The recent brutal murder of African-American George Floyd bears the hallmarks of South Africa’s heinous apartheid past when virtually every black man in this country was a corpse waiting to be confirmed by the police.
Watching a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes forty-six seconds despite last-ditch plea of “I can’t breathe” from a dying 46-year-old father of two is hard not to conjure up images of many a black man dying in the merciless white hands of their captors wearing the discontinued dreaded brown uniform.
Unsurprisingly, Floyd’s day-light murder has triggered an international wave of solidarity with Black men and other minorities such as the Hispanics in the US. It has brought to the fore once again the brute force that is integral to the regular racist behaviour of US police officers But what is difficult to comprehend is the apparent impunity with which their wayward, unending streak to maim and terrorise Black men continues one President after the other. The ascendance of Barrack Obama as the 44th US President and first Black man to the position did little or nothing to change the attitude of his police officers toward Black men.
The culture of white supremacy in the US isn’t anything new. It was fought from all sides by African-American heroes such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr and the fiery Malcolm X, among others. The hostility toward Black communities in the US has been met with black resistance one generation after the other.
Following the 1968 nation-wide civil rights uprisings hordes of Black people led by firebrand civil rights campaigner Stokely Carmichael left the US and settled in Liberia and other parts of West Africa, a region known as a departure point for slaves from Africa to Europe and the Americas. On arrival back in Africa Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Ture and settled in Conakry, Guinea until his death by prostate cancer on November 15, 1998. It was indeed fondly memorable to break bread with him when he visited South Africa in the 1990’s and addressed the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) in Newtown, Johannesburg.
At all costs, it is the persistent, present-day discriminatory practices and other injustices that ought to be rooted out. There are forty million African-Americans in the US and they are part and parcel of the make-up of that country -no less and no more than their white counterparts. The American system need to recognize not only through a series of Amendments that “all are equal before the law”, but by all intent and purpose through practice.
The worst any person who is discriminated against can feel is when a perpetrator assumes a posture that seeks to dictate to their victim how to handle the victimhood. For example, don’t run riot; be peaceful when protesting, etc.
It is quite heart-warming to see thousands of white people stand up to be counted in the Black Lives Matter movement-led protests against US police brutality that’s unfailingly directed at Black communities.
Such public display of solidarity counters the brazenness of racists like the group in the US that wore t-shirts mockingly bearing the words: “I can’t breathe”. But then again, the US is not assisted by a belligerent President who woefully lacks statesmanship in every sense of the word. President Donald Trump has truly been exposed by the George Floyd killing episode as a very short-sighted leader whose legacy is already been determined by his penchant to polarize society, first along ideological lines and now shamelessly on race.
A book on the legacy of racially-inspired violence and pure utter discrimination against Black people in the US would be too long to write. It would include chapters on the killing of Rodney King in 1991, Trayvon Martin in 2012, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown all in 2014, Freddie Gray in 2015, Philando Castile in 2016 and now Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota who succumbed to white police officer Derek Chauvin’s blatant act of heartlessness. Hopefully, oh prayerfully, Floyd’s death is the last at the hands of blood-thirsty officers.
The common thread between all these cases is that they sparked protests, albeit of different size and form, and the charges against the police officers involved were meaningless insofar as reforming the US police force.
Floyd’s killing could be somewhat a turning point. So far world leaders have shown no fear to president Trump by publicly speaking out. They have decried his police officers’ racist attitude. The European Union has spoken, so has the African Union. The US’s closest ally, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also decried Floyd’s murder, and so has the Pope.
Inside the US, the country is in the grip of protests and uprisings last seen around 1968. Women and men of honour are denouncing police brutality.
Former President Obama and his deputy Joe Biden have spoken out against the 21st century barbarism of US police. Only President Trump continues to dig his head in the sand, calling on his police to use force against the protesters, infamously tweeting: “When looting starts, shooting starts”.
The President, instead of calling for calm and showing required leadership is threatening to classify American anti-fascism group Antifa a terrorist group and as if his madness was not enough, further threatening to unleash the army on American citizens who are justifiably peeved and taken their anger to the streets lawfully.
Under President Trump, the US’s once mighty aura over the world is on the wane. And the man currently occupying the White House is the singular most causal factor of America’s rapid fall from grace. But then, they elected him, didn’t they?