George Floyd is a memory now. This year on May 25, the African-American man was brutally murdered in broad day light by American police personnel. The incident opened the festering wounds of cruelty inflicted on black community. Floyd’s gruesome killing symbolizes the inconvenient truth that racism freely roams in the corridors of the American society. Are policing reforms enough to curb this discriminatory practice?
There are number of sporadic incidents wherein the colour of skin intersects in routine interactions. The prejudicial attitude unzips painful experiences overloaded with insult, intimidation and violence. Most of these cases go unreported. Racist remarks, racist gestures and racist tendency in behaviour are either ignored and are casually dealt with. From the relics of past, Floyds killing has brought the debate of racism back to being a living reality.
The notion of postmodern, rational and scientific connotation of an egalitarian American society stands exposed. Discrimination is dwelling with a permanent niche. There are concrete walls and compartments that segregate and slot people on the basis of ethnicity. American society is still carrying the historical baggage, and the burden of racism remains. Failing to purge off the stains of past, prevailing culture of offenses and crimes against black community reflect the deep rot ruining the fancy image of America.
The massive wave of resentment and protests condemning George Floyd’s cold blooded murder rattled the American society. Imposition of white supremacy over native black American people reflected in such brutal incidents is derogatory and deplorable. The shameful past mentioned in school text books is re-scripted on roads and public places contradictory to the tall claims of abolishment of racism.
Legislations that sealed the menace of racism have failed to completely sanitize the ethnocentric bias and prejudice towards black people. Ascription still overpowers achievement. Merit becomes a hostage of mean mentality. Education that socializes and inculcates universalistic orientation struggles to erase and eradicate parochial features fuelling hate instead of harmony.
How is the new variant of racism getting transpired in society? The processes of ideological indoctrination are at work in many discrete and disguised designs. Individuals and institutions infected with superiority syndrome adhere and advocate ideology of hate. Once such belief gets cemented in thought and perception, the ‘other’ becomes stereotyped and labeled as an enemy. These virulent strains are either overtly reflected in symptomatic behavioral patterns or they temporarily remain hibernated. Any odd situation acts as a trigger to ignite and activate the malicious software of racism. The result is the inhuman display of cruelty generated from the internal currents of prejudice.
There are subtle and soft tactics passively operational that inject the venom of racism. The disapproving racist lexicon in vogue in communication describes black people carrying ‘undesired differentness.’ Black sheep, black mail, black market, black list, black money etc are all pejorative adjectives bracketing black people with disapproving misnomers. White supremacy is visible in vilification of black people in literature, theatre, artifacts, movies, branding and marketing of products etc.
Profit and popularity should never compromise with negative profiling of black people. This must stop now. The blending of beauty with fairness in the film industry bears bitter fruit. The myth – fair is lovely – has been presented and projected beyond proportion in advertisements. Such illusionary inflation distorts perception and hijacks rational outlook. Irrational and illogical thought processes only breed indifference towards black people.
Institutional reforms to a larger extent have reshaped the mis-identity associated with historically marginalized communities. But the legacy of crimes and offenses perpetrated against the members of such groups still haunt with recurring incidents of violence and discrimination. The fact is vindicated by the recent cases of brutality involving Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Trayvon Martin in the USA. George Floyd’s killing is a fresh reminder that All is not well in American society.
Racism is real and multifaceted. All forms of overt and covert precedence and practices endorsing racism must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny. Individuals and institutions paddling such vicious cycles for their petty gains are patronizing criminal acts. The panacea for racism cannot be confined to cosmetic reforms in policing only. A comprehensive and multi-pronged strategy to plug all pores leaking racist tendencies is an inevitable emergency. Let us not wait for another George Floyd to sacrifice his life. It is time for the systemic overhaul to bury this shame once for all.
Bilal Kaloo is Assistant Professor, Department of Education, South Campus , University of Kashmir.