Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam says the issue of police brutality in the United States can no longer be ignored.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters this week, Siakam expressed dismay on the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, has been charged with second-degree murder, while the other three are also facing charges.
“When you look at the issues, it’s about police brutality, and just watching that video, it hurts. I’m speechless just thinking about it,” Siakam said. “Seeing someone take someone else’s life just like that, that’s heartbreaking.”
“I think about the families and the people—you know, he was crying out for his mom. I know how big I am on family. I can just connect to that and I’m a black man. It hurts, like, it hurts ... This is something that exists, and I’m sorry to say it, but if you don’t see it then you must be blind or something.”
The problem of police brutality in America, which disproportionally affect Black people and other visible minorities, is an enduring issue that has spanned decades. Colin Kaepernick brought this specific issue to light in the sporting world when he took a knee during the national anthem in 2016, and has since been blackballed from the NFL. Between 2013 and 2019, there were 7,666 deaths at the hands of police in the United States, and black Americans were 2.5-times more likely to be casualties of police as compared to white Americans.
“When people act like they are not seeing it, I think that is what hurts the most for me because it’s there. There’s no way you don’t see it. We should be able to see it and admit that it is there and take steps forward,” Siakam says.
Siakam was born and raised in Cameroon before coming to the United States in high school, so his experience is as an outsider. For him, the transition from a predominantly black country, to becoming a minority in the States, was a process of acceptance. Racism is ingrained in America, and Siakam says, “the sad part for me is having to normalize it.”
“I’m not from the U.S. but anywhere in the world when you see injustice, it needs to be called out,” he adds.
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