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George Floyd - Racial Discrimination in America: A Synopsis

Americans are in revolt. The death of a black man in police custody has sparked riots across the country. 

On 25 May 2020, a man called George Floyd died in police custody. The incident took place in Powder horn, a neighborhood in the American city of Minneapolis. Police first said George was resisting arrest. But videos of the incident shot by people standing nearby told a different story. The footage showed a police officer, named Derek Chauvin, putting his body weight on George, by placing a knee over his neck, as he lay face down on the road, handcuffed. “I can’t breathe, man” George, in an apparent chokehold, can be heard saying repeatedly in the footage. The death of a black man under such circumstances aroused resentment which simmers perennially in the country but usually boils over following such incidents of racism. 

Protests ensuing in the aftermath were initially peaceful and limited but soon turned violent and widespread. As we speak, protests, violent as well as peaceful, have occurred in 30 major cities in the US. Several states have declared states of emergency and imposed curfews. 

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America is no stranger to racism. The genocide of ingenious Black Indians marked European invasion and led to the foundation of modern-day America at the turn of the sixteenth century. For the centuries that followed, both during the British reign and in the independent United States, black slavery and segregation formed the basis of political, economic and societal structure. 

Black slavery was abolished in the United States in the late 19th century. However, African-Americans continued to suffer as racism was somehow baked into the nation’s psyche and the scourge of racial discrimination that existed ever since America came into being has never died away even to this day of the 21st century. 

Even after emancipation of slaves by Lincoln, the blacks continued to suffer greatly due to racism which somehow was baked into the nation's psyche at the time.  

Only after centuries had passed, the black people got a chance to get education and to have someone to represent them. 

The first black movement, the Niagara Movement was started in 1905, which if you see, is quite recent. This movement was started by a few African-American intellectuals who aimed to fight racial discrimination through political means. Its founder was Du Bois, the first black man in America to have a PhD degree. 

The reason it was called Niagara Movement was because their first moot took place in Canada in a hotel near the famous Niagara falls. Such an activity would be unthinkable on American soil at the time.  Even though this movement failed to achieve much, it was significant in that for the decades to follow more movements were started to the same effect. 

The Nation of Islam founded in 1930 by Elijah Mohammed caused even more controversy as, apart from being against racism, it was based on a religion different from Christianity. The movement though only called for giving black people their own rights.  In 1950, this movement was strengthened further by the addition of a powerful speaker Malcolm X, an African American leader with exceptional skills of oratory and great charisma.  The movement did not last long after the murder of Malcolm X under mysterious circumstances. 

Martin Luther King an African American leader with extraordinary leadership and speaking skills became the voice of the black people who wanted their rights. His speeches galvanized a sentiment in African Americans which led to huge peaceful rallies and gatherings all over the United States.  Martin Luther King had a dream. A dream that the black man will become equal to a white man. Like Malcolm X he too was murdered, under mysterious circumstances. His dream still remains the dream of many black men. 

The black Power and Black Panthers movement of the 1960s challenged police brutality against black people.  This movement which even called for armed resistance if necessary, against the police department saw some incidents of members of the group scuffle with the police causing deaths and injuries on both sides.  The movement ceased in 1982. 

Incidents involving racial discrimination in the United States have occurred every now and then. However, the ones which involve the police department perhaps get the most attention. 

A few weeks ago, a black man jogging in a street was shot dead in broad daylight by a white man and his son who felt he was up to something wrong. The killer was a white ex-police officer. 
  
The latest movement in American history appears to be 'black lives matter'. It started in 2013 after one George Zimmerman fatally shot an unarmed Trayvon Martin but was acquitted.  

There appears to be a rather clear pattern to these incidents of police violence. The victim is almost always a black, unarmed man who does not put up any resistance, but is still killed regardless. 

How are this latest incident and the ensuing melee and fracas going to unfold?  It is difficult to tell. Yet, the American president Donald Trump seems to be dividing people with his statements at a time he should be doing the exact opposite. 

Mr. Trump who never makes any bones about his white supremacy, has been reluctant to roundly denounce the death. Instead, he has come down very hard on the protestors with his remarks such as ”when the looting starts, the shooting starts."  He has called the protestors thugs and has warned to use 'vicious dogs and ominous weapons". In a rare standoff between a social media platform and an American president, Twitter attached warnings to two of Trump's tweets saying, 'they implied that protesters could be shot' and that these tweets incited violence. 

It is difficult to surmise and speculate as to what is going to happen next. In the words of Shakespeare, there are many events in the womb of time, which will be delivered. 

The following video reflects on the george floyd's incidence in the context of history of racial discimination in America.