On May 25 2020, last week, the world was horrified by the death of George Floyd in monstrous conditions.
He was out buying cigarettes, as he probably did every day. A store clerk suspected him of forgery and called the police.
We know what happens next, George is arrested brutally, while on the images that circulate we see no resistance, the police officer proceeds this heavy-handed arrest, pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck, already on the ground and handcuffed, for 10 long minutes, ignoring his pleas:
“Please, I can’t breathe.”
These last words of George are anything but trivial. Power is having the right, the permission to do something.
This policeman decided that he had the right to control the air George breathed and that he could take it away from him.
Once the astonishment had passed, one wonders why and how? Things had nonetheless evolved in the right direction?
At the risk of disappointing you/us, the equality we advocate is only a facade.
This racist act is captured by the cameras is perhaps astonishing for some, but for black people, it is part of everyday life. Being black is a constant struggle.
Derek Chauvin’s knee held on George Floyd’s neck is the perfect allegory of the oppression suffered by human beings, who are unlucky enough to be the wrong color.
These scenes, even if they are not filmed, exist and no, they do not just happen in the United States.
What allowed Derek Chauvin not to consider George Floyd as a human being to the point of taking his life without batting an eyelid, with his hands in his pockets, was built over years of dehumanization of the black man.
This process, which relegated the black man to the rank of inferiority by scientific theories, has turned into institutionalized racism to the point of devaluing the value of the black man.
No, that knee has not moved one inch.
This knee we feel it when, in the textbooks taught to children, an important part of black history is hidden, and black people only appear to illustrate the “third world”, and “underdevelopment”. We feel it, when instead of giving all the reasons for the problems that the black continent is experiencing, it is decided to make a clean sweep of slavery, of the colonial past (except to salute its good foundation), of exploitation, to speak only of the aid that Europeans give to poor Africans, forgetting to mention that they are indebted to Africa for having plundered its wealth and culture.
When one conceals the prominent role played by Africa in liberating Europe from Nazism.
When one erroneously says that, the black man has brought nothing to humanity except desolation, wars, and barbarism.
This process implants a superiority complex implanted in the subconscious of these children, which will decline in various ways in adulthood.
This knee is pressed on the future of children who are not the right color, when they are categorized, predestined for jobs to keep them at the bottom of the ladder, regardless of their intellectual abilities.
We feel this knee in companies, when even if it has the capacities required, a person cannot aspire to certain positions because of the color of his skin. And let’s not talk about the exceptions, because they only confirm the rule.
This knee, we feel it through the clichés conveyed, the hurtful caricatures we have to face, and when our pleas are rejected or considered inadmissible.
This knee is already on our neck at birth, because of our color, we start our life with a heavy load that we have to spend our life alleviating, dismantling.
Imagine starting a race, knowing that the other competitors are just a few meters from the finish line, and that not only do they set the rules but also that your race is blocked by obstacles, by people throwing stones at you. You can easily guess that reaching the finish line is almost impossible. When you have the misfortune to complain about your conditions, you are told that you should be happy to participate in the race since before, this was far from being the case. That’s what being black is all about. It is being caught up in a system, which creates potentials Derek Chauvin, who in the name of their superiority, give themselves every right over the lives or the fate of other human beings.
Reacting to injustice is the duty of all of us; let us not choose to look away; or to be a passive witness.
It is not only black people who must tackle this injustice, but all those who take part in this race regardless of the color of their skins or religious beliefs must fight alongside them to put an end to it. As Toni Morrison said: “If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees, then you have serious problem.”
As for us, let us educate our children and ourselves, let us make our history our own to contribute at our level to restoring our place in humanity. No one will come to do this on our behalf. It is not a question of identity retrenchment, which can only lead to decline, but rather of establishing a basis to facilitate a re-balancing of the skewed history that is being served up to us in spades and to promote a fair exchange without the dominated and dominant.
You have your privilege; we have our pride. Remove your knee from our past, our present, our future, or else we will do it” by any necessary means” because we have the right to breathe.
Rest in peace George Floyd you have lived a meaningful life.