‘I can’t breathe . . .’

THESE three words pretty much summed up 2020 in two respects. The start of the year saw the onset of a deadly disease that affected millions around the world – Covid19, a virus unlike no other because of the speed with which it infected individuals, communities, and national economies. It chiefly affected the lungs, bringing shortness of breath and putting thousands on ventilators because they literally couldn’t breathe.

On May 25th 2020, another man was having difficulty breathing, but for very different reasons. In Minneapolis USA, George Floyd was lying pinned to the ground by a law enforcement officer’s knee on his neck as he tried to restrain him. Floyd’s crime – allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill in a local shop. Eight minutes later, Floyd was dead. In a country where race relations were already fragile, Floyd’s death re-awakened the strong sense of injustice, particularly among the Black community. In the weeks following, protesters marched across the world chanting George Floyd’s ‘I can’t breathe’ in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, highlighting what they saw as racism in their own countries.