Outraged protesters took to the streets across the US to demonstrate against the unnecessary loss of life and the complete lack of empathy shown by police officers for a Black man pleading to hold on to his life. George Floyd’s death could have been prevented if there were stricter policies limiting police use of force in Minneapolis. In Minneapolis police are allowed to use chokeholds and that’s how George Floyd was killed. A 30-year study examining police use of force shows that a ban on chokeholds and strangleholds results in 22% fewer police killings.
On this side of the border, in Toronto, protesters marched in solidarity and also for the loss of life of a young Black woman, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who was suffering from mental illness and died on May 27 after police came to her home in response to a call for assistance from her family. Ontario’s Bill 178, Black Mental Health Day Act, 2020 purports to raise awareness about the need to deliver mental health services to Black Ontarians in an anti-oppression framework. Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s death could have been avoided if we had already invested in an anti-oppression mental health framework for Black women.
The Impact of Anti-Black Racism
The unnecessary deaths of both of these people are feared to be the consequence of systemic anti-Black racism. Anti-Black racism creates vulnerable life circumstances for Blacks and can, without warning, lead to deadly outcomes for the most unremarkable misfortunes. Prime Minister Trudeau should be commended for recognizing the specific problem of anti-Black racism but should be held to account until effective special measures for minimizing its impact on the lives of Black Canadians are in place. In the meantime, anti-Black racism will persist and everything that can go wrong will go wrong for those most vulnerable to its scourge.
We are all responsible for the injustice that happens around us. From our COVID-19 experience, we have learned that our lives are much more intertwined than we previously thought. Anti-Black racism is another disease that impacts all of us, and none of us are really immune from its consequences. It is also not limited to police interactions, but pervasive and unchallenged in all social spheres. Anti-Black racism infects all aspects of society and daily life. For example, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black people. Black Americans are dying at three times the rate of white Americans from the pandemic. In Canada, experts suspect a similar disproportionate impact, but without race-based statistics, we don’t know the facts.
Each of us as citizens should participate in any capacity we can to fight anti-Black racism. The more we are capable, the more we need to do. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook released a memo to his employees addressing the police brutality protests and the death of George Floyd. In the memo, he demonstrated empathy and made a promise to give financial support to challenge racial injustice. In response to the recent events, Sony’s Playstation postponed the launch event for their Playstation 5 console to avoid diverting attention away from public protests against police brutality and, in a bold display of their empathy and support, echoed the protest hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
These companies’ responses are examples of how to not remain silent or indifferent to the turmoil caused by anti-Black racism, as no one should. Employers, like any other stakeholder in civil society, should consider how they too can demonstrate empathy, commit support, and set the groundwork for a more equal future as they take steps towards economic recovery. This is not an us or them problem. Every single member of our communities, workplaces, and governments have a role to speak up and stay outraged until senseless and inexplicable racist attitudes, actions, and deaths like this stop happening.