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Toronto's city manager writes open letter to black staff in wake of 'disturbing' events in U.S.|BCI

'I want you to know that I see you. I want to see more of you and your authentic self,' Toronto City Manager Chris Murray tells black staff in open letter.

Toronto's city manager has written an open letter to black staff members, assuring them he's "not OK with the status quo" in the wake of  the "incredibly disturbing" events of the last couple of weeks.

While it is always a challenge to decide on the right way to respond, "silence is not an option," Chris Murray wrote.

"When looking at the events as of late both in our own neighbourhoods and those south of the border, my horror and sadness cannot compare to the anger and profound grief you may be experiencing," the letter said. 

"I do not worry that the next George Floyd will be me, my child or my family member." he said, referring to the black man who died last week after a Minneapolis, Minn. police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes.

"I am not constantly worried about moderating my tone so that I am not labelled or perceived as angry or aggressive," added Murray, who describes himself as a white, straight, educated and able-bodied man from a two-parent, middle class household.

Floyd, 46, died May 25. 

His death has since resulted in huge protests across the United States and global outrage, with demonstrators repeatedly chanting, "I can't breathe." Those were among the last words Floyd uttered as he implored the officer to take his knee off his neck.

Celebrities, civil rights activists, politicians and relatives of Floyd gathered in Minneapolis on Thursday to pay their respects at one of three services planned for him. 

Murray noted in his letter that he most certainly has never had to talk to his kids about how to handle a police encounter when stopped. 

He said he also does not have to worry about a random person in a public setting feeling so threatened by his skin colour that they will make a false police report that could result in him being seriously injured or worse.

"But I will not be silent," he said.

"I am not OK with what's been happening,"  

The city manager said he also recognized that he was writing to staff in the middle of a pandemic "that has seen racialized communities hit harder with more sickness, fatalities and job loss than other communities.

"At the same time, racialized and immigrant communities are providing Toronto with more front-line and personal support workers who put themselves at risk every day than other communities," Murray wrote.

"And they do so while still feeling that they're not being fully respected and appreciated for the essential services they are providing to all of us during these challenging times."

Murray said he understands he could "be criticized for directing this message specifically to black staff" but did so because "it feels necessary to recognize the particular impact of race and racism on black staff, that these recent events create feelings of vulnerability for black people in particular and to ensure our black staff know that I and the Toronto Public Service stand with you.

"I want you to know that I see you" and "I want to see more of you and your authentic self," he said, as he vowed "individually and together, we can and must speak up and take action for change."


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