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Black Men as Hashtags – By Prof. Phil Alalibo

By Prof. Phil Alalibo | NNP | June 6, 2020 – The brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has heightened our sense of foreboding and brought about a sober reflection on systemic racism in America. If there is any silver-lining from an event that has lessened the essence of humanity, it is the fact that it has enlivened the global population and raised a tsunami of awareness of the slipperiness of justice and the enormous burden of the black man in America.

The horrifying video of George Floyd’s murder has revived empathy not only in America, but across alien lands. Protests have erupted in cities such as Tokyo where such emotions hardly evoke public reaction. Protests are ongoing in London, Denmark, Australia, Mexico, Paris, Montreal, New Zealand, and Toronto to mention a few. Suddenly, the ranks of global citizens have been swelled by a teeming assembly of like-minds to protest the scourge of racism and the dereliction of our collective moral duty.

The protesters are united in their rage of the black man’s reality that has often been repeated over the decades. It is an old movie that has been seen many times with a predictable end. The lives of black men have been appraised less by an oppressive society and system that insist they are an albatross that encumber their collective existence. George Floyd’s life was appraised at $20 by his badged killers. For the above sum, his tormentors demonstrated a malevolent disregard for his life, a black life. He is now a hashtag.

Since the days of Jim Crow laws and well before, the certainty of black death has been the currency of racism in America. Black men have become targets of trophy killings as a rite of passage for some (there are very good ones as well) tainted white police officers. Six years ago in New York, Eric Garner authored the words “I can’t breathe,” as a white officer denied him oxygen with a chokehold. He is now a hashtag. Ironically, those were the same last words uttered by George Floyd as he was asphyxiated by the overzealous knee of a white officer. Not far from Minneapolis in neighboring Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Philando Castile was shot and killed at a traffic stop by a Hispanic police officer in 2016. He is now a hashtag. In Ferguson, Missouri, the same movie played with a similar end, the death of 18 year-old Michael Brown. He is now a hashtag. Twelve year-old Tamia Rice in Cleveland is a hashtag even before he became a black man. Rice was shot by a Cleveland police officer within two seconds of arriving at the scene as the officer thought his toy Airsoft gun was lethal.

The stories are sufficient for a New York Times bestseller of the string of murders of unarmed black men by white police officers or incidents of them being harassed and arrested for engaging in mundane tasks such as bird watching, jogging, studying in the lobby, wearing hoodies, walking in the park or just hanging out. That those unjust killings occurred across the length and breadth of America, underscore a pervasive culture of racial degeneracy.

The black man in America stands on the cusp of ruination and extinction, a keystroke away from being a hashtag. The mutual distrust is rife and begging for redress. The blacks are hurting and need a receptive ear. Their pleas are full-throated and sonorous with genuineness and legitimacy. The relentless and convincing reaction to George Floyd’s death is a manifestation of a broken system across all spheres of society. Such manifestation is evident in the criminal justice system where there are far more black residents in local, state and federal prisons across the country disproportionate to their population composition of 12%. It is also manifest in the chronic economic and social injustices blacks have been subjected to in perpetuity. This community needs agency to assuage the pervasive sense of helplessness emanating from the loss of faith and trust in the institutions that are entrusted with their safety.

Racism and the reign of impunity have festered because of the inaction of white America who fear the erosion of privileges if addressed. With the simmering and sustained global anger, this position may no longer be attainable. They have a critical role to play as chief stakeholders in this pandemic of hate. America is at an intersection of truth that must be contextualized in the crucible of empathy, compassion and symbiotic existence. Its white citizens must understand and reckon with the truth. It will mean educating their young sons and daughters about the importance of equality, decency and respect for human dignity. The normalization of racism and police violence against blacks should no longer be viewed as a black peoples’ problem, but as a collective problem that would consume all, if not adequately addressed.

Soon, the protests will subside, the broken neighborhoods will be rebuilt, the conversations will die and America will return to normalcy. But that normalcy is what has turned many black men into hashtags. America must listen to the cries of “I can’t breathe,” for the enormity of the moment cannot be mistaken. If blacks can’t breathe, America can’t breathe, this is the simple irreducible minimum. Blacks in America are not disposable, therefore, America has to get this right and that very quickly. No nation can be great in the midst of systemic enslavement and legacy of inequality of a section of its population. Greatness can only come with reconciliation of attitudes, mindsets, behaviors and a genuine entrenchment of justice for all.


Prof. Alalibo teaches political science at Centennial College, Toronto

 

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Posted by on Jun 6 2020. Filed under Africa & World Politics, American Politics, Articles, Columnists, Headlines, NNP Columnists, P. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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