Systemic racism in US is like a cancer – PM
The issue of systemic racism is a metaphoric cancer in the society and economy of the United States that ought to be addressed properly.
This is the view expressed by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves during We FM’s Issues at Hand programme on Sunday, June 7.
Gonsalves issued an official statement on Friday, June 5 (see full statement on page 8) to pledge his government’s support to the people of the United States with their ongoing protests on the issue.
He explained that he made the decision to publish his open letter to the American people, after learning that the statement on the issue from the regional grouping CARICOM was not ready for publication.
“I really couldn’t allow the weekend again to pass, working-day Friday to go by without us issuing a statement. I felt that CARICOM should have made a statement in a quicker period of time so that’s the reason why we did not make a statement earlier, because I was waiting on CARICOM,” the prime minister said.
He noted that the views, opinions and circumstances of the different countries must be considered when issuing a collective statement on various issues. And while the regional body’s statement is not as strong as SVG’s government, it was still a good one.
Up to press time yesterday, CARICOM had yet to issue a statement.
Gonsalves said that the situation in the US has become an issue of international human rights, which makes it available for commentary from people all across the world.
The prime minister also drew attention to US statistics and the number of black people who die from contact with the police.
“In fact, I have also read that one in every 2000…African Americans…died from the coronavirus thus far. Well that … is declared a pandemic…but the other one, 1 out of every 1000 African Americans who die in their contact with the police, that is not a pandemic it seems,” he said.
Gonsalves proffered that while progress has been made in the US, the matter of racism has lasted for too long.
The killing of African American, George Floyd by a white police officer was the catalyst for the ongoing protests in the United States.
The Vincentian prime minister said that the United States usually comments on issues in the Caribbean, which in most cases are not international issues.
He added that this issue, as it relates to the protests, has reached a particular threshold which prompts international commentary from foreign affairs and other high ranking officials across the world, including in Germany and other European countries.
“If I may say this, I put things in context, less than 100 years ago, Hitler, who headed a Nazi regime, fascist regime in Germany was seeking to organise so that a black man Jesse Owens could not win a gold medal,” Gonsalves said. “And we have now, the German foreign minister making a statement really aligning itself, if not fully with the resistance, calling on US authorities to handle the matter better. And you have people in our Caribbean who are reluctant to call this matter out”.
The New Democratic Party (NDP), this country’s main opposition party also issued a statement on the protests taking place in the US.
Noel Dickson, the NDP’s candidate for South Windward also expressed his personal views on how the issue may relate in a local context.
And Dickson, via a post on Facebook last Tuesday, June 2 which read “the Portuguese ruler in SVG has his bewitched knees on the back and neck of our blessed land and as a result, most of our people can’t breathe. As black people, the time has come for us to vehemently resist this in the next general elections”.
Gonsalves said that this country’s opposition, the New Democratic Party is trying to trivialise George Floyd’s final words, ‘I can’t breathe’, by trying to “equate it with the actions of a democratically elected government in St Vincent and the Grenadines as we seek to carry out public policies in a very difficult time”.
He added that there are persons who may want to critique from a domestic standpoint by stating that there is also police brutality and injustice in this country.
“…That is in a sense a red herring, a smoke screen for anyone who doesn’t really want to take a stand on a particular matter because in St Vincent and the Grenadines, we do address injustices, we have institutions which address them and I haven’t heard though that in St Vincent and the Grenadines that a police officer killed a citizen because of his or her race,” he said.