Death of George Floyd: Racism and police violence have a long history in the United States

  • fromSebastian Moll

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The death of George Floyd and a police call in New York. Two different incidents show how much racism is part of the social system in the USA.

  • The murder of George Floyd and a police call in New York’s Central Park: Two different racist incidents over the past week have caused anger and sadness in the United States
  • But racism and police violence have long been part of society in the United States
  • The corona crisis now reveals how serious the problem is

That the corona crisis has caused deep cracks in the social fabric of the USA Kitten proved to be a fallacy this week at the latest. Last Tuesday’s headlines pulverized such illusions for good. A smartphone video emerged from Minneapolis, showing a black man being slowly and painfully killed by a police officer. Officer Derek C. kneels on the throat of for six minutes George Floyd, while he begs to be released from the stranglehold. Then Floyd stops moving.

Police violence in the USA: racism is deeply entrenched

They are pictures as Americans know them all too well. It has only been six years since Eric Garner died in a headlock of four officers in New York with the same words as he does now George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.” (“I can’t breathe.”) The list of victims of racist police violence that has been publicized in recent years is long: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Race, Philando Castile, Freddy Gray – these were just the most prominent cases.

It is believed that the USA up to 1000 members of minorities per year Police violence to die. How many of them are victims of excessive, racially motivated violence cannot be reconstructed in the many cases in which there was no camera. Police officers are rarely prosecuted.

Racist police violence is a tradition in the USA

Of course the phenomenon of Police violence against minorities in the US not just since smartphone cameras were around. The race riots in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Newark in the 1960s were sparked by the same feeling African-Americans were exposed to at the mercy of state violence. In the early 1990s, Rodney King’s brutal bludgeoning in Los Angeles resulted in a week-long riot.

African American men live with the expectation that they will be victims of such violence at any time. The black intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in an open letter to his son in 2015: “You will now know that the police stations of your country have been given the authority to destroy your body. And destruction is only the increase of a rule that provides for felting, arresting, beating and humiliating. All of this is normal for black people. “

In this clip from a video dated May 25, 2020, a Minneapolis police officer kneels on the handcuffed neck of a man pleading that he cannot breathe. Four Minneapolis officials involved in the arrest of George Floyd who died in police custody were released Tuesday.

© dpa

Anger and sadness after the murder of George Floyd – Racism in the USA hits minorities at all levels

Coates is considered the protagonist of what is now called Afropessimism in the US. In his work he repeatedly shows that racism is in the USA It is not an evil that can be easily eliminated, but one that is constitutive for the country. “In truth,” he writes, “it is that the police is a mirror of America, and whatever we think of this country’s criminal law, it cannot be said to have been pushed through by an oppressive minority. ”

There is more cause for Coates’ pessimism these days than ever before. Anyone who believed that America had shaken off its dark side in the Corona crisis has been taught better this week. An incident in New Yorker Central Park mirrored and complemented the crime George Floyd in an almost eerie way. There, too, a white stroller called on Tuesday policebecause she felt threatened by a black man.

Where a police call can be fatal: The racism problem in the USA

Compared to the Minneapolis events, the episode might seem harmless. Yet for African Americans it revealed the same painful truth. In the video recorded by the man, a hobby ornithologist who doesn’t seem threatening at all, you can see the woman screaming hysterically into the phone that “an African American” is after her. For black Americans, such behavior puts on all sorts of warning lights. The woman instinctively knew that her fears could be relied on police would take it more seriously if she identifies her supposed attacker as black. Because of her racially motivated fears, she endangered the life of the man who, like every day, was out in the park to watch birds.

Incidents like this haven’t only happened in the past few years USA a fatal outcome. The long and gruesome history of lynchings is full of white women feeling irrationally threatened by black men. The most traumatic of such incidents was the death of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, who allegedly looked lustfully at a white woman in Mississippi. Till was cruelly tied to a car and dragged to death. The incident was one of the events that led to the black civil rights movement of the 1960s.

After the death of the African American George Floyd, the anger of the protesters spread to Los Angeles.

© Agustin PAULLIER / afp

Minorities hardest hit: Corona crisis reveals racism in the USA even more

So was shortly after the outbreak of the coronavirus in the USA it is clear that it hits the country’s minorities particularly hard. The intertwining of race and socio-economic disadvantage caused catastrophic damage to the Afro-American population. The reasons are low incomes, inadequate access to medical care and cramped living quarters.

Many African Americans are forced to go to work despite the pandemic. The prison population, which is particularly at risk, is disproportionately Afro-American – also the result of a racist criminal justice system. The columnist Adam Serwer describes in “Atlantic Magazine” these predictable statistics as part of the “race contract” in America, which he sees as a supplement to the social contract. In America It was agreed in invisible ink that the Afro-American minority does not participate in society to the same extent as the white majority. First, Serwer said President Donald Trump* the virus completely ignored. Then there was a phase in which he wanted to stage himself as a crisis manager. Now that it is clear that it is mainly the poorer and blacker populations that are affected, he cannot get the economy going again quickly enough.

Ineradicable: The United States amid racism and police violence

As ex-President Barack Obama said in a speech to black students last weekend, the corona crisis has so far pulled the blanket from the country’s deep unsolved problems: above all the ineradicable ones racism. So far, things have been brought closer together only on a small scale, in individual acts of kindness and solidarity.

Was America remains is what Ta-Nehisi Coates gave his son: “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you have to find some way to live in it.”

By Sebastian Moll

A young black man is seriously injured by police in the Texas city of Austin during protests against police violence in the United States. Helpers are also shot at.

A large group of armed demonstrators protested in front of a southern memorial in Georgia USA. Videos on the net show the march to the Stone Mountain memorial.

In the US, more and more people are advocating a radical rethinking of police work. This is what the Defund the Police activists are calling for.

A policeman kneels on a man’s head: These pictures of the police operation after the death of the black George Floyd have burned themselves into many and sparked a debate. Similar images are now circulating from a police operation in Düsseldorf.

* is part of the nationwide Ippen Digital network.

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