Publish date22 Jun 2020 - 13:42
Story Code : 466840

Anti-Racism Protests Unlikely to Improve Things for the Oppressed in America: US Analyst

Interview by Alireza Hashemi
US analyst Robert Fantina says the ongoing pro-black protests in America are unlikely to lead to eradication of systematic racism in the country in the near future, since the US government is still unready to hear the voice of the oppressed minorities.
Anti-Racism Protests Unlikely to Improve Things for the Oppressed in America: US Analyst
US analyst Robert Fantina says the ongoing pro-black protests in America are unlikely to lead to eradication of systematic racism in the country in the near future, since the US government is still unready to hear the voice of the oppressed minorities.
Fantina made the statement in a recent interview with Taghrib News Agency on the consequences of protests held across America following the murder of George Floyd on May 25.
Four weeks after Floyd's killing, anti-racist protests continue to spread in America, with some people taking down historic statues as perceived symbols of racism and oppression in the country.
Big demonstrations were held across the country on June 19, known as the Juneteenth, the holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Q: How would you interpret Floyd’s death: an isolated case of officers mistreating criminals or a sign of systematic anti-black racism?
A: The savage murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer is only the latest in a long line of atrocities committed by whites against Blacks. Racism is endemic in U.S. society and is inherent in U.S. governance. The police in the U.S. routinely kill defenseless, unarmed Black men, women and children, and very infrequently suffer any consequences as a result. Had the murder of George Floyd not been recorded on video by various bystanders, and had not cities across the country erupted in protest demonstrations, it is unlikely that his killer would have been charged with a crime. The prosecutor in the county where this crime occurred probably knew that protests would turn to out-of-control violence unless he charged the fired policeman with murder.
Q: During the last couple of years, we have frequently heard of pro-black protests in the US. Are we witnessing a surge in pro-black activism? If yes, then what’s the reason?
A: During the decade of the 1960s, before people of African descent in the United States were granted equal rights, at least on paper, Black activism first burst onto the scene with the establishment of the group, the Black Panthers. They brought attention to the racism that was, and remains, so much a part of U.S. society. They protested, often peacefully but sometimes resorting to more violent measures, to bring about change. But in the decades since then, people of color and concerned whites have learned that changing laws does not mean changing attitudes. U.S. government officials continue to try, with some success, to repress the Black vote, and, of course, the murders of Black citizens are routine in the United States.
The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the prominent civil rights activist who was assassinated in 1968, once said that “A riot is the voice of the unheard”. When the repression becomes simply too great to tolerate, when people of color see that they do not have the same educational and employment opportunities as their white counterparts, and when they see their friends and families members gunned down for no reason whatsoever by police officers, it is not surprising that they will want to make their voices heard. It seems that the U.S. government doesn’t hear peaceful protests and petitions; they are always followed by business as usual.
Q: Some US officials lamented the tragedy and the officer responsible for Floyd’s murder is to be put on trial. So why don’t the protesters give up?
A: The protestors don’t give up because the brutal murder of George Floyd is not the problem, but rather a symptom, a sad and tragic symptom, of a much larger issue, and that is racism in the United States. The anger and rage that the U.S. is now seeing is the result of centuries of oppression. If the protests stop now, they will start again when the next Black man, woman or child is brutally and senselessly murdered by a white police officer.
The U.S. National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien, denies that the U.S. police are racist. By choosing to ignore the reality that so many Black citizens see on a daily basis, he only makes matters far worse. And so the protests will continue, either now, or following the next atrocity.
Q: Did Donald Trump act as a responsible president? What’s the buzz about his tweet?
A: It would be difficult for a U.S. president to act less responsibly. By saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, Trump has resurrected a racist quotation from 1967. He has threatened that protestors within the nation’s capital will be faced with vicious dogs and powerful weapons. On the evening of June 1, several transport trucks filled with heavily armed soldiers arrived at the White House in a scene generally only observed in authoritarian capitals.
Trump has referred to protesters as ‘thugs’, another term with racist overtones.
Unlike any president before him, he has done nothing to soothe the nation as anti-racism protests spread from city to city. He is currently presiding over a nation with the largest number of fatalities from Covid-19; with unemployment reaching levels not seen since the worldwide Great Depression, and with civil unrest at a level seldom seen in over fifty years. And he has done nothing to resolve any of these issues; indeed, his actions have worsened them.
Q: How do you assess the behavior of the US corporate media? Did they provide their audience with fair, realistic coverage of the developments?
A: The U.S. corporate media can be seen as the propaganda arm of the U.S. government. While there are some independent news outlets that report the news with clear and realistic analysis, most of them simply say what the government wants the public to hear. Currently, many news programs are blaming the victims by condemning the violence and looting that are occurring in some cities. This focus on looting is a distraction from the issues that cause so much anger and frustration and that we are now seeing reaching the boiling point for many people. There would be no looting and no violence, if Black and brown citizens in the United States were treated the same way that white citizens are treated.
Q: How does the police treatment of the protests compare to similar protests in other countries? Is the US well placed to lecture other governments on how to treat the opposition?
A: In other countries with repressive governments, the police treatment of the protestors is similar. There is seldom any real effort to explore and resolve the problems that are causing people to take to the streets; the only effort is to maintain peace at the expense of freedom and civil rights.
The U.S. government is forever, but very selectively, lecturing other governments on how to treat the opposition. It condemns the Venezuelan president’s efforts to maintain peace in that country, as the U.S. supports terrorists there. It has the nerve to criticize any human rights violations it sees in Syria, while it supports the racist, violent, murderous apartheid regime of Israel. The U.S. is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, and it used them on two large civilian populations. And yet every president, including Trump, attempt to portray the U.S. as the moral leader of the world. Such proclamations are not believed anywhere outside of the restricted base of support on which Trump relies.
Q: How will Floyd’s murder affect the future of America? Is this a milestone or something?
A: It is unlikely that the murder of George Floyd will change the future of the United States. It is possible that Trump will not be re-elected in November, but his likely opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden, will not be much better. Eight years of the administration of the first Black president didn’t usher in any significant change regarding racism in the U.S; indeed, one of Trump’s major attractions for his ignorant base of support is his own racism.
It would take several pages to list the names of defenseless, unarmed Black citizens who have been murdered by the police in the last few years, but the list of those murderers who were charged with a crime would be very short. When such a murder is committed, it is usually the Grand Jury in the state in which the crime occurred that decides whether to file charges, and most Grand Juries side with the police, rather than with justice. Mr. Floyd’s murder will not change that.
Robert Fantina is a human rights activist, journalist and author of numerous books. His latest book is Essays on Palestine.
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