I watched reruns of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Monday afternoon when CBSViacom’s ‘I Can’t Breathe’ spot hit the air. It packed a big punch.
I didn’t know ahead of time that the “I Can’t Breathe” spot was planned. But I became a captive audience just as I’m sure others did.
The networks of CBSViacom, including TVLand, aired the spot at 5 p.m. as a show of unity against the injustice that occurred the week before. That injustice, of course, was the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He died while in police custody. He died shortly after a cellphone video showed a white police officer holding Floyd down with a knee pressing on Floyd’s neck.
That video lasted nearly nine minutes, during which Floyd said, “I can’t breathe.”
The video, along with the news of Floyd’s death, set off more than a week of protests, some of which have become violent and even deadly.
Even in Charleston, there was a riot that damaged a string of businesses in the main downtown strip.
Even in Charleston, where the fatal shooting by police of a black motorist and the fatal shootings of nine parishioners of a historic black church downtown — both in 2015 and both at the hands of white men — didn’t prompt violence,
You can argue all day whether the vandalism, violence, property damage and looting was necessary.
You can’t argue, however, whether the protest itself was.
And if you can, then you need to watch the spot I saw.
When it came on, I figured it’d be a typical :15 or :30 public service announcement. But it kept going. Maybe it was a minute-long spot, I thought.
But it kept going.
It took me a second before the countdown clock clicked in my head.
For more than eight minutes, we saw the words, “I can’t breathe.”
For more than eight minutes, we listened to the sound of a single human being taking breaths.
And for more than eight minutes, those of us who watched it thought about how incredibly long eight minutes actually is. Especially if you’re the one who’s pleading for help because you can’t breathe.
I dare you to watch it in its entirety. And think about those nearly nine minutes.
If, after that, you still can’t understand the anger and outrage, I respectfully suggest you haven’t thought about it quite enough.