I can’t breathe

George Floyd | NYTimes

I would like to recognize my privilege as a white cisgendered male, as I address the death of George Floyd, like so many before him.

George Floyd: He was arrested and handcuffed and placed face down with a knee on his neck. He begged to be able to breathe. He died under that knee, of a Minneapolis police officer. He rests peacefully in heaven with all those of colour who have succumbed to similar fates.

That officer has now been arrested after originally only being fired and sent home. Too little, too late. Minneapolis is burning.

My guilty television pleasure is the evening soap, Grey’s Anatomy, including falling asleep to reruns on many nights. I could do without much of the romantic drama, but the issues covered are powerful and worth watching over-and-over from right-to-die, anti-semitism, sexual orientation, spousal abuse, mental illness, and issues of race.

An episode that is still one of the most powerful and eye-opening to this day for me, is a scene where one of the main characters, Miranda Bailey (played by Chandra Wilson),  and her husband talk to their son about how to act should he be approached by the police. This discussion was the result of the neighbours’ young racialized son being killed by police while trying to get into his own house through the window because he forgot his house key. It’s something I thought about as I have watched the accounts of George Floyd’s death this week.

Scene from the nighttime television drama, Grey’s Anatomy.

This is something I will never have to teach my own children. It’s something parents of BIPOC children are realizing this week; they either need to teach their children, or re-iterate its importance. 

The problem though, was that George Floyd went peacefully right up to his last breath in a matter of minutes, while other officers stood there and did nothing.

In the video below, which is heartbreaking to watch of the last moments of George Floyd’s life, we also see a clip of the Miami Chief of Police, Jorge Colina, denouncing the act of this officer and mentioning that nowhere in any training in America and especially Miami, are officers taught to kneel on a man’s throat. “There is a lack of humanity that is exhibited there…”, Chief Colina states.

WARNING: Graphic content

CBS news coverage showing the arrest and death of George Floyd

“The police officers union is urging the public not to rush to judgement.”

CBS news anchor

George Floyd is dead.

I’d like to share a few messages by two actors I enjoy following online. Both messages are powerful in their own way. I cautioned sharing Kevin’s Instagram post as the language is not appropriate for younger audiences or our readers who may object to this kind of language, but this isn’t a time for hopes and prayers. It’s a time to be mad and to feel like you can be raw about the state of the abuse of power we have seen all too often not only in America, but in our own backyard. I’ve chosen not to embed Kevin’s video in this story, but I have provided a direct link to his Instagram post and urge you to see the pain and anger in this otherwise funny man’s message.

The Rock (Dwayne Johnson)

Instagram post by The Rock

The below excerpt is taken from this Instagram post The Rock’s Instagram post.

Past few days I’ve been stunned trying make sense of George Floyd’s death.
The video.
The plea for breath.
The callous response.
The racism.
The killing.
This is our ongoing disease.
I’ve had cops in my family.
Good men.
And there’s a cop code granting you the authority to use force if your life is in danger.
But when a man is handcuffed, on the ground, no longer a threat, with your brothers (and sisters) in arms standing around watching and he struggles to say, “please I can’t breathe” when your knee is on his neck.. not his back, but his neck – cutting off his air.
Cop code must become moral code.
Ethics code.
Knowing that if you don’t ease up, then that man is going to die.
So when you decide to not ease up, your intention is to kill.
And that’s what this was.
George Floyd, said “officer I can’t breathe” as he struggled for air.
He said these words a total of 15 times. Not once. Not twice.
15 times.
These officers will be charged, I’m positive of that.
Held accountable.
But then where’s the greater accountability?
The leadership to healing.
More importantly, the leadership to EQUALITY.
We ultimately win when we can normalize equality.
I’m so sorry to the Floyd family. My heart breaks for you.
Let the process begin now.

Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson

Kevin Hart



“Show that you give a $h!t and take action.”

Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart and his son from this Instagram post

As a father I’m worried about the future of our next generation of black men & the generations after that & the ones after that. If we do not do our job right now & do what we can to have a law put in place to help us feel protected in these streets then this type of crime will continue to happen without a worry in the world. 

Kevin Hart

Canada is far from immune to these issues of race. From Andrew Loku’s 2015 death, the 2017 shooting of good samaritan Yosif Al-Hasnawi,  to today as we follow the case of the young Regis Korchinski-Paquet this past week. There was also another local issue that I covered back in 2018 about a 2016 incident involving a leader in our community and an accusation of racial profiling by a police officer against this person of colour. I’ll share the link here should you wish to read my long account of and disappointment in that process. In short, I state that in that particular instance, it wasn’t about the verdict of innocence or guilt for me. It was and continues to be about how we as a society respond to a situation in the eyes of all involved and in this case, the optics of the process which quite frankly, are angering. 

When the officer who took George Floyd’s life was not immediately arrested, people of colour feel that they’re not being treated equally, like their lives don’t matter, and that nothing will change in their relationship with those who are sworn to serve and protect.

It’s how we respond that makes all the difference in the world. That starts with all of us, and especially leaders, reacting with remarks like ‘It’s not okay’, rather than making excuses, rambling on in an attempt to cite innocence or blame on both sides,  and making the issue worse by addressing the protestors more than the victim. 

Protestors are angry. Why shouldn’t they be? But that isn’t the story. Let’s not lose focus here. It’s about George Floyd. Remember? He’s dead. He was handcuffed. Face down. Not a threat. He couldn’t breathe.

These protests will continue around the world including locally, for some time as the system continues to respond in a manner that provokes anger and frustration and disgust in institutions that remain obtuse to their problematic structures and policies. Like blaming the victim’s underlying conditions for their death even after we hear a police chief denounce the behavior we have seen all over our social media and television screens.

He couldn’t breathe.

Screenshot from CNN’s coverage of the death of George Floyd

He couldn’t breathe!

How can you help? Stand up. Speak out. Don’t be silent. Don’t be a bystander. You don’t need to condemn the protests. This is about George. Remember him? 

RIP Mr. Floyd. May your family and friends know peace and justice, and may we finally, truly and wholeheartedly learn from and create change out of, these senseless and gross acts of human indecency and injustice.


And that’s The Point.

I’ll leave you with this anti-racism resource that lists books, articles, videos, films, and organizations to follow on social media, relevant to issues of race.

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