Toews posted the statement in the wake the nationwide protests that have erupted across the U.S. following George Floyd’s tragic death on May 25.
“A lot of people may claim these riots and acts of destruction are a terrible response,” Toews began. “I’ll be the first to admit that as a white male that was also my first reaction. But who am I to tell someone that their pain is not real? Especially when it is at a boiling point and impossible to hold in anymore. It’s obviously coming from a place of truth. This reaction isn’t coming out of thin air.
“I’m not condoning or approving the looting, but are we really going to sit here and say that peaceful protesting is the only answer? There has been plenty of time for that, and if it was the answer we would’ve given it our full attention long ago.”
Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died last Monday night in police custody. The incident, which was captured on video, showed Floyd pinned to the ground with his hands cuffed and Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin – who was identified as the primary officer in the video – with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes. In the video, Floyd can be heard saying that he couldn’t breathe, and later paramedics are seen lifting an apparently non-responsive Floyd onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.
An independent autopsy has since found that Floyd’s death was “caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.” After the graphic video circulated widely on social media, the four officers involved in the incident were fired and Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder.
Since Floyd’s death, demonstrators across the U.S. have protested against racial injustice and police violence.
In his post, Toews references a conversation between two Black men that was captured on video amid one such protest. The two men can be seen and heard discussing how they have protested their whole lives, and have not seen meaningful, enduring systemic change.
“Listen to these two men debate,” Toews wrote. “They are lost, they are in pain. They strived for a better future but as they get older they realize their efforts may be futile. They don’t know the answer of how to solve this problem for the next generation of black women and men. This breaks my heart.
“I can’t pretend for a second that I know what it feels like to walk in a black man’s shoes. However, seeing the video of George Floyd’s death and the violent reaction across the country moved me to tears. It has pushed me to think, how much pain are black people and other minorities really feeling? What have Native American people dealt with in both Canada and US? What is it really like to grow up in their world? Where am I ignorant about the privileges that I may have that others don’t?”
Through these questions and the hard truths that come with them, Toews found no easy answers. But the search helped shine a light on the importance for compassion, now and always.
“Compassion to me is at least trying to FEEL and UNDERSTAND what someone else is going through,” wrote Toews. “For just a moment maybe I can try to see the world through their eyes. Covid has been rough but it has given us the opportunity to be much less preoccupied with our busy lives. We can no longer distract ourselves from the truth of what is going on.
“My message isn’t for black people and what they should do going forward. My message is to white people to open our eyes and our hearts. That’s the only choice we have, otherwise this will continue.
“Let’s choose to fight hate and fear with love and awareness. Ask not what can you do for me, but what can I do for you? Be the one to make the first move. In the end, love conquers all.”
The former Stanley Cup champion is the latest NHL player to voice his thoughts after San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane spoke about how the hockey world can address racial injustice.