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'Are you okay?': A message from Fresh Air Host Nana aba Duncan

On her weekend CBC Radio show Fresh Air, host Nana aba Duncan addressed the ongoing unrest in the United States in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed during an interaction with a white police officer last month.

Protests have spread across the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd's death

On the weekend, Nana aba Duncan, host of Fresh Air, addressed the death of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis police and how its affected the black community in both the U.S. and Canada. (Petar Valkov/CBC)

On her weekend CBC Radio show Fresh Air, host Nana aba Duncan addressed the ongoing unrest in the United States in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man killed during an interaction with a white police officer last month.

"Seeing news like this can break you," Duncan said in her Sunday morning message to listeners. "It's hard to explain but it has something to do with knowing that your humanity is somehow considered less than the humanity of others."

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man originally from Houston, died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a police officer pressed his knee into the back of his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired and later charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Floyd's death came just more than a month after Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was gunned down by two white men while out for a jog in Glynn County, Georgia. 

In her address, Duncan said that while events in the U.S. have garnered the most media attention, anti-black racism persists in Canada as well.

"People have been called the N-word, cabs pass them, they're followed in stores," she said.

Last weekend, thousands of people rallied in downtown Toronto to protest anti-black racism and demand a transparent investigation into the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

Korchinski-Paquet, 29, apparently fell from a High Park balcony after her family called to police to their apartment to help her. Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is currently investigating the circumstances of her death. 

Finally, Duncan asked listeners, "So what can you do?" 

"You just check in. You send those messages, you make those phone calls and you ask the question: Are you okay?"

Listen to Duncan's full message here:

A few words after a troubling week, in a troubling time. 1:46

Read the full transcript of Duncan's message here:

There's something I wanted to tell you.

You can tell a community is in pain when its members are checking in on each other. Text messages, WhatsApp, phone calls, emails, all saying some version of "are you okay?"

With the news about black people getting killed or harassed or illegitimately reported to the police, now during a pandemic, the answer to "are you okay" for a lot of people in the community is "no" or "I've cried so many times this past week" or "I'm so angry. I feel helpless. I veer between rage and resignation."

Why those feelings? It's hard to explain but it has something to do with knowing that your humanity is somehow considered less than the humanity of others.

And even though we're witnessing the horrifying stories in the United States, Canada's not exempt, you know that.

People have been called the N-word, cabs pass them, they're followed in stores, restaurants let you know that you're not welcome, people's work is somehow scrutinized more than other colleagues, getting pulled over on the streets, people being left with questions when it comes to police involvement and then on a smaller scale, people invading your space to touch you without your permission.

The effects of these build up over time.

So seeing news like this can break you.

And just like how institutions have systems that have been built up over time, it's hard to undo.

So what can you do? You just check in.

You send those messages, you make those phone calls and you ask the question: Are you okay?

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