Rights, Racism and Riots: the Cause, the Cry and the Consequence
The absurdity of racism begins at the absurdity of race. The scientific community has concluded long ago that there are no genetic markers of race to support the claim that there are biologic differences between different people and communities. This fictitious divide along racial lines has resulted in an ‘us VS them’ mentality which simultaneously laid the groundwork for oppression and provided a justification for it.
The oppressed have fought the prejudices and inequalities and have demanded freedom since it was taken from them, but today, in 2020, we still see racial injustice on a global scale, particularly affecting Black people and Black communities.The murder of George Floyd by a white police officer was only the latest example of ruthless racism. The perpetuation of anti-Black sentiments and the lack of equal rights and accountability on the part of the government and its racist institutions, provoked people’s reactions all over America and the descent into rioting was inevitable.
Two forms of racism
Racial oppression has different flavours but it’s all the same sauce. Racism can be overt, like the use of the n-word or physical violence towards people of colour (POCs). However, it is more likely to be covert, such as the denial of White privilege or the denial of a POC’s racial experience. The problem with covert racism is that it supports institutional racism and can wreak non-visible havoc in the lives of POCs.
Racism also affects various communities of colour in a different way and can also be present between these same communities. Sometimes the term POC, which is supposed to be a unifying, is nothing else than a façade.
Racism also goes beyond the Black and White binary. In China, where there is usually a revolting tolerance of anti-Black racism, Black people during COVID-19 pandemic have been victims of evictions, forced to undergo COVID-19 testing and have been forcibly quarantined in relation to a virus that not only started in China in the first place, but affects Black people in a significantly worse way than other everyone else.
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Moreover, in the Arabic language, the derogatory word ‘abeed’, which means slave, is still used to refer to Black people. Finally, last but not the least, Tou Thao, an Asian-American police officer, stood by Derek Chauvin when his knee lay on the neck of George Floyd, without remotely thinking of stopping the murder.
Protesters rioting in the streets of more than 200 American cities demand justice and accountability, demand rights and equality. In the context of anti-Black racism throughout history, Black people have always fought for rights. The cry remains universal and unchanging over time: freedom.
And freedom, like racism, has many flavours. It includes the eradication of racist institutions, the end of racial discrimination and equality before the law. Basically, the same model of freedom experienced by White people - without them even being aware of.
“The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free”, John F. Kennedy - 1961
The blatant disregard of Black lives during this pandemic was explicit when White people organised social outings after it was revealed that COVID-19 disproportionately affects minorities. This, combined with a background of the very delayed arrest of Ahmaud Arbery’s killer (which only took effect because of public outrage), the deplorable murder of Breonna Taylor (in her own home, asleep) and the disgusting display of privilege by Amy Cooper set the foundation for the protests that occurred in outrage to the murder of George Floyd.
The 8 minutes and 46 seconds of that Derek Chauvin’s knee dug into the neck of George Floyd as he pleaded for his life, his breath and his mother for an alleged counterfeit $20 bill was a violent attack on all Black people and those who believe in justice.
In history, protests by Black Americans began when African slaves committed suicide by jumping off slave ships during the Transatlantic passage. In more recent times, we have witnessed Colin Kaepernick’s ostracization from the NFL since he took a knee during a national anthem to protest police brutality. We have witnessed performative empathy on the part of leaders but with no follow through.
That is why the only logical action after the officers who murdered George Floyd were not immediately arrested, was to protest. Although rioting and looting are not a reflection of the protest itself, the violence that has been done to Black bodies needs to end by any means necessary and any means necessary can include violence.
Violence is an inherent part of revolutions. The French revolution, American independence, Ghanaian and Algerian independence to name a few. As the great Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. put it in his letter from Birmingham jail, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
The descent into riots has been provoked by the government’s unwillingness to see people as their own, fellow members of the human race. But now we demand freedom.
Credit cover image: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images
Written by Shara Marie-France
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