I CAN’T BREATHE
NO JUSTICE NO PEACE
Angry voices fill my head through my earbuds. They are outraged and they are disgusted and they are grieving. I turn off my phone and look outside, through the windows of my double doors. Up here, my sky is bright blue. An hour from here, theirs is gray with tear gas and desolation.
The Purples are protesting again after a little girl died. A girl about my age. I ask mama why the little girl died. She says that maybe it was because the little girl was Purple. I ask her how she died. Mama wonders why I want to know, then adds how the little girl wasn’t doing anything, but someone—a Red—stood on her chest anyway, until she couldn’t breathe anymore.
I yell that that isn’t fair. I shout that we should be marching with the Purples, that this little girl needs justice. I pause only to ask her what that meant again. It’s when something is right and unbiased and just, she describes. I looked at her because now there were more words she needed to explain.
Mama turns toward me, fully. “ ‘Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle.’ You know who said that? Martin Luther King Jr. He was a great man from a long time ago, before they changed our colors.
“Remember when Abel cut in front of you in the food line? She claimed that Reds get to go before Blues. Well, justice was served when the supervisor made her go all the way to the back since what she said was wrong and ignorant.
“In this case, the Red who killed the little girl should be arrested and stripped of his position as guard. That would be justice. But more than that, it should not have happened in the first place, and shouldn’t ever again.”
This couldn’t be the first time that a Red has killed someone, I said. No, it wasn’t, she sighed.
Mama continued that this time should be the last, that it had to be—but that’s what we said before, again and again. “This is why we aren’t marching with them. Reds get furious at these protests. He could have just as easily killed you.”
“Because I’m a Blue?”
“Because the uneducated ones are fearful of people they don’t understand, or who are different from them. Because there are more of them and less of us. Yes, because you are a Blue.”
“The Reds don’t have anything to be frightened of. I’m a little girl. Plus, us Blues and the Purples and Greens and all the rest of the colors are good people.” I frowned. “When do you think they will stop being afraid of us?”
“When they stop scrutinizing the defenseless and start examining the deep rooted prejudices and hatred that they built up in themselves. But you have to understand, not all Reds are alike. Everybody, every day, is becoming more and more knowledgeable, like you. We are growing as human beings. We have sacrificed and suffered and struggled long enough. The next step must be Justice. Though it is a steep one, we are all tall enough to reach it.”
“Even me?” I’ve always been the shortest in the class.