The George Floyd Murder and The Silence of Asians
The question that we need to address is to ask if there is any step that the world can take to compensate not only for the murder of George Floyd, but for the continuation of such targeted racism that we see in the United States of America?
This is not the first case where we have found a black man being killed by the white police on unjust grounds. Racism targeted with violence, particularly against the African origin race, has been rampant in the United States from time immemorial and still continues. Chinese, Indian, Latin American, European are all part of the so called diaspora of the USA. They are not picked out for special violence by the police, as are, what are called, the blacks. . Further this unlawful crude violence is targeted only at the African who is an American citizen, -not so much the Africans who may come from the continent of Africa now, as diplomats, as academicians, as writers. But only the Africans who were brought in as slaves to the United States.
Another shocking aspect of what is happening is the silence of other non-whites especially the Asians,- Chinese and Indians. They too, less visibly, discriminate or have a sense of distaste and distance from the African origin citizens of the United States.
The fight by these Americans, - originally from Africa, but deeply embedded as citizens of the USA - for liberation from discrimination - has been a long one.
I remember, in the 1950s, joining a march from Harlem to Fifth Avenue- a march led by the National Association Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). I remember the name of the man who led that march, he was called Chuck Stone. We marched from Harlem to the white part of the city asking for justice, for equality, for rights. I met Rosa Parks in North Carolina, the black woman who protested by climbing into a bus , meant only for whites . She gave a vivid account of the hate and violence against black people, that she had experienced.
While currently Harlem may be a more racially mixed and an economically developed area , even in the 1970 s, it was all black , and what is more, poverty and unemployment black . I remember walking into its heart in the 1970’s with the feminist Gloria Steinem, who was popular with the black communities, as she championed their cause. We must have looked like persons from outer space as we were gazed at. Shiny, jazzy limousines passed us honking and shouting but no violence. It was totally black people.
The brutality of police over black people has been going on for decades. The last that we heard of one who was made into a hero, was in February 2012. Trayvon Benjamin Martin a 17-year-old African-American teenager from Miami Gardens, Florida was fatally shot in Sanford, Florida by George Zimmerman. There was mourning across the world about this boy’s killing, as there is now across the world about what has happened to George Floyd. But it stops there.
It should be baffling to any observer how, not only racial discrimination, but hate, violence, against just one "type' of citizens, can exist after so many decades, in what is considered to be the most brilliant example of democracy in the world, namely the United States of America. The stars and stripes on the flag are supposed to represent the most free and freedom giving nation in the world.
Earlier when the black people of South Africa were suffering from the apartheid regime, the whole world took it upon itself and battled the white regime. An anti apartheid cell was opened in the UN, a global boycott of the goods manufactured in South Africa was organised. This official clubbing of action, under the auspices of the United Nations, as well as public opinion , and inner resistance finally liberated the black people of South Africa. But that kind of support has not been offered to the black people of North America.
Why has the world not taken it upon itself to fight for the black people of the United States? We have witnessed their ill treatment over the decades. We have seen the efforts made by Martin Luther King whom we celebrate on special days .We have witnessed the efforts made by other less known black people of United States trying to budge themselves out of the stigma which is pasted on them for being of African origin. It is shocking and reprehensible that the rest of the world has continued to walk, to participate in international and other activities while this group of people who were brought centuries ago, as slaves to the United States, continue to be treated in similar, if not the same ways, as they were treated when they were working in the plantations of the South?
Even today, socio-economic data of the United States reveals the discrimination against the black people. Since New York had so many cases and deaths due to the Coronavirus, I looked at the data from their health departments and hospital admissions .I found that the highest incidence of the virus , was from areas where the blacks were predominant . These were areas where communities lived in ghettos , usually crowded and prone to disease.
How do we shame the other races of the United States for tolerating this vicious attitude? How do we threaten the government and the leadership of the USA , to make a shift in this area ?Can we even think of a global boycott of the merchandise from the United States of America the way we did for South Africa, when it was being ruled by the whites? Of course not. We have all become colonies under the new empire of the United States. All the major financial international institutions are located there apart from the United Nations itself- a great protection.
But there must be some way in which we can, in fact, hold the people of USA responsible for the continuation of this abhorrent discrimination. We do have special instruments , but do our leaders have the strength to use them?
First the United Nations,- then the economic clubs like ASEAN, BRICS and so many others including the new ones in Latin America and Africa . The heads of state of all the black, brown, yellow countries, could form the political club that can challenge the American State, its current leadership ?
Civil society has shown solidarity , writers will speak - but that has not changed the attitude , and the police who are backed by the racist state.
Whatever the obstacles, we in India who challenged white supremacy through collective mass resistance , a form of economic boycott too by not using their goods, must lead again and challenge white supremacy in the USA . A dream? remember Martin Luther king, saying “I had a dream” ... We must make his dream come true.
Devaki Jain is Economist, and member of the erstwhile south commission