Flickr a Week 22a: ‘I Can’t Breathe’

The entry previously planned for today is now queued for mid-July, which reveals just how far in advance posts are prepared. I made the change around 9 p.m. PDT last evening, to make place for a provocative and timely street portrait by Miki Jourdan. Reason: Protests, riots, looting, and property destruction are underway in major metropolitans across the United States; Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, MinneapolisNew York, and Washington, DC are among them. City-wide curfew is underway in LA, as I write, while Minnesota’s governor has mobilized the National Guard to the Twin Cities.

The incendiary that set the country ablaze was the death of George Floyd, an African-American man arrested six days ago for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill and who died in police custody, while Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the victim’s neck. The tinder is much more than racial tension; many millions of Americans already are frustrated by “stay-at-home” and “social distancing” orders; closing of most businesses and all schools; cancellation of many summer events; and sudden, explosive unemployment—sacrifices meant to slow spread of  SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19. What had been economic and viral pandemics adds another: violence.

Self-titled “I Can’t Breathe” expresses Floyd’s plea to MPLS cops during the incident that ended his life. The quote’s placement on a face mask poetically, poignantly, and purposely makes a point—seeing as how people breathe through them and they are meant to protect from harm, which supposedly is the Novel Coronavirus that, according to data collated by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, has killed at least 369,000 and infected more than 6 million in 188 countries.

The face covering and statement also express symbolism and solidarity. But I must insist that both become meaningless when peaceful protests turn to looting, property destruction, and violence, which is the pattern in every city where they are. Then face masks meant to protect against infection enable criminal behavior by protecting the identities of perpetrators. “I can’t breathe” is the reaction of small business owners and their employees, who lose livelihoods that already were jeopardized by statewide shutdowns. How strange: COVID-19 that many millions of people fear catching becomes a metaphor for the infection of mob violence spreading across America.

Miki captured the portrait that ends the month during the “Black Lives Matter protest near the White House”, using Sony α7R III and Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM A017 lens. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/250 sec, 135mm. Oddly, EXIF records “date taken” as today.

As self-described, Miki “concentrates on street and environmental portraits, working to take candid photos that bring out people’s inner humanity and the joys and obstacles that they face” and joined Flickr in January 2012.

Photo Credit: Miki Jourdan