- Latest riots are a testament to rabid polarization
Police violence against black Americans is one of the many faces of the USA’s long, violent and troubled history of racism. From slavery to the Civil War, the Jim Crow laws, the KKK and modern-day America where the president is Donald Trump and his predecessor was the first ever black president of the country. Even in Obama’s eight years, police brutality was a perennial problem, especially considering the killing of Michael Brown Jr. by a white police officer who shot the unarmed 18-year old in Ferguson, resulting in weeks of protests and riots. George Floyd is the latest African- America victim of an unchecked culture of police highhandedness, who was choked under a white police officer, Derek Chauvin’s, knee for nearly nine minutes, lying face down on a road, in Minneapolis. Floyd had passed out by minute five and expired soon after. Nationwide protests are ongoing and the National Guard has been called in to control the situation that has deteriorated into riots, violence and destruction. The images are reminiscent of the 1992 Los Angeles riots when the brutal beating of Rodney King, a black man, by four Caucasian LAPD police officers, was videotaped and released, followed by a trial where all assailants were acquitted by the jury.
President Donald Trump has not made things easy during this latest episode, not for himself nor for the various law enforcement personnel currently on the streets attempting to get a grip on the situation. His tweet quoting a racist former Miami police chief in the 1960’s, saying “when the looting starts the shooting starts” has been met with severe backlash. Twitter flagged the tweet with a disclaimer saying that it violated the site’s rules about glorifying violence. President Trump’s ability to be recklessly insensitive and offensive to a particular group of people in almost any given setting is uncanny. Perhaps he can’t help it and in normal circumstances he would have even gotten away with it quite easily, despite the national outrage at his comments. But these are not normal times. There is significant frustration and anger over his mishandling of the coronavirus that has caused over 100,000 deaths, making the USA the worst affected country in the world by a quite a margin. With a presidential election months away and campaigning virtually impossible, his reaction to the Minneapolis incident is in some ways even more disastrous than the virus. Rereading one of his own tweets from 2014 during the Ferguson riots, blaming them on ‘weak leadership in Washington’ might help him understand the problem, but won’t offer any viable solutions for this mess.