The united states has seen protest in the past, but there is something significantly different about the current ongoing protest, originally sparked by the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man by 4 Minneapolis police officers in broad day light. The cross border spread of the protest beyond America and in some countries with little or no racial problems is an indication that the protest grew very quickly to encompass and address other societal ills.
The protest taking place despite the coronavirus pandemic where social distancing has proven an effective tool to prevent transmission and being fronted by people of colour who are disproportionately affected by the virus, is an indication that the generational hurt caused by racism deserved immediate attention and the risk posed by coronavirus is worth the sacrifice needed to pull down the structure that has held a race down.
The US has seen race protest before, dating back to the civil right movements, and more recent, the death of Eric Garner In 2014 in New York, in the hand of Daniel Pantaleo who put him in a chokedhold position for selling loose cigarette. This generated similar level of outrage and protests across major American cities, but there is something different about the George Floyd protest that suggest a major shift, whether this will result in changes in policies or attitude of American police or improve the lots of African-American is a different question entirely.
This is the first outcry that a lot of white people are beginning to admit white privilege, when they see the vivid picture of how the live of a Black man was choked out of him for an alleged offence of spending a fake $20 bill, an event that coincided with a white woman Amy cooper calling the cop on an African-American man with emphasis on the phone to the police that he is an “African-American”. This shameful racial divide in America became so glaring even to the blind that denying it, looking away or providing any sort of excuse for the treatment of blacks is now such an unsustainable position that it is a form of violence in itself.
People have questioned the timing of the protests, the motive, people have used the looting during the protest as a stick to attack the entire protest, there has been campaigned to use George Floyd’s criminal past to argue against the protest, the president of the United state has done his part to further divide the country, some voices in the black community have even spoken against the protest, Candace Owens being a major voice in that regards but what they all miss are the following:
1. George Floyd was only a physical representation or the symbol that sparked the protest, he is not the reason for the protest. What he suffered in that 8min 46sec neck kneeling represent what African-American have suffered for 400 years. So bringing his criminal past into the debate make no sense, and a cheap attempt to change the narrative. The narrative was that police unlawfully killed an unarmed black man, who was already handcuffed, posed no danger to any of the officers and member of the public, not fighting back or resisting arrest and can be heard pleading for dear live. This action is not a one-off, it is not an action by some rouge officers but a pattern that shows systemic racial bias and system that aimed to set a different rule for black people.
2. There is no best time to protest:
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is an easy excuse to send protesters home on safety ground, particularly in America that has suffered a major and most incidence and fatalities from Covid-19 in the world, but the reason for the protest in my view, on the scale of importance, weighs more than the risk posed by coronavirus. The freedom we enjoyed today was due to the sacrifices of our forbearers that came before us, some of these sacrifices include laying down their lives for the cause. There are always reasons not to take action, but there are always many more reasons to take a stance. Racism is a more dangerous pandemic, Period.
3. The looting and the destruction:
The protests has seen some lootings, at the same time there are evidence of infiltrators or people not connected to the protest, have little or no interest in the protest and some times allegation that police are planting there men to cause destruction and looting in order to derail the protest and the reasons for it (again, an attempt to change the narrative). Providing for all the above, the looting and destruction of properties, as bad as they sound and look, are not on same level or consequence as the state sponsored lynching of blacks or the age long systemic racism that has suppressed and made it impossible for people of colour to rise above the ceiling you have set for them.
Law and order is a contract between the government and the governed, if the representative of the government, in this case the police flagrantly subvert the contract and do not play by the rule or attempt to set different rule for one group of people, then expecting this group of people to obey the contract is an unjustified expectation. one action led to another, it is inappropriate to talk about the reaction without giving equal weight to the initial action that caused the reaction.
4. The president aiding and abetting division:
President Trump before now has not seen any domestic crisis like this, but there Is a long established evidence that he will lean on one side of the debate rather than seek to unite the nation. America is a deeply divided society and a president using that division to further his own agenda is a dangerous one. The Charlottesville unite the right rally, where he failed to condemn the alt-right group provide an evidence of what is to come. Re-tweeting Candace Owens attack on George Floyd is another example of a man that cannot help himself but seek the weakest point in the weak and attack it.
The threat to use force or deploy national guard and the military on American citizens protesting a just cause, even against the recommendation of his own defence Secretary Mark Esper and long line of ex-military chiefs like Colin Powell, or the utterances like “when the looting starts the shooting starts” indicate a man who did not give a flying f**k about the racial disparity that lead to the crisis but more concerned about been seen as the law enforcing president even as he emboldened the alt-right groups like the hells angel to take up arms in opposition to the protests.
Do you still need a reason why the protest cannot and should not wait? it is indeed an emergency, the type that need to be addressed immediately, with the type of method and intensity that will cause enough disruption to make the power that be to sit up, listen and make a change.