 white men, Georgia, Feb. 2020

Castile, Philando, 32, shot 5 times at traffic stop by St. Paul, Minn. police, 2020

Kendra James, 21, mother of 2 shot by Portland, Ore. police, May 2003

 

Louima, Abner, 31, Haitian Am. assaulted, brutalized, sexually abused by 4 NYPD, Aug. 1997

I CAN’T BREATHE. George Floyd, 46, killed by knee-on-neck hold by Minneapolis PD, May 2020

Vincent Chin, 27, beat to death by 2 unemployed white men, Detroit, Mich., June 1982

Eric Garner, 27, died in police chokehold saying “I can’t breathe,” NYPD, 2014

Sandra Bland, 28, jailed after traffic stop, found hanging in cell, Waller, Texas, July 2015

 

Michael Brown, 18, unarmed, shot six times by policeman, Ferguson, Mo., 2014

Amadou Diallo, 23, Guinean immigrant, shot 19 times by NYPD, Feb. 1999

Trayvon Martin, 17, unarmed, shot by white Neighborhood Watch volunteer, Florida, 2012

Tamir Rice, 12, shot to death carrying pellet gun, Cuyahoga County PD, Ohio, Nov. 2014

Emmett Till, 14, accused of offending white woman, beaten, mutilated, shot, Miss. 1955

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 39, assassinated by James Earl Ray, Memphis, Tenn., April 1968

BLACK LIVES MATTER!

GAMBARE!

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Miya Iwataki has been an advocate for communities of color for many years, from the JACS Asian Involvement Office in Little Tokyo in the ’70s, through the JA redress/reparations struggle with NCRR while working for Congressman Mervyn Dymally, to statewide health rights advocacy. She also worked in public media at KCET-TV, then KPFK Pacifica Radio as host for a weekly radio program, “East Wind.” She can be reached at [email protected]. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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