Last few months have seen the world being devastated and paralysed from the invasion of an invisible microorganism. Still on May 25, 2020 a different news shook the world, that of the death of George Floyd, a 46 year old African American by four Police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota of the US. The video of Police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes, while Floyd was handcuffed, face down on street, pleading to the Officers went viral soon. With it, the ever burning issue of racism in United States surfaced again. Racism in the US dated back over 400 years when in 1619, 20 Africans were shipped ashore in the Point Comfort in British colony of Virginia, as slaves. Slavery had since been legal wherein the enslaved African labours were treated as properties of the owner and could be bought or sold or given away. The anti-slavery Abolitionist Movement that started during 1830s paved the way for a sympathetic mass voice in the Northern states. When, in 1860, American author Harriet Beecher Stowe penned her famous book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, perhaps the most authentic documentation of the long suffering life of a dutiful slave, the entire unrest and difference between the Northern and Southern states in the US found a voice, leading to the American Civil war. Finally, in 1864, under President Abraham Lincoln, the 13th Ammendment of US Constitution ‘abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime’. But, alas! It seemed to have failed to eradicate the racial hatred and discrimination on the basis of skin colour from the minds of some still today.
Barrack Obama echoing Martin Luther King Jr., had said that ‘the arc of history bends toward justice.’ But then the reality is, in the US, the arc never bends in any direction, least of all towards justice.
We have been a witness to memes and trolls encouraged on hate crimes, racism, or xenophobia by using anti-Chinese rhetoric. Political parties and groups from countries across the world are inciting such hatred amidst this crisis. Rapid waves of Xenophobia and racism has seen a spike in the current covid scenario. It is apparent that US has been the torchbearer in promoting such anti-immigrant, white supremacist, ultra-nationalist, and xenophobic conspiracy theories that have been instrumental in demonizing refugees and foreigners.
“Racism and physical attacks on Asians and people of Asian descent have spread with the Covid-19 pandemic, and government leaders need to act decisively to address the trend. Governments should act to expand public outreach, promote tolerance, and counter hate speech while aggressively investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director.
The governments must adopt national action plans that would help combat racism and discrimination, programming mindsets through education and encouraging tolerance.
Yesterday Breonna Taylor would have turned 27. An African American woman whose body was riddled with bullets on 13th March, 2020 by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Officers under the authority of a search warrant. Neither the officers did ask for permission nor did they knock on the door but allegedly opened fire with a total disregard for the value of human life. What made the officers enter the house like that? What made them take her life? Not only her but of so many people in the past times? These incidents are not new rather they have become an integral part of a society and its culture. Majority of the White skinned humans in the United States are conditioned in a way that makes them look down upon the black skinned ones. This is nothing other than a thought process which has been flowing since ages ruining innumerable innocent lives for no fault of theirs at all.
Racism has a similarity with Patriarchy. Both of them are thought processes which have been drilled in the human brain through social conditioning, so it’s not easy to get rid of such processes. The Blacks or the people of color standard have been intentionally deprived of their basic rights since time immemorial. Have you ever imagined what it takes to discriminate and marginalize a group of people only for their skin tone? Have you ever thought of the pain a group of people possessing black skin tone might go through for generations? This exploitation is prevalent till today in each and every sphere of the society. Be it education, jobs, or sitting in a bench with kids in a park. What’s happening today in the U.S due to the brutal murder of George Perry Floyd Jr. is nothing but a manifestation of the fury against institutionalization of racist ideas in every nook and corner of the society at large. The most surprising part of this tragedy is that people are very much habituated with such toxic systems and after a point of time these kinds of systems become right and everybody tend to abide by them.
These claustrophobic times need more people like Rosa Parks who rejected a bus driver’s order to abandon her seat in the ‘colored section’ to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. This incident took place on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. In her autobiography, My Story, she said: “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
As if, a global phenomenon like COVID 19 pandemic was not enough to reflect on our actions, we got a riot. Be it India, or the US, people are still playing the ‘Divide and Rule”. When will we learn that, in situation like this, the humanity is expected to fight together to survive its own extinction process ? When will we learn that, we human beings have crossed all our limits of destruction and exploitation ?
Is it not a time to rethink on the whole process ?
We are a bunch of labelled mortals. Labels that choose us when we are born. Male, Female, White, Black, Hindu, Muslim, Indian, American, SC, ST, OBC and other such perceived fundamental aspects of human identity and then there are labels we choose to tag ourselves with consciously in the likes of Leftist, Liberalist, Agnostic, Atheist, Progressive, Orthodox, Feminist. The list is unending. We seem to forget that we were born as humans first. Being humane and the ultimate expression of the world -humanity. Unfortunately, the labels we are tagged with have been inviting a lot of controversy, confrontation, conflict between man to man.
It’s a funny reality that the labels that chose us pushed us to that specific human origin and order by default. The choice was never a self proclaimed one or a conscious one. We are reaping fruits from the seeds not sown by us. Today, It has got extremely difficult to face a reality and stay harmoniously in a society where citizens of varying origins are taken for granted. We are so intolerant and resistant to some just because they are different from us. Too much of discrimination these days, isn’t it?
Cover: New York Times