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George Floyd Said ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Before He Died, by Paul Christian

Disabled people should have the chance to understand and talk about the news. Just like everyone else.

People often assume we don’t have the mental capacity to engage and understand stories of discrimination and other issues surrounding difficult topics. This includes campaigns like Black Lives Matter. So they think it doesn’t matter to us. Or it’s too difficult or painful for us. That we need protection from this. But information is also power.

People with learning disabilities have the same right to learn about the news and, if they want to, join in with speaking up against things they don’t agree with. This might mean making the news more accessible.

My name is Paul Christian. My particular role on the Surviving Through Story team is to monitor the news and make sure the site includes the experiences of black people during the pandemic. This includes hearing from and thinking about how the pandemic has been for people from Black and minority ethnic communities.

The advisory panel believe it’s important to think more about the treatment of black people in this country and across the world. The connection between our lives today and black history continues to matter a great deal.

One very big thing that happened during the pandemic was that on the 25th May 2020 a black man called George Floyd was killed by a policeman. This happened in a city called Minneapolis in the state of Minnesota in America, during the first spring of the Covid-19 pandemic.

George Floyd was 46 years old. He was a father of a 6 year old child. George Floyd’s death was such a brutal killing – him saying ‘I can’t breathe’ - it re-opened the wounds of black people and often it reopens the wounds of the past. It got people talking about Black Lives Matter.

When he said ‘I can’t breathe’ it takes you back to slavery days. He said it so clearly and so many times but the police ignored him.

This should not have happened. Everyone counts. This includes everyone who is a black person and everyone who had a learning disability. The respect should always be there. Respect is there as a measuring stick –as a foundation of your character. It is important that the police show respect to everyone.

Black people with learning disabilities may face two kinds of discrimination - one because of skin colour the other because of people seeing your learning disability.

You might be treated without respect because you are black and because you have a learning disability. It’s important people treat you with equal respect.

This lack of equality for black people, and for people with learning disabilities, can show itself in many ways. Discrimination can prevent people getting the jobs they want and from being in lead roles such as being a head of a big organisation, a CEO or having the chance to start up your own business. The fact that we keep getting short-listed and then brought down. Just because people fall back on stereotypes rather than seeing the actual person and all their strengths and abilities. I think the killing of George Floyd has destroyed the hopes and dreams of many black people. Their trust in humanity and that we have the opportunity to achieve and realise whoever we want to be – in the same way as everyone else. Without being assigned to the roles that others expect.

At the moment the policeman who killed George Floyd is on trial in Minnesota. It brings justice for George Floyd’s case into true focus. The trial has put character witnesses into the mainstream spotlight whilst focussing in depth on the whole tragic event frame by frame. A seemingly continuous loop of re-visiting him saying ‘I can’t breathe’.

Unbelievably today there has been yet another shooting of a 20 year old black man by a police officer in Minnesota. His name was Daunte White and he died. This has sparked more protests on the 11th day of the murder trial of the police man Derek Chauvin. These killings of black men are becoming an epidemic. It’s crucial that we don’t forget these names and that we remember their lives and what they brought to the community. We should pay respects to their memories. The light that their lives are shining on injustice. Their contribution will be forever cemented in history.

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