I watched a video today. Yeah…another one. Not those funny videos that go viral because everyone who sees it laughs. But you know..another video. Ring a bell? Not yet, well, for starters, It involved a black man. Big in stature, dark in complexion. Soft in tone of voice and unthreatening. It involved officers… abusing their power, dehumanizing this man of color and using excessive force. And obviously yes, it involved a camera. But there’s still an ongoing investigation.
The man in the video was Mr. Michael Sabbie. Sabbie was an inmate at a private prison. Before an officer induced altercation Mr. Sabbie communicated that he was having trouble breathing. He refused to go back to his room because he could not breathe. He also communicated that he had pneumonia. Instead of being helped, Mr. Sabbie was sprayed repeatedly with chemically based toxins.. in his face, which of course, made breathing harder to do.
After an on-going struggle Mr. Sabbie was forced to shower himself, with his hands cuffed behind his back, to remove the chemicals that had been dispersed all over his person. When unable to shower himself and remain standing on his feet, he was thrown into his cell wet. Covered in chemicals and gasping for air. He repeatedly shouted: I can’t breathe. I’m sorry. I can’t breathe. Please sir. Water. Please, water! I can’t breathe. Again, instead of being helped, he was told to keep still until officers left his cell. He laid there….hardly breathing, slightly conscious.
Officers left his cell and he died from complications with his breathing. There’s supposedly an investigation being conducted… but what happens when the murderers are the investigators? He died a week after Sandra Bland, but video footage was just recently released…. I’ll leave you to consider the outcome of this supposed investigation!
Michael Sabbie is not the only man or person of color who is having trouble breathing. We are all suffocating from systematic oppression and overt racism. The systems that are said to protect us, are responsible for the riots, prompted over blood they spilled. This is no accident. This is no sudden happening. This is a war on those black, in America. In 2016 alone, a sickening 824 people have been killed by officers. [find more staggering statistics here]
There’s this so called reason that officers fear for their lives. These are the very same folks who are said to be brave, heroic, change-agents. These are the very same individuals who wear their uniforms with pride, are protected physically and mechanically and most importantly, systematically. They are powerful. Not fearful. Interestingly enough, they feel that way until they began harassing us people of color… the moment we roll our eyes, raise our voice, ask for help, walk away, run away, or DO NOTHING–we are a threat. Though they approach, beat, seek, harass, threaten, abuse and murder US! If anyone has the right to be fearful it is us. Us people of color. Us working class, highly educated, criminalized, black and brown oppressed bodies. It is us, being gunned down, when we call you for help. It is us, being murdered on camera and buried criminals. It is us, being harassed and beaten on our mothers’ porches. Being gunned down while playing in parks, being raped while imprisoned, being hung while awaiting trial, being HUNTED while walking from the convenience store. We can’t sell CD’s, buy skittles, wear hoodies, call you when we’re in need, play music, ride public transportation, run, pray, attend our own bachelor’s party, be at home, walk outside, play with toys in Walmart or remain silent. The very people that we are is criminalized, dehumanized and silenced by your so-called fear. We don’t have room to consent, we are not allowed to march, we are killed for complying and then, we are buried and labeled as non-compliant.
So I write to you, unafraid and well informed. Sharing and declaring, that until you take your heel off the back of my neck, off the backs of our necks, I still, WE still, can’t breathe! Michael Sabbie was not just another imprisoned, black man. He was not a criminal. He was not an animal. He was not inmate #xxxxxx. He is not just another dead man. He was my brother. And he still, I still, WE still, can’t breathe.
*Link to the video involving brother Michael Sabbie can be found here.