Murdering George Floyd – Yasmeen Aftab Ali

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Arrested by the police outside the shop of Minneapolis, Minnesota, acting on complaint of shopkeeper that ‘someone’ was trying to possibly pass a counterfeit bill, a calm man was led away obviously putting up no resistance as shown in the surveillance camera. Footage of a cellphone video later showed a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck, pinned to the ground, for seven minutes, ignoring protests by the onlookers that Floyd is in stress. The video repeatedly shows Floyd saying, “I can’t breathe,” followed by “I’m about to die.” By the time Chauvin let go of him, Floyd was dead.

This was abuse of power, plain and simple. It was also something deeper. Something embedded in the psyche of the nation called America. The black Americans still carry the legacy of slavery abolished by the 13th Amendment 150 years ago.

As protests spilled over the American borders to other countries including Paris, Amsterdam and Sydney, the circle of reaction has continued increasing. To make matters worse, the heavy handed way in which police handled the protests using rubber bags, tear gas, flash-bangs to disperse protesters who were protesting peacefully when Trump addressed press outside the White House made a bad situation worse. Trump, threatened to deploy federal troops if state/city leaders failed to squash the protests. He ignored the fact that under the Insurrection Act the President can only deploy federal troops in states if the State Governor requests for it. Not otherwise.

This unfortunate murder brings two issues sharply in focus. First is the racism against black Americans in U.S. The second issue flows from the first: the high handed manner in which Floyd, his murder and its aftermath was dealt with

Visiting the St. John’s Episcopal Church was the brainchild of President Trump. He was reportedly furious at the news coverage that he rushed to the bunker of the White House. The church, a distance of a stone’s throw from the White House nonetheless had the police clear the Lafayette Square with tear gas, so the President could have his pictures taken with a Bible in his hand and police holding the protestors back.

This unfortunate murder brings two issues sharply in focus. First is the racism against black Americans in U.S. The second issue flows from the first: the high handed manner in which Floyd, his murder and its aftermath was dealt with.

The inbuilt attitude of Chauvin is a classic example of the racist attitude exercised towards the Black Americans. Books can be written on cases of brutality against those having a black skin. Floyd was one of the many. Eric Garner killed in NY, in 2014 can be seen as a parallel case with the killing captured on the video. In 2015, Jamar Clark was shot dead. An African-American, police had claimed he tried to escape, onlookers stated he was not only handcuffed but on ground when shot. In 2016, Philando Castile was shot because he was carrying a gun in his car. Also in Minnesota. He was shot in spite of clarifying he had a license for it. In 2017, Justine Damond was shot by police. They were responding to her own call about her suspicion of an assault happening behind her home in Minneapolis. These are some of the very few recent cases.

According to a recent research by Brookings, the racial attitudes that lead police to choke Black people are the same that exclude Black people from employment and investment opportunities. The net worth of the Black American is way low, generally speaking, as compared to the White American.

There is a lot of racism lurking just under the surface to break lose if scratched. Interestingly, Obama becoming President created the impetus that paved the way for Trump to become the next President. Many states went extremely strict on the voter-ID laws that had a negative impact on black/brown voters.

So when Trump talked about building a wall between Mexico, and making Mexico pay for it, Americans applauded. When Trump called Mexicans rapists the Americans screamed with joy. He was openly against immigration and supported the idea of white supremacy (remember the Ku Klux Klan?) He proposed that every Muslim must be banned from entering U.S much to the delight of many. The point is, Americans chose to make him President knowing his views. Americans were enthralled by his extremism. Not all Americans of course. But enough to put him in the White House.

John Sides, Michael Tesler and Lynn Vavreck write in their forthcoming book, Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America state, “In 2016, the degree to which a person deeply identified as white “strongly related to Republicans’ support for Donald Trump.” (The Times September 6, 2018)

John K. Stahl, a former conservative political candidate, took to twitter (the fashionable forum for indulging in verbal diarrhea) and , ittweets derogatively in particular against black women. Stacey Abrams, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris have all been the butt of his twitter attacks. Trump retweeted not one, not two but eight tweets of Stahl.

Trump’s claiming that COVID 19 is “Chinese virus” since the first case was reported there it is like saying that the 2009 H1N1 flu is the “American virus” as it was first detected in the U.S.

America is a multicultural and multiethnic society. Trump being President of the U.S needs to sensitive to the feelings of every American. This is a globalization era, hatred creates more hatred. There comes a George Floyd point, when all frustration built up, bursts from the seams.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9