George Floyd Murder – An affront to African Liberation
In what has been one of the biggest affronts to black people the world over, four white police officers in the city of Minneapolis, USA, blatantly and brutally murdered a black man, George Floyd by name, on a day that black people hold very dear, African Liberation Day, May 25, 2020.
That date was established since 1963 when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), today renamed as the African Union (AU), was founded and designated a day when black people all over the world mobilised in solidarity with the struggle to rid the African continent and the world in general of the scourges of racism, colonialism and oppression. For more than 50 years now black people have been using this date to hold solidarity events, highlighting both the advances which we have made as well as the major challenges still confronting us.
In light of this, to witness the brutality of the white police officers in murdering an innocent man was not just an insult to black people wherever they exist, but also a cold-blooded reminder of the formidable hurdles still confronting us, especially given the political leadership of the most powerful country on earth at present.
Floyd’s death has predictably outraged not just blacks in the USA, but justice-loving white people as well. Since his murder daily protests and demonstrations have been held, not only right across the USA, but all over the world as well.
Encouragingly, some of the sporting superstars of the day, players, coaches and even team owners as well, have made their voices heard in condemnation and calling for justice.
The murder of Floyd is yet another cruel reminder of the racist nature of American society, a society built on genocide against the native peoples, the original inhabitants and owners of the country, as well as on the institution of slavery, which has shaped the American society of today. There have been many more victims like him, chillingly choked to death even while pleading, like Eric Garner six years ago, “I can’t breathe”.
Floyd and Garner are among the many victims of institutional racism in the USA over the years. This factor is based on the supposed inferiority of black people, which was built up as a justification for slavery. Out of it emerged a callous disregard for black lives, which has given rise to the “Black Lives Matter” movement of today.
That indifference towards the value of human life is not just manifested in brutal killings like those of Floyd, Garner and countless others. It lies at the root of the vastly disproportionate casualty figures for blacks and whites occasioned by the COVID -19 pandemic. The discrepancy between both the living standards of non-white people as well as the social amenities available to them lies at the heart of those casualty figures. While the shocking barbarity of Floyd’s murder may rouse indignation, so too must the cold-blooded neglect of the vast majority of non-white people. The institution of slavery has shaped not just American society, but capitalist relations in the modern world.
It is therefore not just another wake-up call to put an end to such reckless killing of innocent blacks, racism itself must be confronted and eradicated. Global solidarity and mobilisation around African Liberation Day helped to bring about the defeat of apartheid and independence for many former colonies in Africa, but it has not been able, as yet, to wipe out institutional racism or to eradicate from the minds of many black people, even today, acceptance of inferior status.
It is not by chance that so many athletes, including Caribbean global stars Darren Sammy and Chris Gayle, have made their voices heard. The governing body of global football, FIFA, has been forced to wage a campaign to fight racism in football and similar campaigns have been launched to varying degrees, in other sports.
There is need for a greater coordination of such campaigns and it is to be hoped that Floyd’s murder will prove an incentive to move in that direction. It also underlines the validity of the campaign for reparation, not just for financial compensation for crimes committed and still being committed with impunity today.
More than this, there is the fundamental matter of eradicating injustice and oppression and tackling the social and psychological factors which lead not only to claims of superiority, but also an acceptance of inferiority on the part of too many of us. Even in the face of the actions and statements of the current occupant of the White House there are those among us, in the USA, but in the Caribbean too, who attempt to justify the actions of the Trump administration which are hurting black and non-white people more than any others.
Floyd’s murder represents a clarion call to us all to get our act together, to try and understand the roots of our poverty, oppression and exploitation and once more to make the call for African Liberation not just symbolic, but meaningful to the lives of black people the world over.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.