"I can't breathe; please stop", so cried George Floyd. But the policeman Derek Chauvin, who had held him with his knees refused to loosen a bit. After seven minutes of suffocation, Floyd ceased to move. Though taken to hospital, he had died by then. That murder in broad daylight, in front of camera and in the middle of a road in Minneapolis, USA on 25 May, has sparked protests and anger not only in the US, but across the world, for the simple reason that it was not a mere murder. George Floyd, an Afro-American, is only another addition to the one to be killed among the blacks in America due to racial distrimination.
The very social movement titled 'Black lives matter' was launched as a response to the institutionalised racial bias in US. That movement was triggered by an event six years ago. In July 2014 a black man named Eric Garner of Ferguson city, was strangulated by a policeman called Daniel Pantaleo, which was also as part of an arrest. Garner too had screamed 'I can't breathe', 11 times; he died too. What transpired later was that then, as now too, Garner and Floyd were only suspects and not guilty of the alleged crime. In myriad instances, from Garner's murder to that of Floyd, the blacks were victims of either police or white supremacists. Many of those lost their lives in Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis and Auckland because they belonged to the black race. The murder of a young woman Breonna Taylor in March this year also belongs to that category. What will also shock us is the fact that crimes do not come down, but instead increase. Which means so much of racial hatred is ingrained in the DNA of 'civilised' America. If in South Africa, which was once the hotspot of racial discrimination, that has become an isolated malady now, in Donald Trump's America it has reached a stage of social transmission.
This represents a failure as much of the system as of the administrative leadership that controls it. In the incident of the murder of Eric Garner, the court judged that the policeman Pantaleo was not guilty. A public mind-set of seeing a murder lightly when the victims is black, is influencing the courts too. Administrative leaderships have not ben able to correct this attitude; even the black president Barack Obama could not change the system. As regards Trump, he is one who has lashed his finger and tongue only to strengthen all kinds of inhuman discriminations and supremacist theories. If one reviews who all came in for his racist abuses in the four years of his presidency, that list will not be a short one. It will include, in addition to Afro-Americans, Mexicans, Asian races, Hispanics, American aborigines, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, women and the differently abled. The very fact that such leaders can win power would only prove that Trump himself represents a failure of the system.
A social mind-set that breeds discrimination, a regime that strengthens it and a system that makes discrimination its national character – it is not only in America that a combination of these target the underprivileged and the needy. The incident of the murder of a differently-abled Palestinian, Iyad el-Hallak, did not claim as much of headlines as the George Floyd murder, only because the former is a Palestinian – which betrays yet another international face of discrimination. The world does not pay attention to the atrocities perpetrated by Israel in the occupied territories, though they are more brutal and widespread than what happens in the US. In fact the Palestinians in Israel, the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Uyghurs in China and the Dalits and minorities in India are all experiencing organised discrimination either in the same, or higher, degree as the non-whites, the coloured and immigrants do in America. For the same reason, when the international community expresses shock over the Floyd murder, similar responses do not come from world leaders about the others. And our country of Gandhiji, who had had opposed the discriminations faced by the people in US, South Africa and Palestine, are now unable to raise its voice against injustice.
The religion-based racism here is not different from the color-racism of Minneapolis. It is not only the independent enquiry reports illustrating the complicity of the police in the minority-hunting in Delhi that points a finger at institutionalised discrimination. When cases reach the court, the victims are made accused and the guilty escape. The discrimination has become so patent that even the courts have had to point this out. George Floyd was not merely American. He is also the Akhlaq of Dadri, the Noman of Himachal, Pehlu Khan and Faizan of Alwar – all victims of the police or of the racism of the regime; people asphyxiated, muzzled and denied an opportunity to live with honour. The protests and defence against the murder of Floyd are part of the struggle for humanity in all countries. Unless the knees that strangle them are removed, their groan will remain that of the world too, 'I can't breathe'.