I Can’t Breathe Project: Black voices matter


“I Can’t Breathe Project” writer Jeshua Glover comments on the culmination of the Black Lives Matter movement to today and encourages the movement to keep pushing. 

Jeshua Glover

Editor’s Note: The “I Can’t Breathe Project” is part of “Voices,” a project by the Iowa State Daily that seeks to facilitate civil discourse and build awareness about diversity on Iowa State’s campus. Glover’s views are his own and do not reflect the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole. 

Saying the year 2020 has been a curveball would be an understatement, our lives have been irrevocably altered due to a number of unforeseen circumstances. There have been so many different events that have been covered to an almost annoying extent that don’t need to be further explained.

One thing that has remained consistent though, even through this absolute whirlwind of change, is racism.


Even the word brings an uncomfortable aura around those reading it. It makes one begin to ask themselves questions:

“Am I racist?”

“Have I done/said something racist?”

“Do my friends/family think I’m racist?”

These are all great questions to think about, as they make a person self-aware about how they affect the lives of those around them. Asking yourselves these questions is healthy and there’s nothing wrong with that. Once you have those answers though, decide which side of the line you want to be on.

On May 25, George Floyd had his life taken from him by a white police officer who applied pressure to the neck with his knee for over eight minutes. This all occurred in Minnesota while three other officers watched the man scream that he “couldn’t breathe,” similar to the death of Eric Garner by way of police brutality in 2014. Needless to say, protests broke out in Minnesota merely hours after that led to rioting and burning down of buildings such as Target and the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct.

Protests quickly spread across the nation, with many police departments displaying treacherous use of excessive force, along with white supremacist groups looking to escalate violence among peaceful protesters and police officers. 

Surprisingly, many of the protestors were white people along with Black people all fighting for the same thing: equality. The Black Lives Matter movement is far from new as it began in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Unfortunately, the rate of wrongful and racially charged murders of Black Americans has gone up since then. It seems to have reached a boiling point after the death of George Floyd, which brings us here. 

In a state with such a small Black population like Iowa — 4 percent — many Black voices get drowned out and it is time for that to change.

In light of recent events, many Black Iowans, mostly students of Iowa State University have begun to speak about how they feel in these turbulent times. Many of those questioned have shared negative experiences with police officers, both firsthand and secondhand.

From being pulled over for vague reasons, to being racially profiled, to having police called on them for simply “studying in his university’s library.” There weren’t all negative experiences, but the good ones didn’t leave enough of an impression.

All of the people questioned have felt the pressure to conform to America’s societal standards as far as making themselves “approachable” or making members of the majority feel comfortable, while receiving microaggression after microaggression and consistently putting up with nasty looks, staring, blatant racist comments/jokes and many other racially charged inappropriate behavior.

One word that keeps coming up when asked about the death of George Floyd has been “pain,” which explains enough. Many feel that the public has reacted appropriately as far as the aftermath of the protests and riots. This feeling comes from how fast the judicial system worked to convict the officers responsible after buildings began to burn.

However, some who were interviewed felt the rioting could be misconstrued as overkill, but they acknowledge that events of this magnitude had been brewing for centuries. It was only a matter of time. One person quoted a facebook post that read:

“They think this is about George Floyd, when we’re still crying tears for Emmett Till.”

The support for the Black Lives Matter movement from overseas has been received as a pleasant surprise, but it doesn’t have anyone doing backflips. The level of fake support has been “astronomical” and everyone questioned about it has shown nothing but disdain or disgust.

Honestly, if you’re supporting the movement to get more “likes” on social media, you are the problem; that goes double for the people shouting “all lives matter.” Many people have expressed gratitude that so many white people have come out to protest, but some don’t necessarily believe it is with the purest intentions. Others are at least grateful they came out to be somewhat of a shield.

Many respondents have been shown where their “friends” truly stand on the topic of racial inequality due to the protests as well. Approval ratings for the looting are mixed. Most did not agree with it, but understood why some people resorted to it opportunistically. The effect that looting had on small businesses was a major point of contention, as it didn’t sit well with those asked about it. Attending George Floyd related events/protests also brought a mixed response as some cited the still looming COVID-19 and fear for safety as reasons they didn’t participate. Others talked about issues involving disorganization. A few respondents who actually participated felt very good about it, one quoting: “I’m now a part of something bigger, a part of the change I seek in making the world a better place.”

Social media has also had varying effects on respondents as many have become emotionally exhausted from opening social media to see yet another act of racially charged violence/police brutality on their timeline. Some have seen so much that they’ve sworn off social media for the time being. While there are many plans in place to reduce police brutality on a racial and systemic level, many people interviewed have shown little optimism, but don’t completely rule out change. 

In the end, we all need to make a concerned and consistent effort toward equality, toward granting every citizen of the United States the constitutional and God-given rights they have been promised. Change doesn’t happen overnight, especially with the 45th still in office, but to make real change we must go further than protesting and rioting.

The path to real change starts in the voting booth. The sooner we can elect officials that truly believe in equality, the sooner we can expect real change. Until then, remember to keep wearing your mask and keep pushing for the arrest of the officers who killed Breonna Taylor.