This article focuses on racism in the United States, the African-American Community, as a focus of George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Racism, unfortunately, still exists and persists worldwide.
Let’s begin with what should be obvious:
“Racism is the belief that one’s race, skin color, or more generally, one’s group, be it of religious, national or ethnic identity, is superior to others in humanity.”
Even if prejudicial attitudes existed between races for thousands of years, and the word ‘race’ has rightly been dropped for ethnicity – there’s only one race, the Human race – this sense of systematized racial oppression only started with the beginning of the globalization with mercantilism and trade in the XVIth Century.
When European traders discovered that their superior technology – sailing ships and firearms – gave them the needed advantage, the plunder of Africa’s wealth begun, and the Atlantic slave trade started.
With the excuse that African slaves were previous sold as slaves or that they didn’t have any culture and lived like savages, and having Thomas Jefferson – one of the Founding Fathers and supporter of the Emancipation Proclamation – calling for the “scientific” theory of white superiority towards black inferiority, systematized racism took shape to justify the crime in the United States.
From there on this has been an issue and a stain in the ‘Land of the Free’ speech ‘Americans’ like to profess.
The 13th amendment abolishing slavery; the Civil Rights Act of 1866 broadened the rights of ‘every’ American, but a setback was imposed with “Black Codes”. The Naturalization Act of 1790 limited U.S. citizenship to whites only, rebutted by the 14th amendment, granting citizenship to blacks. Lastly, the 15th amendment even promised voting rights. But then, in the mid 1870’s, Democratic white supremacists came to power depriving African-Americans of voting rights by instituting the systemic and discriminatory policies of unequal racial segregation of Jim Crow Laws.
The legal principle of “separate but equal” racial segregation – upheld since 1896 – was only declared unconstitutional in 1954, and the Jim Crow Era only ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. But the social and racial inequality persisted.
Only three days after the end of the Jim Crow Era, on the evening of Wednesday, August 11, 1965, Marquette Frye (an African-American motorist on parole for robbery) was pulled for alleged reckless driving on the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. The minor roadside argument quickly escalated into a fight, and as the situation intensified, growing crowds of local residents watching the exchange began yelling and throwing objects at the police officers.
Six days of civil unrest followed, resulting in 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage.
The United States was certainly divided, and it wasn’t just a question between “North and South”.
Race, or the mere color of your skin, was a prevalent issue for those that could find their dream as Martin Luther King Jr went to his ‘Mountaintop’ to be assassinated.
On the following years Race Riots are a reality. Black Lives Matter a daily struggle. Law & Order became a motto with Nixon and a rule with Reagan.
The War on Drugs is launched, arrests soar rates that disproportionately target African Americans under the cover of Criminals as underprivileged of Society.
The US is a powder keg for what’s to come.
25 years, 6 months and 21 days after Watts, another roadside arrest leads to the biggest racial protest in North American History.
March 3, 1991, Rodney King is violently beaten by LAPD officers during his arrest on I-210. It’s all registered in video. Social injustice, racially motivated, is undeniable.
Four police officers, including one sergeant, were charged with assault and use of excessive force. On April 29, acquitted of their crime.
Civil unrest started immediately, riots, looting and violence plagued Los Angeles for five days.
By the time the riots ended, 63 people had been killed, 2.383 people had been injured, more than 12.000 had been arrested, and property damages over one billion dollars.
Clinton becomes President and his ‘1994 Law’ leads, once again, to the increase of African-American prison population.
Days turn into years and cases pile.
Oscar Grant; Trayvon Martin; Michael Brown; Dontre Hamilton; Eric Garner; John Crawford III; Michael Brown; Ezell Ford; Laquan McDonald; Akai Gurley; Tamir Rice; Antonio Martin; Jerame Reid; Charley Leundeu Keunang; Tony Robinson; Anthony Hill; Meagan Hockaday; Eric Harris; Walter Scott; Freddie Gray; William Chapman; Jonathan Sanders; Sandra Bland; Samuel DuBose; Jeremy McDole; Corey Jones; Jamar Clark; The Charleston Nine; Bruce Kelley Jr.; Alton Sterling; Philando Castile; Joseph Mann; Abdirahman Abdi; Paul O’Neal; Korryn Gaines; Sylville Smith; Terence Crutcher; Keith Lamont Scott; Alfred Olango; Deborah Danner; Jocques Clemmons; Breonna Taylor; Christian Cooper; George Floyd…
“I can’t breathe” “Please” “Mama”
Neither can we George. Enough is enough. Black Lives Matter. For all this, matter more.
I’ll end with a Mea Culpa.
Amidst the protests for the barbaric treatment that lead to the dead of George Floyd at the hand of four Minneapolis police officers, I published a “All Live Matter” where ‘All’ is written on top of Black, implying that – for me personally -, in an universal message of inclusion, all lives do matter.
Unbeknownst to me, in this western stronghold where segregation isn’t the talk of the day, the slogan I shared had become associated with the far-right North American supremacist movement.
Obviously, that was never my intention.
I consider myself to be literate and, belonging to two minorities (LGBT and HIV+), sensitive to the world around me, I understand the importance and the struggle for representation a minority community has against the culture and prejudice rooted in a Society that encompasses it.
With that, and as can be seen from the obvious, at this moment, as long as the necessary change does not occur so that we actually live in a Society where “all lives matter” the same, ‘Black Lives Matter’ more.
So, do All Lives Matter? Sure.
But Black Lives Matter more when black lives are being treated like they don’t matter – getting murdered in the streets, policed for just walking down the street, doing things everyone else gets to take for granted.