Written by Kamakshi Anand, a grade 11 student.
“The land of the free and the home of the brave” is burning, yet again and this time, the world rages with it. The fire rages brightly against a single colour- the white that refuses to acknowledge any other. At least 75 American cities have seen protests and many countries stand with the protestors. Why? Why is there so much anger? Is it well placed or misplaced? Is it justified?
On May 25, 2020 the life of an African-American man, George Floyd, was ended as a result of police brutality sparking anti-racism sentiment and a plea for justice throughout the country. With huge participation of white youth, it has already become the most mammoth display of anger and frustration against the racial system since the 1960s, when a nonviolent civil rights movement, led by a Mahatma Gandhi-inspired Martin Luther King, convulsed the nation, leading to civil and voting rights for black Americans. Thousands, taking the risk of perilous infections, have come out on the streets. But is this the first instance of injustice? Will it be the last? Sadly, no is the answer for the first question and hopefully for the second too.
Let us examine the history of black Americans in an “equal” America.
According to political scientist Roger Smiths, most of the US history represents “ascriptive white superiority”, manifested “in passionate beliefs that America… (is) a white nation”. A major part of the country that was previously led by Mr. Barack Obama, still calls itself a white country. Like any society, American society is very much divided and scarred by the deep wounds inflicted at the time of slavery, during the civil war, and by prejudiced behaviour. The US Census Bureau, in 1790, a year after the birth of the US Constitution, tells us that 19.3 percent of America was black but it was neither free nor equal and was bound by the shackles of slavery. The period after the American Civil war up to 1877, saw great reform with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Thereafter, the southern states took away the right to vote from the black population, their civil rights reformulated. Even the justice system stood against the African-American community as is evident in Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896). After years of racial insubordination, even though, they received legal equality, in reality, this equality does not exist in the minds of a conservative American who has been raised and taught to hate instead of love. The forms of discrimination have changed over time but have not disappeared.
Blacks make up 12 percent of America today, but constitute 38 percent of the imprisoned population. Criminality is far too easily associated with blacks. Racial violence by a largely white police force has also repeatedly gone unpunished. Police unions have been strong, and prosecutors and juries have often given the benefit of the doubt to police officers, accepting too readily their arguments about their last-minute decision to pull the trigger. Data by statista.com reveals a skewed pattern of African American killings by police. Of 1,000 fatal shootings by police in 2019, more than 23 percent of the victims were blacks, a high proportion given that they made up less than 14 percent of the population.
If the election of Barack Obama was a notch in the belt for those who strive for equality then judging from President Trump’s response to the Floyd incident, Trump in the White House is a white supremacist’s dream come true.
It is perhaps, in part, a fight between black and white America but not entirely. A wind blows strongly against the racism that plagues America, a country claiming to be the first in the world to be founded on equality. At the head of this storm are African-American youth leaders but those who carry this storm forward are unquestionably inter-racial.
Racism is a disease. It is a virus more harmful than coronavirus simply due to the fact that it can be passed down generations and can never be fully eradicated. But it can be reduced. Those affected by it can be made stronger, less susceptible. We as humans are the immune system that will drive the global society to a healthier future. This may be a global problem, but it can be fought at a personal level. Speak up. Stand up. Protest. Donate. Educate. And most importantly, learn to love.
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
Written by Kamakshi Anand
Kamakshi is a prolific writer. She’s been writing on Instagram for 2 years (@wingedwords02) and her work has also been published in 4 anthologies. She is currently working on a poetry manuscript and also writes for a mental health awareness organisation. Kamakshi is the content editor for her school magazine and social media associate at I Kid You Not
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