I was astonished by the headline on the front page of the June 25 Townsman: “Now we can breath again,” the misspelling of “breathe” aside.
Featuring that line, given the “I can’t breathe” rallying cry that echoes nationwide in protest of police brutality against African-Americans, was insensible and irresponsible. And, while I understand that the quote represents the relief of local restaurant owners regarding the resurgence of business due to outdoor dining, it was tone deaf to feature as a headline.
The New York Times recently published an article entitled, “Three Words. 70 Cases. The Tragic History of ‘I Can’t Breathe.’” The piece goes on to report that over the past decade, at least 70 people have died in law enforcement custody after uttering the words: “I can’t breathe.”
The dead ranged in age from 19 to 65. The majority were stopped or held over nonviolent infractions, calls about suspicious behavior or concerns regarding mental health. Over half were black.
Now, I am not saying that use of the word “breathe” in a headline should be forbidden forever. I am suggesting, however, that we recognize that in addition to being part of a small town of primarily white citizens here in Andover, we are also part of a much larger, more diverse national community that is being actively and ardently called to recognize that black lives matter.
The words we use to report the news matter, too.