America’s ethnically diverse population has always been seen as one of its greatest strengths. And in spite of being home to peoples of all colours and faiths the ‘Land of the Free’ prides itself on being one nation under God, a land of opportunity and equality where everyone prepared to work hard can achieve their own American dream.
Unfortunately this much-touted construct, which has lured immigrants from all over the world to hammer on Uncle Sam’s door, has been shattered by a pandemic that has disproportionately hit African Americans.
Shocking statistics compiled by the APM Research Lab indicate that three times as many black Americans are dying from the virus than white people.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s killing, people all over the world, among them politicians and celebrities, took a knee in solidarity. Food companies rushed to remove any hint of racism from their branding and ordinary folk of all shades dragged down statues of anyone associated with the slave trade
Opinion is divided on the reasons why but almost all medical experts agree that genetics are not a factor. Instead the blame falls on the plight of African Americans tending to live from pay cheque to pay cheque without health insurance in poor over-crowded neighbourhoods which has resulted in an explosion of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, morbid obesity and hypertension.
Worse, many black and brown Americans have front line jobs in hospitals, fast food franchises and on public transport that expose them to contagion on a daily basis.
Unlike their white compatriots, they do not have the luxury of working from home and cannot afford to remain at home without an income whatever the danger.
The root of all evil befalling black America does appear to be systemic racism whereby black neighbourhoods offer inferior educational opportunities and few avenues for residents to climb the ladder apart from entertainment and sports, open to a talented few. An atmosphere of no hope has fuelled crime and has given birth to criminal gangs.
A report on 1,000 criminal cases recently released by a court in Washtenaw, Michigan found that African Americans are up to 30 times more likely of being charged with felonies than their white counterparts.
The report makes no firm conclusions but does allude to the possibility that racial bias is influencing prosecutors and judges.
Brutal towards people of colour
What we do know for certain since long before the murder of George Floyd is that elements within the country’s police forces are brutal towards people of colour.
So many have been needlessly killed this year alone and it is no wonder that that shooting of Jacob Blake seven times in the back rendering this young father paralysed from the waist down was the last straw for many African Americans from all social strata. They want change. They want equality and justice and they want it now.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s killing, people all over the world, among them politicians and celebrities, took a knee in solidarity. Food companies rushed to remove any hint of racism from their branding and ordinary folk of all shades dragged down statues of anyone associated with the slave trade.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement formed in 2013 as a response to the shooting of Michael Brown was propelled to the fore.
This moment in time when so many white people were empathetic seemed to herald the dawn of a new era. Sadly, however, the uplifting spirit of unity is fast dwindling and instead is being replaced by widening divisions due in part to the hijacking of peaceful protests.
Cities’ like war zones
Swathes of cities’ downtowns are looking like war zones after buildings and cars have been torched and businesses destroyed or looted.
Moreover, militancy displayed by some leaders within the movement who demand to be compensated for the treatment of their ancestors is off-putting to many whose sympathies were once firmly with BLM’s aims.
Touting white privilege when so many whites are brought up in poverty without the chance of a college education is not the way to bring everyone onside.
Violence breeds violence and in this case it is fuelling the memberships of white militias and white supremacists not to mention the ambition of President Donald J. Trump for another four years.
On Tuesday he will travel to the troubled city of Kenosha, Wisconsin where one of his teenage admirers shot and killed two protesting Blake’s shooting and wounded another.
But his presence there will not be Consoler-in-Chief but it will rather reaffirm his self-appointed role as America’s Law and Order President, who champions the police.
The US president is no longer courting black voters which comprise less than 14 per cent of the population; he is using this crisis to frighten whites, especially those who remain undecided, to join his camp.
Unless BLM tones down the rhetoric and ceases to make excuses for the perpetrators of violence, he might just succeed.
— Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East