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Ghost of racism still haunts US society


The recent death of African American George Floyd has once again contradicted the founding principle of the United States.

China.org.cnUpdated: June 11, 2020

On May 25, 2020, after being choked beneath the knees of white police officer Derek Chauvin for almost nine minutes, African American George Floyd died in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Demonstrators protest over the death of George Floyd in New York, the United States, June 6, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chang Jian, a professor of human rights studies at China's Nankai University explained that Chauvin's actions severely violated Floyd's basic human rights according to a number of documents.

In line with Article Three of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." 

Likewise, Article Six of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that "Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."

Moreover, General Comment No. 36 (2018) of the aforementioned Article Six elaborates by saying that, "States parties are expected to take all necessary measures intended to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life by their law enforcement officials, including soldiers charged with law enforcement missions."

However, amid a spate of cases of heavy handed law enforcement in the United States, Floyd has not been the only victim.

On Nov. 12, 2018, Jemel Roberson, an armed African American security guard at a bar in Chicago was killed by police after he detained a suspected gunman.

Ten days later, on Thanksgiving night, Emantic "E.J." Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., a 21-year-old African American, was mistaken for a gunman and killed by police officers, while helping shoppers get to safety.

On March 1, 2019, six police officers shot 20-year-old aspiring rapper Willie McCoy about 25 times in the head, ear, neck, chest, arms, shoulders, hands and back, without giving him a chance to put his hands up.

In addition to manslaughter, rates of adult imprisonment, traffic interceptions and erroneous judgements toward African Americans are much higher than those for white people. In fact, when committing the same crime, an African American man will likely face a custodial term that is around 19% longer on average than a white male perpetrator.

However, judicial inequality is just the tip of the iceberg.

By May 13, despite constituting 12.5% of the entire population in the United States, African Americans have accounted for 22.4% of the death toll during the recent pandemic. This proportion is much higher than the mortality of European Americans, which indicates inequal access to healthcare resources between different races in the U.S.

Therefore, Floyd's death, which has embodied racial discrimination in the U.S., has triggered widespread and ongoing protests both at home and abroad where people from disadvantaged or marginalized groups are demonstrating their anger against racist brutality.

On May 29, 2020, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey spoke during a press conference to say that the protests were a result of pent-up anger and sadness, which he said was "ingrained in our black community not just because of five minutes of horror, but 400 years."

A few days ago, former U.S. President George W. Bush made a statement, saying, "It is time for America to exam our tragic failures. And as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths."

From the Declaration of Independence to Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and from Martin Luther King Jr.'s great dream to Barack Obama's presidential inauguration, racism lurks inside the American society as a blemish, yet to be erased, no matter how significant the efforts that have been made.

"Racism, demonstrated by the slaughter and eviction of indigenous people, the slave trade and apartheid, only came to an end in the middle of last century. It has featured consistently, systematically and holistically in American society," Chang said.

According to the professor, as a result of violent law enforcement, entrapment, job discrimination and separated residential blocks intentionally conceived by financial institutions and real estate agencies, minorities in the United States have inevitably faced discrimination in all aspects of their lives, including politically, economically, culturally and socially.

"The root cause of racism in the U.S. lies in its institutions," Chang explained. "White people, who form the majority in the country, still hold absolute control of state power which enables them to discriminate against minorities in a systematic way."

However, as the United States quells the protests over Floyd's death with military troops, it is impossible not to recall the words of one of its politicians who called the riots in China's Hong Kong "a beautiful sight to behold," Chang added.