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.