[Articles] “I Can’t Breathe”: Systemic Racism and the American Literary Scene / Han Ki-wook

The Quarterly Changbi 189, Autumn 2020



This article discusses the significance of the systemic racism in American society, as revealed in the recent killing of George Floyd, by examining examples from literature. Noting that that the sentence that Floyd repeated, “I can’t breathe,” is closely resonating with most black people from the period of slavery to today, Professor Han Ki-wook perceptively analyzes the crossroads between racism and the capitalist economic system through substantial arguments about Frederick Douglass’s autobiography and Richard Wright’s Native Son. While appreciating the current Black Lives Matter protests as a significant response to a new form of racism, Han also cogently suggests that the future of American democracy requires discussion in a broader perspective than has been taken so far.