“Being black in America shouldn’t be a death sentence,” said Minneapolis Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey, commenting on the absurd, racist killing of George Floyd. The chilling video in which the 46-year-old African American is suffocated to death by a policeman has traveled around the world. While the streets of Minneapolis are invaded by representatives of all the civil rights movements, first of all Black Lives Matter, it is impossible not to wonder: how can you, in 2020, be killed because you have skin of a color other than that of your killer?
My remarks delivered earlier this morning and video below. https://t.co/qC2IgWdm1T pic.twitter.com/XWXhSygaCY
– Mayor Jacob Frey (@MayorFrey) May 26, 2020
Unfortunately, it is not the first time that a harmless African American has been killed during a police operation or convicted of something he did not commit. In Floyd’s case, the police first stated that the choice to stop George’s SUV and arrest him had been dictated by the fact that he was driving in impaired conditions. Later, the version was changed: the police were said to have been called by a shopkeeper who accused Floyd of paying with a fake check.
The only plausible reason, however, seems to be hatred and contempt for human life. The images of the policeman Derek Chauvin (according to the local news already involved in the past in episodes of violence) who presses his knee on Floyd’s throat with his hands in his pockets, deaf to any entreaty by George or passers-by, are precious because they allow us to indignant and reflect on the condition in which African Americans live in the United States of America. The Black Lives Matter movement since 2013 has been fighting against the annulment that often surrounds the death of a black person and against the excessive power enjoyed by the police.
The Minneapolis police department has fired the agents involved in Floyd’s death. The problem of abuse of power by North American police officers has a legal explanation that requires a deeper reading. The police are managed at state, non-federal level: this means that agents are very often prominent members of small communities, a little sheriffs from the Far West, a little moral guide of the place. The fact that Minneapolis is the capital of Minnesota probably changes little in the mentality of those who decide to enforce “his” law by disguising it as justice. This, of course, is not true of every policeman in America, but there is a percentage that sees in the uniform a real rights champion armor behind which to hide abuses of various kinds.
In 2014 it was Eric Garner’s death, who died in the same way as Floyd during a detention in Staten Island, New York. Over the years, the news has merged with the cinematographic or literary art, favoring the multiplication of representations that serve to remind and make people think about what you risk simply by having dark skin. This is the case of the 2019 film The Right to Oppose, which tells the story of Walter McMillan, an African American wrongfully accused of killing a white girl and sentenced to death for this, exonerated only thanks to the commitment of the lawyer Bryan Stevenson. American prisons are full of blacks arrested because, faced with a crime, they “had the face” of the murderer or thief (su left on March 13, 2020 we had told the case of Kenneth Reams, convicted of robbery and imprisoned for 25 years on death row in an Arkansas prison). A not minor detail is that, in the United States, prisoners lose the right to vote.
If the street could speak, James Baldwin’s book recently turned into a film tells the story of young Fonny, a black boy accused of raping a woman by a white policeman, the only (alleged) witness to the crime.
For African Americans, in 2020, walking on the street is still something to be afraid of. Another video also dates back to the beginning of this week in which we see a woman (white) calling the police in panic following a request from a (black) man to keep his dog on a leash. The woman screams that she will tell the agents that “there is an African American man who is threatening my life.” Christian Cooper was actually in that area of Central Park doing bird watching. How can we forget the case of Ahmaud Arbery, killed in Georgia last February with a gunshot wound by two white men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, while jogging. The motivation of the two killers would be that they had mistaken him for a thief.
In this year tormented by the coronavirus, which has already claimed more than 100 thousand victims in the United States, many of them in the African American community, there is a need for real change, a clear and firm response from American politics. President Donald Trump ensures generic justice, while former President Barack Obama is silent on the matter for now. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden shyly asked for federal investigations, while former Minnesota candidate and senator Amy Klobuchar also asked for justice to be done (Klobuchar has negative precedents in dealing with the African American community in her state). Stronger responses and requests to act for the best came from Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, prominent representatives of the American left.
The main struggle of 2020 seems to be the one to get first to the Covid-19 vaccine. This powerful vehicle will save a pandemic, but how will we stop the virus that has been circulating since their birth in the United States, that of racial hatred against what is different from oneself?