I Can’t Breathe

Wake up in the morning, nowhere you can hide
Just another suspect as soon as you go outside
Just another suspect, one more man to fear
Best be deferential if an officer is near
Best be deferential, best wear a three-piece suit
Or find the wrong end of a truncheon or a combat boot
The wrong end of a truncheon or the barrel of a gun
Each day could be your last and final one
I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe

Wake up in the morning, try to make the rent
If you can’t hustle up some money you’ll be living in a tent
If you can’t hustle up some money or get paid a living wage
The kids will be evicted and they’ll put you in a cage
The kids will be evicted, living in the street
In line outside the mission to get some soup and bread to eat
In line outside the mission or just hope for the best
Go out and sell some loosies, feel your heart beat in your chest

Wake up in the morning, get up and roll the dice
Try not to look suspicious, hope they think you look nice
Try not to look suspicious, try not to raise alarm
If you want to see your family, don’t want them to come to harm
If you want to see your family, you want to live another day
Watch out for the cops, hope they go away
Watch out for the cops or you’ll be taking your last breath
The next one that you see might just choke you to death

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“I Can’t Breathe” appears on the 2015 CD and Bandcamp album, The Other Side.

Written for Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, and all the other people who have to wonder every time they get up in the morning whether they will be racially profiled by some cop who will decide to choke them to death, shoot them, stop and frisk them, etc.

As a white American man, I may not know what it’s like to be a black American man. But there are little tiny inklings. When I was young and had long hair and wore hippie clothes from Guatemala and such, I was profiled as a hippie frequently. Also for driving an old car. It was quite a combination of factors, and resulted in me getting frequently pulled over, ticketed, and occasionally arrested. The way things changed after I cut my hair and started wearing more normal clothing would be hard to overstate. Of course, for me, it’s a choice. For so many others, it’s not.

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