George Floyd, an African American man was killed on camera in the open for the whole world to see as he struggled for his dare life. He pleaded for mercy and the last chance to breathe, he never received any. The police officer pinned his left knee on his neck till he died. Here, an African human Rights Advocate shares his views on TAP’s World Commentary.
By Dez Kamara | The AfricaPaper
Quebec, Canada – When I was growing up, there was one nation that rented my mind and the minds of my colleagues – the United States of America. Almost every one of my colleagues wanted to live in America. We had Peace Corps Volunteers sharing their resources around the world as they left their families for poorer countries and at the same time learning different cultures. America was and is still seen as an oasis of comfort and one that we call HOME.
When we have the opportunity to become part of great America, we strive to succeed, support and become part of the values and echoes that makes America the greatest nation on earth. Back in the 80s when Americans traveled outside their country, the luggage tag had an “American Tourist” on it. Brandishing any American paraphernalia as part of showing the world that America is the best country. Today, people only show their passport at airport check-ins and departure gates. Do not get me wrong, they are not hiding but less is more.
The US has been plagued by a virus called RACISM. Dating back 400 years, racism in Americana has become a cankerworm tearing apart the values that make America the leader of the free world. We have another virus that has affected millions of people across the world and over a million in the US. The world is fighting COVID-19 but America is fighting two viruses, COVID-19 and Racism-20, a place in history we never thought of reaching. The world is racing to find a vaccine for COVID-19.
Americans do not need to search for a vaccine for racism, they all have the vaccine in them, it is called LOVE. Not all Americans are in favour of this cankerous issue or racism. There are millions of Americans fighting against it. You can either be a racist or anti-racist. It is likely that COVID-19 would get a vaccine though it may take longer, but a vaccine for racism in America may be far fetched if Americans do not vaccinate themselves with love and see everyone in America as Americans rather than black and white.
I won a scholarship to study Human Rights in 2008. It was an opportunity for me and colleagues from seven other countries to look at humanity with a particular lens with objectivity, putting aside bias and finding ways of addressing wrongs. During that time, we examined key conflict events such as Nazi Germany, the Rwandan genocide, Kosovo, Armenia, Sierra Leone, etc.
We scientifically looked at what constitutes human rights abuses. One of the requirements to satisfy an act or event for genocide and human rights abuse is IMPUNITY. Actions that do not result in consequences mostly committed by people in power. The extermination of a group of people as a result of their race, colour or age certainly satisfies that human rights abuse phenomenon.
I begin the article with a backdrop of American values and welcoming all cultures before starting to talk about RACE in Modern day America. America is a nation of nations. Bringing talents from around the world that has built a country that many of my family and friends call home. There are systems of oppression isomorphic of dictators and their regime. When those systems are normalized, they become not just systemic oppression but a win for those who are shovelling these barbaric styles of humanity in society.
We cannot turn a blind eye to every racial suffering in America, especially by our elected women and men. Institutional hypocrisy and turning a blind eye on the pink elephant in the room is a result of complicity. When we see it displayed by political leaders it confirms the culture of complicity. Furthermore, when it is conspicuously displayed by ignoring facts of racial struggles and death such as a video showing the final moments of an American.
Paul Gilroy is a British professor, a historian, writer and academic. He is the founder of the Center for the Study of Race and Racism at University College London. In one of my classes at university (Race and Ethnicity), Paul provided his position about how even after World War II, progress was never made and yet society continues to divide humanity, grouping them into skin colour. (Paul Gilroy Book: Against Race).
Then we have John Howard Griffin who wrote “Black Like Me” as he journeyed through the Deep South, he experienced discrimination, segregation and racial undertones after he coloured his skin. A sociological experiment that exposed how people of colour are treated in America. Sociologist Augusto Comte rightly put it: “Walk A Mile In My Shoes.” James C. Scott is an American Political Scientist and Anthropologist. In his many publications about public and private transcripts, he wrote about how citizens protest dissatisfaction within society privately and rightly so they should. But when they cannot deal with the concerns privately, they take the private to public transcripts. That is where we see looting and destruction.
A knee was used to protest against the killing of blacks in America. But was met with resistance and outcry stating the protest was disrespecting the American flag, an emblem that represents Americanism. Now, a knee was used on another American, resulting in their death. I wonder what those who were against the protest of the knee in sports are saying and thinking. Protesting is a form of communication peacefully I must add.
But it is strikingly difficult to hold a peaceful protest when an American is dead from choking and placing a knee on him by law enforcement. As some of you know, this is not the first time. It goes back to the point about the normalization of this type of barbarism. The death of black Americans for me serves as the pornography of black deaths in America. No regard for human life even though we are created in the image and likeness of God.
I have never been affected by a video or event that has to do with the loss of an American by an American law enforcement officer. George Floyd’s death resulting from an officer kneeling on his neck when he cried “I can’t breathe” has hit me. Social identity is part of us but it is meeting stiff resistance from the majority of citizens.
This is sick at all levels and the leader of the “Free world” is normalizing the wanton killing of blacks in America by not using a language of unity, compassion, empathy and comfort. “Good people on both sides” as an example. When your house is on fire, you carry a jog or water, not gas. The question is; what is the President of the United States carrying
We do not want to pontificate how people of colour are feeling and experiencing from police brutality. It is hard to comprehend why these racial deaths are taking place in the United States of America. We are entitled to support any political party we want because it is our right. But when that party you are sanctimoniously supporting engages in human rights abuses, do you speak up or stay silent? If you spoke, it means you are breaking ranks with the party. Remember that we are citizens of the law. A black woman or man fails to use their signal while driving, they are pulled over and arrested. When a white police officer places a knee on a black American, it has to spark flames and destruction for them to be arrested.
That does not mean they are guilty but to ensure they do not evade justice by hanging himself. Let’s leave the matter to law enforcement authorities. Although some are the ones committing the crimes we are speaking against today. Mother bird decided to eat her youngsters. Someone reported to the Bird Chief. An investigation was announced then mother bird volunteered to lead the investigation with feathers of her babies all over her mouth. Will the feathers in her mouth exculpate her? In an independent investigation, the answer is no.
If we think that we are better than other ethnic groups, look at the colour of your blood and tell us if it is black or white. When you go to the hospital and need blood, a bag of blood is brought and after the transfusion is successful, your life is saved. The blood is not labelled as black or white or from a white man or black man. When people who are inherently racist arrive at the hospital and need medical attention.
When they find out the doctor or nurse are white or black, they will condition themselves to receive medical attention to avoid pain or eventually death. Ignoring the humanity and knowledge behind the doctors and nurses. They do not reject being treated by a black or white doctor and nurse. They can condition themselves to be treated by a white or black doctor. Therefore, they can condition themselves to display love so they can only see Americans not as white and black.
At a time like this in America, race has become binary, resulting in black deaths almost with impunity. Turning a blind eye is criminal. These killings are reportorial and dehumanizing creating a social pariah atmosphere about blacks in America. Our Canadian Prime Minister said when he brought together a diverse cabinet after his first victory, “Diversity is strength.” And was asked why he had lots of women in his cabinet. He responded, “It is 2015.” America, this is 2020. If we all look the same we would be complaining and fighting to look different.
Over 400 years black people have been suffering and affected by racism in America. Today, people are shifting the blame on Obama for doing nothing when he was in power calling him a hypocrite. They are thinking Obama as the first black president in the US would come and make an executive order on Affirmative Action. No way Hosea!, He followed rules, policies and the constitution. If he did not, he would have been labelled as a racist leader. The current leader is not following the rules, disrespecting his own party members, elders, women, people with disabilities etc. As a result of not applying a unifying tone or language, we see mayhem and destruction on the streets of America. The blood of innocent Americans is on the hands of those with the power to do something when they turn a blind eye.
Violence, looting and destruction is certainly the result of frustrations from murdering your own fellow citizens. When sport professionals protest with a knee, the president of the United States said: “Take that son of a bitch out of the field right now.” Now a police officer placed his knee in the neck of George Floyd and later died. How about some Americans say get that son of a bitch officer off the streets and lock him up. That is tit for tat and America is bigger than an eye for an eye.
Fire cannot extinguish fire. We have to embrace love because it is better than hate, light for it is better than darkness, inclusion is better than exclusion and segregation. For where there is love there is no colour, where there is love there is no ethnicity, where there is love there is no power or powerless but humans and where there is love, there is peace. When we recognize each other as humans, we have Americans, British, Canadians, Angolans, Australians, South Africans etc..
Rights and Actions
My training as a Human Rights advocate means speaking against all forms of abuse. By remaining silent when events such as these constitute human rights abuses is wasting the funds that sent me to study how to look at these abuses objectively. Racism is planted and constantly irrigated in our society. The future of our children and grandchildren depends on our actions today. The chapter of racial abuse that was written as a result of the death of brother George Floyd will last forever. It is the epitome of racial injustice and inequality for blacks. The sad thing is we are living in this dark history. We have to go back to the time when morality was alive and when our parents taught us when to speak, how to speak and respect anyone we meet. Otherwise, “The Chicken Will Come Home to Roost.” TAP
The AfricaPaper/AIIR: Dez Kamara is a Human Rights Advocate and The AfricaPaper’s Columnist based in Canada. This commentary is the writer’s expressed opinions.