George Floyd’s death and its symbolism
The brutal killing of George Floyd in the hands of a white policeman in Minneapolis 25 May has taken the centre stage in the last two weeks displacing the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic to the second place in the consciousness of the human race. Horrified humanity in the free world spoke in unison: Enough is enough.
From London to Cardiff in South Wales; from South Wales to Berlin in Germany, to Krakow in Poland; and from Paris to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, name it; it was all unprecedented protest marches with some placards reading “I cannot breathe.”
In the United States, hardly can one talk of any town, any city or any state where protests did not take place, in some cases violently with the hashtag “BlackLivesMatter.” It is pressure for justice for Floyd, for equality before the Law for all whether in black, brown, yellow or white pigmentation. It is agitation for an end to racism. The high and the lowly, all rose to defend or in quest of human dignity. It was an eruption of multiracial protests worldwide against racism in all its ramifications.
Former President George W. Bush said: “This tragedy –in a long series of similar tragedies—raises a long-overdue question: ‘How do we end systemic racism in our society?”’ He went on: “It is time for America to examine our tragic failures.” In what may be seen as a rebuke of Mr. Trump’s widely condemned insensitivity and gaffe, Mr. Bush made the point of insisting on the need “to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America—or how it becomes a better place. The heroes of America—from Frederick Douglas to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King Jnr. are heroes of unity.”
Mr. Trump’s insensitivity was first displayed in his attempt to order a military crackdown on the protesters. This was followed by the pronouncement that rise in employment figures just released would give George Floyd joy looking down from the Beyond. “Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying there’s a great thing happening for our country.” An economic rebound he said “is the greatest thing that can happen for race relations. It is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.”
Police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes and for another three minutes even after Floyd had been suffocated to death. Floyd’s outcry that he could not breathe did not move Chauvin, nor did it touch three other officers watching the luciferian horror.
By no means of imagination could Floyd have believed that his murder in the hands of state officials would trigger waves of protests across the world and particularly waves of violent marches the kind that has not been seen since the assassination of the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr. in 1968. The scope of shock and grief and resultant spread of waves of the protests across the globe can rightly be said to be unprecedented. It was an unbelievable sea of heads everywhere. Dramatic display of outrage rent the air. Multitudes were shown on video lying on the ground in a mock display of the cruelty Floyd went through chanting “I cannot breathe.”
Floyd’s death will redefine race relationship in the Western world but more in particular in the United States where racism is undisguised even though an English singer in Hoddesdon, United Kingdom, Declan McKenna wrote on his Twitter handle: “This is not just America’s problem, it is clearly ours.” The death has brought an awakening that the American society still has a long way to go to end racism which derives its origin from slavery. From slavery arises the psychological problem of a feeling of inadequacy and loss of self-worth. There is inferiority complex and lack of a sense of self-esteem is hammered into the black man in every sphere of social life and in all spheres of human endeavours. There is alienation. It requires determination, and more than double the efforts of others, and bravery to stand up and be counted to climb the rungs of the educational ladder, job opportunities, and political reckoning. There is a problem of homelessness, inequality before the law, disorientation and unstable family life. Single parenthood would appear to be the norm among the blacks. Today, two-thirds of African-American children are born out of wedlock.
I recall the death of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991 in the hands of, again, four policemen—Lawrence Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind—under the leadership of Sergeant Stacy Koon. He was arrested and beaten to death. The 25-year old construction worker was in his car and police believed he was under the influence of drug because he refused to get out of his car. The horror was recorded in a videotape. The 81-second tape naturally struck alarm in the hearts of millions of television viewers across the globe that had the privilege of viewing the incident. As I did write at the time in May, 1992, anger was provoked. Nerves were frayed. Restless men, however, held themselves in check and baited their breath as they awaited the outcome of the trial of Mr. King’s tormentors.
The policemen were tried by a 12-man jury comprising one Hispanic, one Filipino and 10 whites. The trial lasted 29 days at the end of which the jurors returned the verdict of not guilty to the policemen. The injustice was instantly and predictably invested with the toga of racism. The authorities in Los Angeles did not help matters. There was no single black man among the jurors that had 10 whites. The case was between one black man and four white men. Even if justice could be guaranteed with the non-inclusion of the blacks on the jury, as I did argue at the time, common sense ought to dictate that for their verdict to be accepted by the blacks, they ought to have been represented. The trial itself was moved from Los Angeles County to a prosperous, suburban and white Ventura County with a black population of two per cent compared with 10 per cent in Los Angeles. The attorneys said the acquittal of the policemen was a consequence of “good lawyering.”
It is to be hoped that the case of Derek Chauvin and his colleagues will be different. The charges against Chauvin have been raised from third-degree murder to second-degree murder. The other three police officers are facing charges as well, according to Minnesota Attorney-general, Keith Allison. The Floyd affair has also instigated various counties to promise police reforms. Congress is also keen on this. Police authorities appear crestfallen watching the event on video. Even in the UK, Hertfordshire Constabulary assistant chief constable has said: “What we understand that people of all ethnicities, throughout Hertfordshire and beyond rightly feel horrified about the death of George Floyd in America. We as a Constabulary stand shoulder to shoulder with those across the country and indeed the world, who are both saddened and angered by the way Mr. Floyd lost his life. We will always challenge and investigate discrimination and racism wherever we find it…”
There is an awakening to the immortal words of Martin Luther King that the measure of a man’s worth is not in the colour of his skin. The fire which Floyd death has lit can be likened to the valiant efforts of slave abolitionists—William Wilberforce who took on the challenge in 1787. This eventually led to the Slave Trade Act of 1807 passed by the British Parliament prohibiting the heinous trade in the British Empire. By 1806, Lord Grenville was reported to have made a passionate speech in which he said that the slave trade was against the principles of justice and humanity. While the suffocating of Floyd was going on, a 17-year –old white girl, Darnella Frazier, daringly ignored the police that warned her off to stop filming their action. She captured the perpetration of the evil act and produced a detailed video file for humanity. What the United States President Thomas Jefferson worked hard to achieve through deep thinking, collaborative engagement with anti-slave trade movements and enactment of a law banning the international slave trade, George Floyd has had to pay the supreme price, poignantly drawing the world attention to the unfinished slavery-related work—racism, the offshoot of the slave trade from which other evils spring.
There are symbolisms in the whole George Floyd’s death and its aftermath worthy of reflection. There is certainly some meaning in the breaking of statues of slave traders in some parts of the world. Can this not equate to the condemnation of slavery? The dropping of such statue into the river in the UK cannot but be reminiscent of how the slave owners threw weak slaves off their ships into the seas. How each one of us reacts to an incident heard, watched from a distance, experienced personally speaks volumes. The matrix of Nature returns to each one the consequences of what we sow through our physical senses and the sixth sense. At the end of the day, no matter the verdict in George Floyd affair, whether as individuals or the state, each person bears personal responsibility for his action before the natural mechanisms of life, the adamantine, immutable self-acting lawfulness that governs life, the Laws of Nature which are also called Divine Laws. The automatic and living mechanisms of life pay no heed to the opinions of men, the society, courts or beautiful arguments, nor to even the laws of a country. The laws of men stand only when they conform to Natural Laws. No one is protected by man-made laws in the face of higher laws. Nor the state, for the higher laws recognise only human spirits who may have congregated in a particular area either as white or black, driven by their homogeneity to develop and mature according to their own light and at their own pace. Protection by the state in a wrongdoing is a delusion. Only what are right stands.
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