In wake of the recent gruesome and brutal murder of an unarmed black man in the United States of America by a white cop, there’s been a refueling of a fight that has existed for centuries, dating as far back as 1663, some 44 years after the first slave ship arrived in Virginia-USA, when the first ever slave rebellion was staged.
The basic human instinct to rebel against oppression and protect life and its accompanying value has led to a global upheaval against institutionalized racism in the USA; the citadel of modern-day democracy. The world seems to agree now more than ever with Martin Luther King Jr when he said, ’Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ with a vehement callout from within and without the USA.
THE CALLOUT OF RACISM:
There’s been numerous deaths of people of color by non-military law enforcement agencies like the police and the list is an entire article on its own not to mention racist civilians who make daily life hell for racial minorities. What makes recent brutalities different and the public reactions massive is that for a long time in the history of the USA, there’re now massive civilian coverage of racial hostilities and murders. Formerly, in instances of killings and abuse of power by cops, the police body cams and nearby security footages, which were the most credible sources of evidence, passed through police processing and all that’s fed the public were reports that are woefully inexhaustive or misleading. But thanks to the intense coverage, the racists are now seen for who they truly are. Take for instance, thanks to civilian footages, how we got to know that Derek Chauvin, a white cop, knelt on the neck of George Floyd, an unresisting unarmed black man, for around 9 minutes choking the breath out of him before he died. Similarly, light was shed on Amy Cooper, a white racist woman, who called cops and falsely accused a black man for threatening her at New York City’s Central Park over a dog leash. These releases along with many others have been crucial in awakening the US and the world at large about how gruesome and existent the problem of systemic racism is.
The reaction sparked by the George Floyd murder has been double faced; the internal nationwide protest in the USA and the external condemnation from the global community (that is countries, companies, organizations and activists’ groups). Knowing that it could be you on the other side of the gun barrel or in between a cop’s knee and the hot pavement gasping for breath, has sent a frightening yet angry shockwave throughout the USA. This has manifested in the form of protests: both peaceful and violent ones with the Black Lives Matter(#BLM) movement working hard to ensure George’s untimely death sees to a structural redress of the justice system and possibly an end to racial brutalities. At a record number, we see a lot of non-black protestors involved in this fight and that rings a bell of hope and assurance that indeed, instead of acting unperturbed, there’s now a revived interest to actively call out racism and fight for its eradication.
Evidentially, the fight against racism, especially institutionalized racism as is visible in the American police and justice systems, is never going to be a lone and an easy battle. In view of this, most countries, international bodies, businesses, celebrities and activists’ groups alike have joined the fight by standing in solidarity with the black community in America and outrightly condemning such barbaric acts. Prominent amongst these are the United Nations’ outright condemnation followed by countries like United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France and Ghana, not forgetting Iran and China (who are mostly on the receiving end of such moral backlash). Companies like Walt Disney Studios and personalities like Arianna Grande have made financial contributions to help fight against the structural oppression against racial minorities. This shows that this time around not only are blacks calling out their oppressors but they have the whole world watching and most diverse entities supporting. Considering the huge structural support these atrocities receive, such a global and influential call out is crucial for counteracting and addressing the issue of racism.
THE REACTION TO THE PROTESTS:
As stated earlier, the world gazed in shock as we saw another life squashed, another dream shattered and another family destroyed by the canker of police brutality born out of racist sentiments. For the black community and their supporters, such frustration and anger they felt couldn’t be left unheeded to. Thus, they hit the streets in protests to make known their grievances to the relevant authorities and to blatantly announce to the whole world once again that #BlackLivesMatter too.
Ironically, the relevant authorities’ responses to the protests have been in stark contrast to the mainline expectation of them making attempts to get protesters into a state of calm and tranquility – President Trump’s tweet “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” is indeed a strong testimonial to this point. Such gestures and comments have seen the protests persist and further degenerate into more violent phases. The conservatives, who are currently in power in America and are mostly associated with propagating racist sentiments, have not been very empathetic in handling the situation: with the most prominent being President Donald Trump threatening to release the United States military troops into cities indicating how he’s ready to violently clamp down on protesters should protests linger. The problem most protestors and supporters find with this is how readily these folks in power will drop the conversation about structural racism and focus on anything but that. It is almost as if they cherish the businesses and inanimate properties more than they are concerned with black lives considering how quick they are to protect these things over the lives of racial minorities. Some prominently conservative websites like The Washington Examiner have exclusively focused on the violent aspects of the protests conveniently leaving out the main issue of the barbaric murder of George Floyd and all the other victims. Their reaction is basically trivializing the actual murder while exaggerating the civil unrest that followed; one that started when police fired rubber bullets and pepper spray at peaceful protesters in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death. This has altogether provoked more protests across the state as the fight for equality continues.
Like any other protests, looters and some bad nuts have seized the opportunity to carry out undesirable actions but that in no way delegitimize the efforts of the noble protesters who are fighting for basic human decency. The quicker the issue of structural racism is addressed and proper justice is served all those involved, the quicker the protests end and these bad acts halted; violent clamp downs will only worsen the narrative, considering the fact that some armed white folks protested weeks back against the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown restrictions and no issues of violent clamp down was recorded- even though they were armed. These protestors are “more than legitimate” to be angry and seek for redress just as German foreign minister Heiko Maas said and a violent clapback is obviously not the most effective solution right now.
IS THIS AN ENDGAME???
Protesters are bent on ensuring that the tragedy of George Floyd doesn’t just become a part of a statistical analysis, but it rather gets the justice it deserves and becomes a stepping stone to the bigger goal of alleviating the systemic racism rooted in US police and justice systems. For starters, an initial third-degree murder charge levelled against Derek Chauvin, the cop who killed George Floyd, was changed to a second-degree charge after much opposition although protestors are still aiming for a first-degree murder charge. Back in Minneapolis in the State of Minnesota, the place where George was killed, the City Council has announced that the entire Police Department will be disbanded and more investment will be directed to “proven community-led public safety.” These are promising measures in battling racism and we are hopeful for more progressive initiatives like these. To claim that this will be an endgame and see to the end of racism will be a highly optimistic thing to say but it’s undoubtedly a very instrumental phase in the fight against racism.
Nonetheless, there’s an overriding need for black communities to reassess their commitment to this struggle and involve themselves actively: there’s now more than ever, a reason to stay united, reduce black on black crimes and oppression through societal consciousness, setting up community watchdogs and the likes. More often than not, higher gang related activities like shoot outs, drug dealing, rape etc. are used to justify the heavy police patrols exclusive to these communities. We should give these people less reasons to cover up their monstrous acts and that means we should consciously work towards halting the harms perpetuated against fellow blacks. Community-conscious educational projects can be taken up to create more awareness and appreciation of the black culture since the whitewashed curriculum will obviously not do it. The lack of confidence in the black identity is deep rooted in an ancient inferiority complex that stems from the slavery era and subtly has crawled into our modern societies. A conscious effort to correct this is needed and that’s why black communities should have dedicated educational projects solely for black history, empowerment and uniqueness. The mental slavery is with the mind and the antidote is a race-specified education for blacks (complimentary to the mainstream educational curricula); the change we seek in the world should undoubtedly start with us. In as much as blacks are the victims, pragmatic efforts like these will be vital to completely dealing with racism.
Consequentially, in order not to make the strides that the George Floyd protests are making in combatting racism; mere tokenistic handouts, we need to put in the effort to be each other’s keeper. We should consistently fight racism for the evil it is and not pander to it; no matter how covert it may seem. If there’s a shot at true and total liberation, it involves actively fighting the oppressive system as we see in the protests and also doing things that empower blacks as a race; mentally, financially and politically (the ways to achieve this is inexhaustive but the bottom line is we must consciously work towards making ourselves better). May George Floyd and all other victims of police brutality and systemic racism find perfect rest and the only way to truly honor their memory is by joining this fight to end systemic racism globally.
The Author, Isaac Duah, is a third year Mechanical Engineering Student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
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