I Can’t Breathe, But You’re Breathing Fine. We Need to Confront This!

Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, I, like many black children, was raised by my single mother. Our fathers weren’t there for us; some by choice, and others in prison or dead. Since childhood, I have watched uniformed police abuse their power in poor neighborhoods. As a black man, I have learned to just shut up, put my head down, and put my hands up. My experience is not unique. Ask any black man. We have a shared experience. We have shared trauma. We are mistreated by the police. We are judged based on the color of our skin. We are seen as a threat simply for being. 

In the United States, black people are three times as likely to be killed by the police than white people. Racism, both overt and subtle, is woven into the fabric of our country. From slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation to housing and health inequities, the achievement gap in education, and the wage gap, racial discrimination is alive and well in the United States. Americans across the country are now bearing witness to the injustice and cruelty against people of color, that have existed for years, like never before. 

Divided Country

Our country is deeply divided, and the division is further highlighted by the current political climate. The mistreatment of people has become tragically and painfully normalized. What’s more frightening is that it is no longer only the overt racists that pose a danger to people of color. It’s also the Amy Coopers of the world. 

Being black in America means you have gotten the look, a look you know only if you have been the target; a look that says, “You don’t belong here”; a look of disgust, of scorn; a look of entitlement — a look of madness, really.

There needs to be an acknowledgment that every race and social class and religion and sex have different American experiences. Some of which are more positive than others. Racism is America’s dirty little secret. Only in the age of phones and cameras, it’s not a secret anymore. People aren’t more racist than they used to be–it’s just being caught on camera and put on social media. 

Black communities across the country are bleeding and suffocating. We have protested peacefully. We have knelt. We have talked. We have explained. Following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a uniformed cop, there have been hundreds of protests against police brutality.

What now?

We can’t be silent. We can’t be complacent. We can’t sit back and allow our anger and frustration to stop us from empowering the next generation. In these dark days, we must continue to seek inspiration and hope for the future. We must focus on moving forward to address the injustices within our communities. We must dismantle the system that ignores the racist and institutional bias within itself.


The next generation deserves better. They deserve to believe in the good of others, to have the confidence to dream big, to go to college, to live the life that they choose without fear. One positive path forward is the kind of outreach undertaken at Coaching4Change, which I founded in 2010. We partner with college and public schools to create and lead youth programs that combine physical activity, academics, mentoring, family engagement, and college support and career exposure. On college campuses across Massachusetts, there are hundreds of students, predominantly students of color, who persisted to become the first in their families to attend college thanks to Coaching4Change. 


There are thousands of men and women of color across the Commonwealth who grew up in poverty and navigated their way through tragically under-resourced schools. They succeeded against all odds and they can motivate and inspire others by helping them to overcome challenges and barriers. These are the change-makers for the next generation.


It is a case where college students of color must share their success with the next generation. We at Coaching4Change want them as partners, as mentors and role models, who can advise and guide the next generation.


At Coaching4Change, we need to connect middle and high school kids with college students who understand them, can relate to them, share interests with them, and mentor them. College mentors exemplify the hope that we are all so desperately seeking. In these relationships, our young people of color will know they are not alone. Our future depends on what we do for them now.

Marquis’s blog was originally posted on his website.


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