The murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests in the United States, Canada and several parts of Europe, some of which had become riots, is unfortunately a part of a never-ending cycle.
The cycle begins with an African American person – usually aged between 20 or 40 – accosted by a police officer on the street or in their home. When they protest, they are shot. Protests begin until the situation eases out. And then, the cycle begins again.
Since 2014 to 2020, the United States has witnessed nine murders of African American people under the Barack Obama administration, and four, which included a woman, under Donald Trump’s presidency.
While the world has been attacking the United States’ for years and rightly so, it’s important to note that several parts of Europe, South Asia (which includes India), the Middle East, and China have been equally guilty of attacks on black people. In an article written in 2019, social commentator Ahmed Olayinka Sule in The Guardian wrote that it was necessary to recognise anti-blackness as a separate entity to racism. “ The one-size-fits-all approach to tackling racism leaves under-supported the racial group which suffers the most brutality, hatred and discrimination. Furthermore, in white-dominant societies, blackness has come to be a synonym for crime, laziness, poverty and low intelligence,” he argues in his article.
Poverty amongst the African American community in the United States is evident. A CNBC report said that nearly 23% of reported Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. are African American as of May 20, even though black people make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population. "Conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma that tend to plague African Americans more than other racial groups could be contributing to more Covid-19 deaths. Income inequalities and disparities in access to health care, which generally lead to poorer diets and overall health, tend to hurt minority and lower-income populations more than others," the report said.
Academic Robin DiAngelo in her book White Fragility argues, “Racism is a white problem. It was constructed and created by white people and the ultimate responsibility lies with white people. For too long we’ve looked at it as if it were someone else’s problem, as if it was created in a vacuum. I want to push against that narrative.”
But DiAngelo’s theory that it’s a white problem doesn’t pan if you look at the cases of racism against black people in India and China
Racist attacks on black people is a global problem. India has witnessed several attacks on Ethiopian and Nigerian students in New Delhi, with then law minister and AAP member Somnath Bharti harassing some Nigerian women by accusing them of running a prostitution racket, and even demanding urine samples from them. The assault of a Nigerian student in a Greater Noida mall is also an example of racist attacks in India.
China, too, has seen several cases of violence against Africans living there. A 2017 article in Quartz highlighted how Pan Qinglin told local media how he was looking to “solve the problem of the black population in Guangdong,” saying that Africans bring many ‘security risks’
“Black brothers often travel in droves; they are out at night out on the streets, nightclubs, and remote areas. They engage in drug trafficking, harassment of women, and fighting, which seriously disturbs law and order in Guangzhou… Africans have a high rate of AIDS and the Ebola virus that can be transmitted via body fluids… If their population [keeps growing], China will change from a nation-state to an immigration country, from a yellow country to a black-and-yellow country,” he said.
Europe, too, has faced its cases of hate crimes over the past few years, if this opinion piece in DW news is to be considered.
And unfortunately the problem, many feel is the transportation of Africans to various parts of the world as part of slave trade, has resulted in this behaviour towards people who are black-skinned.
Fact is this: people still think black people are inferior to other races, according to this PEW report. In fact, the Arabic word abeed, which means slave, is still used to describe black people in countries from Algeria to Yemen. According to an article published in New African, quoting historian Paul Lovejoy, between AD 650 and 1600, an average of 5,000 Africans were shipped out per year by the Arabs. This makes a rough total of 7.25 million. Then, between 1600 and 1800, another 1.4 million Africans were shipped out by the Arabs. The 19th century represented the highest point of the Arabian trade where 12,000 Africans were shipped out every year. The total figure for the 19th century alone was 1.2 million slaves to Arabia. During the same period, Europeans were transporting blacks as slaves to the newly-formed United States. Roughly 6,00,00 slaves were transported during this period.
Robin DiAngelo notes in her book that blacks are the ‘ultimate racial other’, with each having their unique racist term coined for them in various parts of the world.
The George Floyd tragedy and the subsequent protests is something the world needs to address, but the rest of the world criticising the United States for inaction isn’t the solution. If we really believe that black lives matter, maybe we need to fix what’s happening in our own backyard when it comes to our individual racism. If we can achieve that one at a time, then hopefully we can look at the larger picture.