"Compassion to me is at least trying to feel and understand what someone else is going through," Toews said on Instagram. "For just a moment maybe I can try to see the world through their eyes.
"My message isn't for black people and what they should do going forward. My message is to white people to open our eyes and our hearts. That's the only choice we have, otherwise this will continue."
Protests against racism and police brutality began across North America in response to George Floyd's death Monday in Minneapolis. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after now-former police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee for over eight minutes while Floyd was in handcuffs. Chauvin was fired and has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
"I can't pretend for a second that I know what it feels like to walk in a black man's shoes," Toews wrote. "However, seeing the video of George Floyd's death and the violent reaction across the country moved me to tears.
"It has pushed me to think how much pain are black people and other minorities really feeling? What have Native American people dealt with in both Canada and the U.S.? What is it really like to grow up in their world? Where am I ignorant about the privileges that I may have that others don't?"
San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane, who is part of the small minority of black players in the NHL, challenged high-profile athletes to use their platforms to denounce injustice.
Toews joins several other players, including Kane's teammate Logan Couture, Blake Wheeler, Anze Kopitar, Kyle Turris, Brian Boyle, and Connor Carrick who have since spoken out. Kane said it's "a small step in the right direction" to see white NHL players taking a stance against racism.