Race relations in the U.S.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Irrespective of the country you live in, everyone is taught of some of the greatest minds throughout history. These people come from all walks of life and different ideologies. One such leader who was pivotal to the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King Jr.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Christian minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.”
When President Barack Obama got elected to office in 2008, many people saw it as a pivotal moment in the history of politics, something that was thought unachievable in their wildest dreams. Children in school were taught that they could one day aspire to become the President of a great country like the USA. Everyone looked up to Obama to heal the nation. Sadly, after his eight years of Presidency, race relations deteriorated, and black unemployment was higher than when he took office in 2008.
Martin Luther King, Jr’s words would not have been more relevant today. This piece is about the tragic death of George Floyd and the riots that followed suit. It is in no way to say that the riots were solely because of this one incident, but to many African Americans and Americans of other races also, this was an injustice that they saw was throughout history and since the foundation of the country itself. Due to the lockdown imposed in several U.S. states and the mental havoc that created in people’s minds, this incident added flare. Eventually, it resulted in one of the worst riots in the U.S.’s history.
The incident itself
The incident involved an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in his 40s and four police officers of the Minneapolis Police Department. It took place at around 8 PM, on Monday, 25th May 2020, in Minneapolis, the largest city in the state of Minnesota, USA. The police offers were responding to a call regarding alleged forgery. As per the original videos posted to social media websites on Tuesday morning, Derek Chauvin, a white officer, was seen putting George to the ground with his knee over George’s neck by the police car. In the video, George was seen bleeding and shouting in agony, “I can’t breathe,” which eventually led to the chant protestors were using during the riots that followed.
No arms or lethal weapons were used during the encounter on either side, and George was handcuffed when he lay on the ground. However, the cops noted that initially, George physically resisted officers. George’s hometown is Houston, where he had a girlfriend and two daughters. He also had a prior criminal history.
The autopsy report revealed that asphyxiation or strangulation was not the cause of death, and George had underlying diseases, coronary artery, and heart. A second autopsy was requested by those who felt strangulation was the actual reason for his death.
President Trump and the media’s reaction
With the victory of Trump in 2016, the electorate and the general census was divided, and the divide further grew between people supporting the two major political parties. Even as President Trump mourned the death of George Floyd and called for an FBI investigation, his actions were perceived as slow and inadequate. The media’s rating hungry news cycle further amplified this claim. In one of the tweets, President Trump used “thugs” to describe the looters. The press went after this by portraying President Trump as a racist by missing the simple logic of the looters being of all ethnicities. As a reference, in 2015, after the death of Freddie Gray and the Baltimore riots that erupted, President Obama used the same terminology of referring to the rioters and looters as thugs.
Riots that followed
Peaceful protests started in Minneapolis, where the incident took place but later turned into havoc. People were attacked, stores were looted, and the property was burnt. A similar pattern followed in some of the other major cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. Many politicians, mostly Democrats and few Republicans, blamed it on the systemic racism in the country. National Guard, which is a reserve police unit generally deployed during emergencies, was activated in several states. George Floyd’s biological brother condemned the riots. He called for peace, whereas many politicians and people in the media blamed the fault on various ideological groups such as Black Lives Matter (BLM), ANTIFA (Anti-Fascist), and some right-wing fringe groups.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and few prominent leaders garnered praise for speaking against the riots, whereas many other leaders further divided the populous with their talking points. A genuine criticism was also that Trump stuck to his twitter instead of giving a speech from the White House during this dire situation when everyone was hoping for de-escalation.