Our Breaths are Stifled by Austin Tillett

When I moved to the United States in 2017 to pursue higher education, I was excited. The United States represented endless possibility. However, I had to grapple with what it meant to be Black in the U.S. This was a learning process for me. I grew up in a country where race wasn’t quite a marker of who had power and who didn’t. I had lived in other countries where I wasn’t a minority and Black achievement wasn’t seen as an anomaly. Therefore, living in the U.S. was learning that being Black – existing as I am – wasn’t always considered a good thing.

There were all-white neighbourhoods I would never walk through for fear of someone calling the cops on me. I was consistently navigating other people’s microaggressions when they’d marvel at how “articulate” I was. People would consistently tell me things like: “You sound so educated,” “You seem really good at school” or “You speak English so well.”

The very sad reality is if I were to share my stories more frequently, I’m sure I’d be met with resistance. People would say, “Are you sure race was the underlying factor in these scenarios?” And the answer is, yes. Perhaps, people would proceed to say, “Why are you angry?” And the answer to that is, I should be. Everyone should.

My voice barely matters. That’s the truth. A Black gay man from the developing world has nothing to offer a white colonial ego. That’s why white people need to get over their defensiveness – admit they have privilege and work to dismantle the systems that stifle our breaths. It should be enough for me to say I’m scared or that we should stop entertaining white nationalist rhetoric. However, that isn’t the world we live in.

white people. Use your privilege to protect us. Do so with the acknowledgement that we shouldn’t need you to stand up for us. We should have our voices acknowledged without your validation simply because we exist.

America is so intertwined with the politics and economies of countries all over the globe. For example, I’m from the Caribbean and many countries in the region are heavily dependent on tourism. My country, Belize, is quite dependent on American tourism. I’m sure we’re not the only country where that’s the case. So, what have many Caribbean countries decided to do? With relatively low COVID-19 cases and economies dependent on tourism, many countries have decided to open their borders. It’s not necessarily safe to do so – we just need the money.

This is what can happen when Americans aren’t travelling. Entire countries’ economies can be destabilized to the point where governments would endanger their own citizens for money. This scenario is a menial example of America’s grip on the world.

The States cannot endure another 4 years of madness. It will fall and when it does – its dismantlement won’t occur in a vacuum. All of us are going down with it. If y’all think you’re waiting with bated breath to see what happens – so is the rest of the world. Everyone is waiting to see if the U.S. will become a failed state. We cannot afford to witness America descend into violent destruction.

white people. Do Better.

There is far too much at stake than you realize.

Austin Tillett is an intern at Geez studying in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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