The Right To Say “I Can’t Breathe!”


It’s not easy to write about racism. The topic is highly embarrassing and uncomfortable for both the writer and the reader respectively. Most of the time, it’s easier for the victim to keep quiet, to decide not to mention it at all, because she/he knows well that the subject is not only unpopular, but it’s also stigmatizing to mention it.

And even just alluding to it slightly could be damaging to their own reputation. The victim often decides that the best way to deal with racism is to work harder, above the required standards, and expect to be judged by what they have strived to achieve, rather than to be perceived solely through the lenses of their skin’s color.

End of May 2020, I miraculously felt a right I’ve never felt before. The right to dare to say: “I can’t breathe!”. The right not to continue to behave like everything is alright. The right not to constantly feel guilty for being a member of the society. The right not to continue to excuse myself for living.

What crime had the fourteen years old Emmett Till committed in 1955 to be lynched? The boy was forced to carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River. His two false accusers ordered him to take off his clothes, then they beat him to near death, gouged his eye, shot him in the head, and threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river.

Years later, the woman who had accused the Black boy of flirting with her confessed that she had lied.

In May 2020, George Flyod was abused and killed because he was suspected of trying to buy with a counterfeit twenty dollars bill. The police officer killed him in daylight, kneeling on his neck, although he was already handcuffed and, on the ground, crying out for help to his deceased mother, and pleading: “I can’t breathe”.

The eyes of the whole world suddenly seemed to have opened. The world finally recognized a deeply seated social injustice based on race, costing countless of Black lives for centuries, physically and psychologically.

It was later learnt that the banknote was original and not counterfeit, contrary to what the store owner had claimed.

Before the video surfaced, the report written by the Minneapolis Police Department did not mention any Police brutality in the case. “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress”, the report reads.

In this instance, as in several other instances recorded by bystanders over the last decade, smartphones have proved to establish the truth.

Unfortunately, there were no smartphones in the time of Emmett Till. Over the last decade, although videos of some incidents have helped to uncover the truth thereafter, the harm had long been done and the lives of the victims were lost forever.

he role played by these devices is a distant reminder of how the young prophet Daniel saved the innocent woman Susanna, as reported in the book of Daniel, chapter 13. If it was not for Daniel, Susanna would had been stoned innocently, following the false accusation made by the two perverted elders, who were also appointed judges that year.

Unlike Susanna in the book of Daniel, whose life was saved thanks to Daniel’s perspicacity to uncover the truth, the Black victims have lost their life to injustice, well before the recorded truth surfaced. Their lives may not have been saved, but the truth was.

On Wednesday, June 10, appearing before the House of Representatives, Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, told lawmakers that his brother “didn’t deserve to die over $20”, and asked them: “is that what a Black man’s worth?”

A few minutes into his testimony before the Congress, paying tribute to George Flyod, his brother said: “George always made sacrifices for his family. And he made sacrifices for complete strangers. He gave the little that he had to help others. He was our gentle giant.

I was reminded of that when I watched the video of his murder. He called all the officers ‘sir’. He was mild mannered, he didn’t fight back. He listened to all the officers. The men who took his life, who suffocated him for eight minutes and 46 seconds. He still called them ‘sir’ as he begged for his life.”

Emmett Till and George Floyd’s stories, to quote only these two examples, speak to a hard truth. Every Black life has experienced or is currently experiencing, to varying extents, something similar to Emmett Till and George Flyod’s hardships.

The morning following the night I watched George Flyod’s video, I woke up with one question: “Why had God created us Blacks, knowing very well that we would be undesirable to the world?”

The very rational answer to this question is: “evil does not come from God, but from human beings”. Right. Still that answer couldn’t quench my burning thirst for an answer from God.

Dodzi Jean-Antoine Amemado is a university scholar. He also works with the Federal Government in Ottawa.

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 07:58h, 02 July Reply

    Thank you Dodzi!!

  • Michelle Mahoney
    Posted at 09:23h, 02 July Reply

    Well written and challenging. Thank you, Dodzi.

  • Bill Clarke, sj
    Posted at 10:03h, 02 July Reply

    Thank you Dodzi for this clear and honest reflection that many of us can relate to.

  • Alana Forrester
    Posted at 10:33h, 02 July Reply

    So many years between the deaths of these two men and finally we may have reaching a turning. Thank you for your powerful reflection.

  • Mary .C.Johnston
    Posted at 10:37h, 02 July Reply

    What a beautiful testimony to his brothers. When will we lose this terrible idea about our different skin colour . We are all one body .

  • Margaret Powell
    Posted at 12:14h, 02 July Reply

    Excellent statement of facts that should be restated in newspapers and magazines all over the United States.

  • Eleanor
    Posted at 12:29h, 02 July Reply

    When does moderation become silencing free speech? When does a deeply felt belief in what is “right” by one group, begin to become totalitarian in its silencing of all other opposing viewpoints?

  • Grace Colella
    Posted at 14:14h, 02 July Reply

    Thank you for your meaningful words.

  • Caroline Maloney
    Posted at 00:52h, 03 July Reply

    Wow! Thank you Dodzi for making this inhumanity so clear!
    When I was in high school, I became aware of the paralyzingly humiliation done to a friend who is black, when she tried to buy some jewellery at a local department store. The white clerk wouldn’t look at her or take her money. I couldn’t believe what was happening! My friend said to me, “please don’t cause a scene”. So I didn’t, but before leaving, I reported the incident to the manager. Within days, the manager acted, and that clerk was gone! We need to make friends with the oppressed, and do what a good friend would do! “We all bleed red”, as a native leader once said.

  • Valerie Edorh
    Posted at 03:00h, 03 July Reply

    Thank you I’m so proud of you Dodzi
    and I asked myself the same question when is this going to end? A black man can’t even dance on the street without getting arrested by five police

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 04:55h, 03 July Reply

    Dodging, I have been very touched by what you have written. The black race is a broken race, brought on by many years of injustices and hurts. It has created wounds and pain that will take as many years to heal and renew. I feel that each one of us must even in a small but profound way contribute to the healing and renewal of our fellow human beings. I believe with all my heart, that God weeps to see these injustices and hurts. What you do to the least of my brother you do to me.

  • Akoua
    Posted at 10:10h, 03 July Reply

    Merci Dodzi pour ton texte. J`admire ton audace car ce n est pas évident…..
    J espère qu un jour les gens se rendront compte du caractère bestiale du racisme et apprendront a vivre en frères et comprendront que nous sommes tous des enfants de Dieu.

  • Nuah Makungu
    Posted at 17:13h, 03 July Reply

    Dear Dodzi, we were all hurt by the murder of George’s in front of cellphone cameras. In the Unites State of America and elsewhere in North America, People of African origins are reduced to their color of skin. As this color has all negative means in North America’s culture and Western cultures, men and women in power deny jobs opportunities, housing to them. They deny even their talents. However, we know that talent is universal but opportunity is not, especially for people of African descents in North America. The way to go is still long…

  • Natalie Nubukpo
    Posted at 17:57h, 03 July Reply

    What an great article, thank you! I agree, I can’t apologize for being black. I didn’t choose this.

  • Koffi Dzigbodi KAMASSA
    Posted at 05:47h, 04 July Reply


  • Koffi Dzigbodi KAMASSA
    Posted at 06:37h, 04 July Reply

    Emmett Till, Georges Floyd…,la liste est certes longue.
    Le racisme est un mal qui gangrène notre société depuis la nuit des temps. Nous devons, avec la dernière rigueur, nous insurger contre ce fléau et combattre, avec des moyens légaux, ceux qui ont le vilain plaisir de se donner à cœur joie à cette odieuse pratique qui n’honore pas Dieu le créateur. La vie humaine est sacrée. Nous devons la protéger. Le devoir nous appelle, car “nous sommes la providence de ceux qui naîtront”.
    Comme un seul homme, mettons-nous debout pour condamner avec une seule voix, cette mauvaise pratique et décourager ses auteurs, afin que cette manière choquante et négative de traiter et de considérer le NOIR en particulier et la race NOIRE en générale cesse définitivement sur la planète terre.

    Merci mon frère Dodzi Jean-Antoine pour tes écrits brillants d’eveil.

  • Corneille Kokou Y. ANANI
    Posted at 10:18h, 04 July Reply

    Vraiment, le mal vient des êtres humains ! Tu le sais très bien! Je lisais un document intitulé “code noir et l’Afrique” avant la déclaration des droits de l’homme et des Citoyens de 1789: Noé, sauveur de l’humanité a trois enfants, l’aîné est Chanaan “le Noir, notre aïeux” et les autres frère dont Japhet. Noé a maudit l’aîné et a béni aux autres frères et son souhait est l’aine soit l’esclave des autres, une sacralisation de NOIR. Lisons Génèse de la saints bible pour comprendre les êtres humains. Merci mon frère de sang pour ton audace

  • Henri T De Souza
    Posted at 20:36h, 04 July Reply

    Courageous and profound article. As the Songs of Solomon 1 v5 in mentions the color of the skin without prejudice, we remember that the Creator does not show partiality to one group of persons over another (Acts 10:34), and that evil does not come from Him.
    I pray He would provide you with an answer to the question you so eloquently asked. Blessings.

  • Philomène Amemado-Attipou
    Posted at 22:39h, 04 July Reply

    Racism is the capital sin that is killing human being around the world. We reach the point of no return.
    Job well done baby brother!
    Dad Marcus is proud of you up there!

  • Amaglo Koffi Edem
    Posted at 06:47h, 05 July Reply

    Merci beaucoup pour cette réflexion profonde et interpellante. Le racisme et toutes les autres formes de maltraitance ne sont-elles pas quelque part un problème de manque d’amour? Quand on tolère les gens, le racisme ou autre maltraitance ne sont pas loin. Au lieu de juste tolérer les gens, il faudra qu’on ose apprendre à aimer; l’humanité a un défi d’amour. Le coeur éduqué depuis l’enfance à aimer sans distinction ni discrimination a beaucoup à apporter dans le vivre ensemble mondial. L’amour donne des yeux, là où il y a l’amour, là est l’oeil. Il semble que nous ne devrions pas nous contenter de la tolérance, mais nous avons une seule dette, la dette de l’amour envers tous. Qu’est-ce qu’aimer vraiment ? Qui nous apprendra à aimer réellement ? Le coeur sans amour vrai est forcément raciste.

  • Amaglo Koffi Edem
    Posted at 06:51h, 05 July Reply

    Merci beaucoup pour cette réflexion profonde et interpellante. Le racisme et toutes les autres formes de maltraitance ne sont-elles pas quelque part un problème de manque d’amour? Quand on tolère les gens, le racisme ou autre maltraitance ne sont pas loin. Qui nous apprendra à aimer réellement ? Le coeur sans amour vrai est forcément raciste.

  • Tonam koffi Trovor
    Posted at 00:08h, 07 July Reply

    Merci grand frère pour cette profonde réflexion, courage c’est du bon travail.

  • Trovor Komla Agbemavo
    Posted at 21:25h, 07 July Reply

    Tu as tout dit mon grand
    Comme l’a dit Bob Marley: ” Different colors one peoples ”

  • Essodom Kpatcha
    Posted at 09:37h, 08 July Reply

    Yes, another day, another disappointing heartbreak! The question is whether “the Black” is seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their brutal indifference. For sure, the memory of different complicity with racial oppression cannot be easily erased as evidenced by the reference to “Emmett Till” in this article. Embracing the systemic bias in our society will only lead to more and more Black lives lost to criminal violence. Luckily, we should continue to believe fervently in the good people who exist in this life and who still strive for a better world.

  • Jason Charron
    Posted at 14:14h, 09 July Reply

    Thank you for sharing how you are living this and how it’s affecting you. The violence is unacceptable, especially by those expected to serve and protect. I’m just realising how our society creates moments of racism in the lives of our black Canadians. Of course the violence needs to stop immediately, but I suggest we need to identify and eliminate the daily racism that causes lost opportunity and happiness to our valued friends, family and colleagues.

  • Dugald Seely
    Posted at 16:43h, 09 July Reply

    Thank you for writing this profound and important piece. Voices and words like yours are needed to continue to help us awaken to the incredible injustice that still continues and must stop. Merci Dodzi.

  • Jay Burke
    Posted at 14:25h, 18 July Reply

    Thank you, Dodzi. With so much pain emanating from your written words, I cannot imagine the pain and suffering in your heart! I pray that you receive an answer from God to the final question you pose at the end of your article. I can’t help but think of Jesus on the cross when reading your cry. May God’s grace surround you and all who have been or will be hurt or killed by racism. May God help us all find healing and reconciliation and an end to this demonic social structure. God bless you, Dodzi.

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