Beyond Blacks and Whites in America

The recent episode of the recurrent tension between blacks and whites in America (i.e., the death of George Floyd under arrest by the Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020) reveals a politically incorrect truth that the two opposing sides in the subsequent uproar have made counter-productive moves. It is therefore necessary to go beyond blacks and whites to effectively resolve social injustice in America.

Beyond the side of Whites

On one side of the subsequent uproar are those (mostly whites but some blacks) who have tried to defend the 4 police officers involved and/or condemn the subsequent disruptive protests on the street. There are 4 main reasons which have contributed to this defense.

First, there has been the rise of "hate crimes" against minorities due to Trump's "white nationalism" in the last few years. More "white nationalists" (or "alt-cons" under Trump's watch) are emboldened to speak out about "white's pride" under Trump's leadership in the last few years than in other recent presidencies -- just as more "black nationalists" were emboldened to speak out about "black's pride" under Obama's leadership. As the most visible leader of "white nationalism" in America, Trump has no interest in uniting the two opposing sides and has not even bothered to pretend doing so. In fact, Trump even threatened the protesters with military deployment and the release of mean dogs.

Second, the wealth and power of the U.S. are still predominantly controlled by whites, so it is no coincidence that their interests often take precedence over those of other groups (viz., blacks, Latinos, Asians, indigenous tribes, etc.). Of course, there are whites who are poor, just as there are non-whites who are rich -- but the comparison here is relative (on average), not absolute.

Third, there are the very long criminal records of George Floyd (like a "career criminal"), as he was convicted many times and was jailed at least 5 times over the decades for "drug abuse, theft, criminal trespassing, aggravated robbery as well as entering a woman's home and pointing a gun at her...while looking for drugs and money" -- and "was under the influence of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time of arrest," as reported in GGI on June 6, 2020.

And fourth, there is the serious health problem of George Floyd, who was tested positive for "COVID-19" on April 3 and had underlying health conditions like "heart disease," "hypertension," "fentanyl intoxication," and so on -- so the Hennepin County Examiner's Office concluded that "Floyd likely died from a combination of underlying health conditions, being restrained by police, and any potential intoxicants in his system," as reported on Fox 5 (in June 2020).

The problem here with these 4 reasons is that they do not justify the death of George Floyd and that those who misuse them only inflame the recurrent tension between blacks and whites in the U.S. for centuries. It is important then to go beyond the side of whites in the debate.

Beyond the side of Blacks

On the other side of the subsequent uproar are those (mostly blacks but some whites) who have tried to defend George Floyd and/or condemn the long history of racist police brutality in America. There are 4 main reasons which have contributed to this defense.

First, there is the tendency of "police brutality" against blacks in America. "White" police officers in the U.S. are more likely to use force against a "black" suspect than a "white" one. Thus comes the radical "Black Lives Matter" movement (especially under its military wing).

Second, there is the cultural legacy of "slavery" which portrays "blacks" as the lesser Others. The current call by many black activists (and some white supporters) for the removal of statues linked to the "Confederacy" during the Civil War is a good example.

Third, there is the evidence that George Floyd did not resist being handcuffed by 2 police officers (shortly after a criminal complaint from a store clerk against George) -- although Floyd refused to enter the police car, which led the police officer Chauvin to kneel on his neck after unsuccessfully trying to get him into the back of the police car, as reported by Nathan Green on June 8, 2020.  

And fourth, there is the call for continued protests on the street to force change in the (American) system. This often resulted in "riots," "lootings," "arsons," "attacks on anti-protesters," "shooting at or beating up police officers on the street," "setting police officers on fire," and so on - in order to "make them pay," as some black protestors bluntly put it.

The problem here with these 4 reasons is that they neither prove the "guilt" of the 4 police officers under the law (because the trial has not yet begun) nor justify the "riots," "lootings," "physical assaults on the street," and so on, against others who have nothing to do with the death of George Floyd.  So, those who misuse them only inflame the recurrent tension between blacks and whites in the U.S. for centuries. It is important then to also go beyond the side of blacks in the debate.

Two wrongs do not make one right

Mahatma Gandhi, in his struggle against British colonial violence in India, urged his supporters not to return violence with violence, as an eye for an eye would quickly make the world blind. It is one thing to rationally condemn police brutality, but it is a leap of logic to end up self-gratifyingly engaging in "riots," "arsons," "lootings," "physical assaults on members of the opposing side," "forced prosecutions of others," "unreasonable demands," "militant moves," and so on.

The destructive impact of this mob politics here is three-fold. First, one contradicts oneself by becoming as violent as those (on the opposing side) whom one accuses of being violent in the first place, albeit in the opposite direction. Second, one self-destructively builds up the notorious reputation of being violent oneself, so this perpetuates future police violence against other members of one's group who are perceived as violence-prone. And third, one allows the emotion of hot headedness to "force" charges on all alleged suspects, ask for "excessive" punishments, make "unreasonable" demands from society, "demonize" the other side, "glorify" one' group, and so on. In this three-fold way, mob politics (mostly by blacks) perpetuates the vicious cycle of violence between blacks and whites in America -- just as racist politics (mostly by whites) has already long contributed to it. Pouring more oil to a fire does not extinguish it.

As the old saying goes, two wrongs do not make one right. If it is unjust to commit police violence (mostly by whites), it is also unjust to commit street or mob violence (mostly by blacks). By the same logic, if it is wrong for police officers to be hot-headed, it is also wrong for street protesters to be hot-headed. And if each side really believed in its unshakable self-righteousness, then the world would easily end up in hell.

It is therefore high time to go beyond the sides of blacks and whites in the recurrent tension of racial politics in America, as a more effective solution to resolve social injustice is the need of a new form of leadership with a true sense of impartiality, who side neither with blacks nor with whites. This new leadership, if realized, will then be truly called "post-racial," "post-ethnic," "post-gender," and so on, for the first time in history, towards the direction of a transformational "post-democratic" politics (as already discussed in my earlier works) that the world has never known.

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Author`s name Peter Baofu