In cold blood, breathlessly died George Floyd. A knee to the neck, brandished by a callous white racist police officer, Derek Chauvin, being the weapon of choice. This incident tips the cup and triggers unprecedented worldwide protest against racism.
You get a sense of wistfulness thereafter. The journey against racism that started when Black slaves were forced onto the high seas to go and have their energy stolen as they built great America has had trends that tell you that we ain’t started yet. The achievements are there.
From the abolition of slavery, equal rights to vote and work to desegregation of education and transport, etc.
Many names of Black people who resiliently endured to achieve these milestones, the likes of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Oliver Brown, etc, are etched in history. This journey is one of buoyant victories and appalling heart breaks. Floyd led to the pulling down from public places of statues of slave owners and Confederate Generals that symbolise racism.
Then back to square one. A white Atlanta police officer orphans three children when he fatally shoots, unarmed Rayshard Brooks, 27, who was sleeping in his car. This is post all the concomitant angry protests after Floyd.
White officer learnt and forgot nothing in a matter of days. It says the soul of racism remains unscathed because over the years, racists have found a cynical way of dealing with the issue whenever it comes up for scrutiny.
The media has been a useful ally in this effort. First, they give wide publicity to the violent nature of the protest that include looting and arson.
At times an agent provocateur fans the flames to scare racists into digging in against these ‘violent Black people’ and necessitating the use of force against them.
Then they amplify both Black and White voices that speak against racism and provide cathartic emotional comfort even without necessarily doing any harm to the system that thrives racist ideology.
The voice of Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I have a dream speech” and of late the eulogies of the Rev Al Sharpton, are examples.
The White voices come in handy for they have a pacifying effect on especially impressionable angry Blacks, who associate them with atonement and grant hope for amelioration in the status quo even when nothing tangible happens there after.
On the ground, one has higher chances of employment when they are White than Black even if the latter is more qualified. Then tokenism typified by the incorporation and accommodation of what Malcom X called the ‘House Negro.’
You put a Black woman on a board of a corporation or somewhere in high office to impress that Black brains are valued. Or you sponsor a match of White people taking a knee in protest against racism.
Yet there are thousands being shot in the streets on a daily basis (being killed by the police is the 6th cause of death of African-American men in USA). A hundred in every 100,000 of them is shot in this life as opposed to 39 of their White counterparts.)
Thirdly, you have all this symbolism of statues that represent racism and all forms of injustice being removed and thrown in the lakes. It, like a stress ball, provides a physical avenue for people to vent and be associated with those expressing their anger with the psychological relief that they have ‘harmed’ racism.
Yet they will have done nothing to the fact that African-Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of Whites. Or that the former are likely to receive a heavier punishment for the same crime than the latter.
The system that must be broken is the one that relegates Black people to low paying jobs or no jobs at all. That sends them to herd around in cheap housing ghettos where they survive on the hustle and crime. They can only afford a poor education, which will get them worthless employment at the lower end of the ladder or none at all.
That drives young people to find solace in drugs and alcohol resulting in sex and teenage pregnancies.
The offspring grow without proper guidance in the home setting and are likely to go right into the vicious cycle of drugs, crime, unemployment and hopelessness.
It is this sort of Black man that many know and portray as the Negro in America. He who is a threat to society that has to defend itself using the highhandedness of the police.
Floyd and many others should not die in vain. Attack the system of racism against Blacks in America by looking far beyond sweet speeches and symbolic statues.
The devil is in the detail of the well-crafted and fortified system.
Nicholas Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.