Recently, African American man George Floyd was killed by police as a result of compression to the neck. This has attracted wide attention because it is a classic case of black and white racial disputes in the U.S., and thus captures a glimpse of America’s current issues. Racial tensions have long existed in the U.S., and because African Americans are a disadvantaged group in their society, there is a relatively high ratio of those living in poverty and those who commit criminal acts. Other than being particularly adept at sports and singing, they are not so competitive in other areas.
Compared to white Americans, blacks are less likely to have health insurance, thus it is more difficult for them to pay medical expenses. Looking at the COVID-19 data, for example, in Louisiana, where black Americans make up 32% of the population, they constitute 70% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
Racial issues and gun control in the U.S. are deeply intertwined. Stemming from the nation-founding pioneer and cowboy spirit, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was passed giving Americans the right to bear arms, which resulted in the overflow of firearms in the U.S.
The U.S. has a population of 323 million, and 275 million guns in the hands of civilians. Excluding children, there is almost one gun per person, constituting half of the world’s privately-owned firearms. This has resulted in difficulties with policing in the U.S. — police sometimes hurt criminal suspects while apprehending them, and sometimes cause accidents or accidentally kill suspects. If the criminal suspect is black and the policeman is white, it will immediately spark confrontations between blacks and whites.
Looking at this incident comprehensively, it can be said that it is an issue with the structure of American society, especially the deep link between U.S. arms companies and political forces. The spread of firearms is already difficult to reverse, which is the price the U.S. has to pay. However, race, education, guns, military enterprises, the U.S. dollar, and U.S. national debt have formed a system that the U.S. has come to rely on. The U.S. is the world’s largest arms exporter, and the export of firearms contributes to regional turmoil. Through this, the U.S. makes a major profit; relevant countries exchange their local currency to U.S. dollars as a means of risk aversion, which has allowed the U.S.’s tertiary industry to prosper long-term. This endless cycle is a major reason why the U.S. has been able to maintain a high standard of living while having a trade deficit.
Even more difficult to believe, 25% of America’s population is functionally illiterate. In some areas, the functional illiteracy rate is even higher than 50%. This means that those people can read and write some basic English, but are unable to fill out forms or read the newspaper, which has resulted in deep social divisions in the U.S. College tuition is too expensive, making universities almost completely out of reach for low-income youth. As a result, although some lower-class citizens are able to become outstanding technological talents and entrepreneurs, a large portion of uneducated, lower-class citizens make up a major fraction of America’s criminals. However, it cannot be ignored that out of the 20 best universities worldwide, 17 of them are in the U.S., among which Harvard ranks the highest. This advantage is something that is very difficult for other countries to surpass.
There are four other reasons why the riots have been so intense. First, it is a result of people staying home for so long because of the virus outbreak; as soon as they had a chance to go out, there immediately was a surge. Also, the criminal incident involving Floyd was all clearly recorded on video, and thus spread quickly on social media and the internet, naturally inciting hatred. In the past, similar cases have occurred frequently in the U.S., but due to a lack of video footage, it was less possible to mobilize.
Additionally, the NBA season, which is a time of glory for black people in the United States, was supposed to wrap up in June. Since it was cancelled due to the pandemic, it has been easier for black people to take to the streets. Lastly, the movement is becoming stronger because President Trump has repeatedly threatened to deploy the military, which, indeed, is not the way in which a leader should alleviate a situation.
In conclusion, America is a world leader in terms of military technology, currency, national debt, and other aspects, but its racial tensions and gun issues are deep-rooted and unchangeable, which will only continue to weaken the U.S.’s competitiveness.
The author is a researcher at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University.
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