“I Can’t Breathe” Heard And Felt Around The World: George Floyd’s Death Reverberates Globally

The outrage over the murder of Black American George Floyd in late May and the subsequent protests over police brutality have not been confined to the United States; citizens in countries around the world–like France, England, Brazil, and more–have taken to the streets to protest racism and over-policing. The sudden protests  have brought newfound attention to the police brutality of many nations’ law enforcements, as well as the underlying racism in their governments and societies. Nations worldwide are also slowly but surely heading towards new legislation reforms to address these problems.

The swift and efficient rise of global protests and widespread activism has taken many by surprise, especially considering the threat posed by the current Covid-19 epidemic. Scholars and bystanders believe that these extensive demonstrations and the conversations that they have encouraged will hopefully mark an important turning point in society and the anti-racist cause. Though the subjects of some protests are different–while most western countries are championing for Black lives, other countries like Australia have also brought the rights of their indigenous people into the conversation–the message has stayed the same. Borzou Daragahi of the Atlantic Council wrote, “Attention has focused not just on the United States and its abuses but also on entire systems of power, racism, and oppression, which have come under scrutiny and criticism in what amounts to a global teach-in.”

The outrage and overwhelming response to the widespread problem of police brutality and racism experienced in countries around the world has the potential to intensely decrease racial discrimination and ensure that global law enforcement is more appropriate. This is a necessity to ensure a more peaceful future where Black and other minority races are able to rightfully exist in nations where they have been explicitly or implicitly treated as inferior for centuries. There has been a dire need to closely inspect law enforcement and other armed forces’ treatment of Black people around the world for decades; hopefully serious reforms are on the horizon so unnecessary violence against citizens can be reduced.

The demonstrations have shown us that the number of similar situations to that of the murder of George Floyd, not just in the United States, is shocking and copious. Following his death, Americans took to the streets in honour of Floyd; the French reminded their government of the 2016 murder by police of Black 24-year-old Adama Traore; Brazilians protested a killing of a 14-year-old Black teen in Rio de Janeiro; Palestinians saw the preventable murder of an adult with autism; and Australians “pointed out that more than 400 indigenous people have died in police custody since 1991,” according to The Economist.

All of these events have caused citizens and governments alike to reconsider their systemic issues and even start to enact new legislation to combat these issues. A few western countries have already announced policies targeting policing; for example, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill to “ban chokeholds, establish a national database to track police misconduct and prohibit certain no-knock warrants,” according to the Washington Post. The French government announced plans to ban the chokehold action and suspend officers strongly suspected of racism.

Like advocates of the Black Lives Matter movement have hoped for years, positive change in favor of Black and other minority citizens seems to be arriving much more rapidly as a result of the global outrage caused by the murder of George Floyd. Conversations on race, bias, and systemic issues have arisen between generations more now than ever, and as these conversations are accompanied by actual legislation and systemic change, it’s clear that these conversations will not stop soon. Though there is much left to do to create justice for Black and minority citizens worldwide, the protests spurred in honour of Floyd have absolutely pushed a snowball effect into action.