Columnist Tolley Jones: Breathless

Published: 4/29/2021 12:28:50 PM

Have you felt breathless these many months and years?

   Have you felt your lungs burn and your vision narrow as you wait and wait and wait for the freedom to breathe unrestricted? 

Have you tallied up the houses in your town festooned with bastardized blue and black police flags that threaten “We support the police,” to calculate what percentage of your town hates you and your family and thinks your death at the hands of police is inevitably deserved?

Has your child told you she knows not to go to those houses for help, because they are racists and not safe? Because they think that her death would be justified for walking where she is not wanted, for insisting on exercising her rights if questioned, for being mistaken for someone else, for being perceived as scary, for any number of non-death penalty actions that are nonetheless punishable by execution in the court of supremacy? Have you looked at these houses through your Black child’s eyes?

Has your heart pounded with the unrelenting cascade of neverending deaths and shootings of people who look like you, at the hands of the police? Do you simmer with collective accumulated rage, layered with the unanswerable question: Why do they hate us so much? Why?

When the Derek Chauvin verdict was about to be announced and networks were murmuring about injustice and talking to fill in the gaps, did your daughter come downstairs and sit next to you on the couch, close by, sad and anxious?

Did you sit, trying to finish work on your laptop, while your stomach churned with bile and fear and anger and frustration, and your head throbbed, and the screen kept blurring because of the tears that kept welling up?

When you watched the token conviction borne out of a perfect intersection of public outrage, stellar video, free top-of-the-line legal representation, and a few white cops willing to cross the line of complicity, did your mind flash images of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice… your own little brother?

Did the air feel thick with the discontent and malice from the snarling apologists who worship their own intolerance and drink from the shared communion of bloodlust?

Does every insult and obscenity in the daily continuation of overwhelming injustice rub your soul raw and bloody and stinging, like gravel ground deep?

Does your baby call you Mama, like they called for their Mamas with their last gasps of air?

When your baby, your daughter with obsidian eyes wide with knowing, sat next to you smelling sweetly of cake batter  and the air ahead not yet felt, did the weight of the potential for her loss press you into the couch like a knee?

Have you felt breathless these many months and years?

Or do you not really care?

Tolley M. Jones lives in Easthampton. She writes a monthly column for the Gazette. She can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy