The anger igniting American cities finds its roots in the repetition of police violence and the inequalities made evident by the coronavirus.
There are many reasons for the explosion of anger that has ignited American cities following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, during his arrest by the police, Monday, May 25, in Minneapolis.
There are, first, the very conditions of Floyd’s arrest, stopped by the police after being suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Pinned on the ground in front of the vehicle of the four arresting officers, he was choked by one of their knees, pressed against his throat as he stated he could not breathe.
“I can’t breathe.” These words, heard by witnesses at the scene, are the exact same words of another African American, Eric Garner, who died after his arrest by the police six years ago. Eric Garner was 44 years old and sold cigarettes on a New York sidewalk. He died during his arrest, having repeated 11 times, “I can’t breathe,” to the police officer who held him in a chokehold to subdue him. The similarities between the two cases of police violence are without a doubt the second reason for the explosion of anger, even if, unlike the Garner affair, the white police officer presumed to be responsible for Floyd’s death has been arrested for murder.
However, and this is the third reason, Floyd and Garner are not isolated victims. The list is too long to publish here of black, American men, of all ages, who are regularly victims of police encounters that have gone awry; of the trigger-happy, in a country where a gun is carried like an everyday accessory; or, simply, of ordinary racism. Too many mothers in the African American community are obliged to teach their sons from early adolescence how to behave on the street so as not to arouse suspicion and risk being the target of missteps or misunderstandings. Too many black joggers in big cities know that covering their heads with the hood of their sweatshirts or being unaware of a warning to stop while they wear headphones could put their lives in jeopardy.
Countless and Damning Videos
The scope of this injustice has for a long time been a fundamental fact of black consciousness in the United States. It is, from now on, thanks to countless and damning videos circulated on social media, known by all. Measures have been taken; police cars are equipped with cameras to document police stops, and recruitment within police forces has been improved to account for ethnic diversity. A protest movement, Black Lives Matter, has succeeded in drawing attention at the national level. Americans have even twice elected a black president, Barack Obama.
It is not enough. Another underlying factor explains the rage: the disproportionate ethnic breakdown of some 100,000 victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. African Americans have been 2 1/2 times more likely to die of the virus than white, Latino, or Asian Americans. Black Americans account for more comorbidity factors, such as diabetes and obesity, than others because they also account for more poverty. It is the glaring reality of inequality. President Donald Trump, today, can no longer ignore it.