Lives matter, black or white

When organizers of protests in the USA, and across the globe, say that the racism has reached boiling point they mean they can’t tolerate it further. It has gone beyond threshold. Life is the best gift humans have been bestowed with. For last fortnight Americans are protesting, against unchecked state violence, organized under the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter”. The death of George Flyod’s and series of deaths of black Americans at the hands of the police and vigilantes of state, America’s current incarnation of a civil rights movement is believed to be more powerful than ever. Let’s all be informed that it is not maiden death of its kind, it is a pattern of deaths that has made the cry relevant. Many top brands have supported the movement “Black Lives Matter” or they are vocal against racism. Taylor Swift responded to President Trump’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet by accusing him of threatening violence after years of “stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism.” The “Star Wars” actor John Boyega gave an emotional speech at a protest in London. This is said to be the biggest collective unrest to protest against state apathy towards lives of black people in America.

Structures of violence IS same around the world. Clashes between people, be it racial, cultural and civilizationtional are ever increasing. It can’t be a coincidence that police officer was staring at the camera, as he was blocking the breath of Black George Flyod. The place chosen for killing was a city centre as if it was a demonstration of a laboratory experiment. This whole situation makes the pain palpable. It is not the death only but the brazen indifference towards the life taken that has lead to the agony of people with brown skin and fair heart. The killing of George Floyd in this manner is seen as symbolic of white superiority and black inferiority. And if I quote New York Times opinion piece of 5 June 2020 “In Minnesota, black people are four times as likely to be killed by law enforcement as white people. Mr. Floyd’s death shares a grim geographical lineage with other black deaths that rocked the nation: The place where he died is roughly a 15-minute drive from Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minn., where Philando Castile was shot by a police officer in 2016 while his fiancée streamed the encounter live on Facebook. The year before that, Jamar Clark was shot by the police as they tried to handcuff him as he lay on the ground, in the same vicinity as where Mr. Floyd gasped for his final breaths beneath a white police officer’s knee.” It can’t be discarded as one of the affairs. It is a proper policy, a structure to other those who are of brown skin. To deny them equality of life.

In an interview in 1971 the great Afro American boxer Muhammad Ali said “I will always ask my mother.  I said mother how come everything is white, I said why has Jesus white and blonde hair and blue eyes? Why is the Lord’s supper all white men? Angels are white, pope is white, and Mary and even angels are white. I said mother when we die we go to heaven? She said, naturally we go to heaven. I said what happened to all the black angels when they took the pictures and the angel food is the white cake and the devil food was the chocolate cake. And I always wondered the president lives in the white house. Marry had a little lamb, and his feet are  white, white snow white, everything was white, Santa clause was white. Everything bad was black the ugly duckling was a black duck, and black cat was the bad luck, and if I threaten you I am going to black mail you. I said mama why don’t you call it white mail…… I was always curious and then this is when I knew there was something wrong.”

Anywhere in the world the privilege among some is in stark contrast to the lack of it among others. How can pandemic be associated with any religion or race. Empathy for some and mindful targeting of some is not a coincidence. Data revealed that black and Latinx communities were being disproportionately ravaged by the pandemic. Here in other parts religious minorities were faced the brunt.

Mantoo known to be a non practicing Muslim was planning to flee to newly created Pakistan at the time of partition, and a friend asked him why he was fleeing to Pakistan as he had remained untouchable to religion. Mantoo replied, “For me, my name is enough to get me killed”. Again we live in times where our name can get us killed, our caste can get us killed, the colour of our skin can get us killed and there will be video documentation of killing, of the police atrocities, killings are screened, live streamed through social media, used to get sadist pleasure and used to get political mileage. When you see  a television debate going on, be it honour killing, killing due to communal conflict, killing of a lower caste or a killing of a dark coloured person it is not a debate, it is mainstreaming of violence against under privileged, marginalized and vulnerable in the society. It is emboldening the perpetrators of violence. This kind of documentation and distribution is unveiling the sadism that black Americans regularly face and minorities in the world too face. It requires political will to serve justice by going after this structure which institutionalizes hate. By the time outrage and despair over Mr. George Floyd’s death filled our feeds, the tinderbox was ready to explode. We hope the current momentum carries forward, but simultaneously those who hash tag “black Lives matter” think about other lives too. The lives of minorities, lower castes and those dying at the hands of powerful. If we really want lives to matter we have to start from where we can, and from where we are. We have a huge role to build an opinion and institutionalize love and fellow feeling. We have to work for a pluralistic society of shared values, where all are equal before law.

Tailpiece: In America, an author and organizer from Minneapolis, where Mr. Floyd lived and was killed, told an interviewer on the third day of protests, when a police station was lit on fire, “it felt like a glorious poetic rage,”

Showket Akhoon is Ph.D Research Scholar, Department of Chemistry, University of Kashmir.