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US Protests: Illustration Of Consequences Of Judicial Systems With Loopholes For De Facto Racism

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

On May 25, 2020 a video went viral online that showed a racist European American policeman called Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of an unarmed handcuffed African American man George Floyd (46) and sadistically suffocating, on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while three other American policemen, one also of European descent and two of Asian descent just stood there watching. That happened despite George Floyd’s complaints that he could not breath. According to the video evidence, Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, nearly 3 minutes of which were after Mr Floyd had became unresponsive. George Floyd was pronounced dead on arrival in hospital, although recent autopsy results reported on June 1, 2020, say he died right there on the scene of the savage assault.

The four policemen were instantly fired by Minneapolis police boss after the emergence of the video online. However, it was not until after five days on May 29, 2020, Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third degree murder and second-degree manslaughter of George Floyd. The charge was upgraded on June 3, 2020 to second-degree murder.

The other three policemen complicit in the torture and murder of George Floyd remained unconfined until June 3, 2020 when they were arrested and charged for aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

The barbaric murder of George Floyd triggered massive angry protests in Minneapolis following the emergence of the video online, and continued as days went by even after the arrest of the main perpetrator of the murder Derek Chauvin, with protesters ignoring curfew there and even presence of National Guard soldiers. The continuation of the protests in the city even could probably be because it took rather long time for law enforcers to make the arrest Derek Chauvin given the compelling video data about the incident, as well as the initial letting of the three accomplices of Derek Chauvin go free.

Initially the angry protests looked as if they were to confine to Minneapolis and Minnesota State at large, because there is where the murder George Floyd took place. But that was not the case. Within days of the murder, the angry protests became nationwide, spreading like wild fire from Minneapolis to almost all cities in USA including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, St Louis, Atlanta, Washington DC, Denver, Las Vegas, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Portland, Louisville, Memphis, Philadelphia, and Boston, among others.

The rapid spread of the angry protests from Minnesota to almost all parts of USA doubtlessly indicate increasing complexity and broadening context of the barbaric murder of George Floyd. Particularly, the nationwide angry protests indicate a shift of focus from the specific case of the barbaric murder of George Floyd per se, to what the murder could mean to the African American community as whole and probably other minority groups in USA. In other words, the nationwide protests seem to put the barbaric murder of George Floyd within the broad context of the issue of chronic racism and police brutality in the USA, or probably to put it more precisely the issue of chronic de facto racism and associated police brutality in USA.

The 14th Amendment to US Constitution has some provisions that we think forbids racism in the country. As such, institutionalized or de jure racism in USA could be argued to be non-existent at least in normative sense. What African Americans are experiencing could be said to be racial injustice emanating from de facto racism. The latter is often a substantive issue in an existing judicial system that although normatively forbids racism and related crimes, its enforcement tools and mechanisms at various administrative levels are not good enough to ensure that. In other words, de facto racism is unofficial racism inherent in official practices of individuals and institutions who exploit weaknesses in the laws of the land.

Getting back to USA, de facto racism suffered by African Americans could therefore be said to be unauthorized racism by individuals and institutions like police authorities and courts, by which loopholes in the judicial system are exploited to unleash racist evil on others like what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. To stop that from continuing happening again and again, hence meet the demands of the nationwide angry protesters will require reforms to the judicial system that will make the provisions of the 14th Amendment to US Constitutions watertight for de facto racism. It may even require attitudinal and behavioural change by Non-African Americans.

Despite obvious complexity of the nationwide angry protests following the savage murder of George Floyd, US Federal Government reportedly chose to take simplistic view of the social crisis, dismissing the angry protests as violent unrest or riots instigated by anarchists, and far left groups especially Anti-Fascist group (ANTIFA). As such, the Federal Government is said to have urged states to crush the protests by using tough crackdown on them including activation of National Guard forces. Failure by the states to do that, the Federal Government threatened to send military forces to do the job for them.

As indicated in previous sections of this commentary, the angry nationwide protests are well intended with clear call for change in the judicial system that will eliminate US chronic de facto racism and associated police brutality. The above stance on the protests by the Federal Government is therefore definitely incorrect and misleading. We will elaborate further but briefly as thus.

In pluralistic democratic societies worldwide, far left groups, far right groups, and other radical groups have always taken advantage of well intended powerful protests, to also advance and consolidate their goals but are never the major drivers of such protests. Neither are they able to hijack the agenda of such protests. Focusing on such marginal groups is therefore unhelpful, overreaction, probably pure silliness, or deliberate attempt by decision makers to distract public attention from prevailing real issues in society hence evading responsibility for doing something about them.

It is probably in recognition of the above premises of the ongoing nationwide angry protests in USA and irrelevancy of the Federal Government response, that the protests have received support from all over the world. Particularly, solidarity protests have been reported in Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, France, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, and Spain, among many others. In addition to showing support for the US racial injustice protests, protesters in some of the other countries are also decrying existence of similar racial justice issues in their own homelands.

Furthermore, the African Union (AU) is said to have denounced the murder of George Floyd by the four racist policemen and reiterated its distaste for racism against African Americans in USA. Also, the European Union (EU) has reportedly warned against use of tough crackdown on the nationwide protesters as threatened by the Federal Government. Even more recently on June 12, 2020, 54 African countries through Burkina Faso’s ambassador to the United Nations requested United Nations Human Rights Council to urgently debate racism and police brutality against people of African descent.

Notwithstanding, nevertheless, it is important to observe at this juncture that nationwide angry protests against de facto racism and affiliated police brutality in USA have occurred before after the adoption of the 14th Amendment to the country’s Constitution, at varying magnitudes. However, none of previous federal administrations including that of the first African American president could address the issue satisfactorily and resolve it. Why it has remained so difficult for different federal administrations to do that is so far not clearly understood.

In concluding our commentary, we would like to say that the angry racial injustice protests in USA following the barbaric murder of George Floyd by police have offered two great lessons to the world.

Firstly, judicial systems that have loopholes for de facto racism can lead to serious consequences to society, at least in the long run. Specifically, evil individuals holding positions in public institutions like law enforcement authorities, may use the loopholes to unleash evil on innocent people belonging to racial groups different from theirs. That is what happened in Minneapolis, MN, when the four racist policemen unleashed murder on unarmed handcuffed George Floyd through strangulation. Even some courts dominated by racists may use the loopholes to deny justice victims of de facto racism. Such racist evil acts may in turn trigger massive societal unrest as good people demand from decision makers, a stop to the acts once and for all. Failure by decision makers to respond appropriately to the peoples' demand may not only escalate the unrest but may encourage racists employed in public institutions to continue terrorizing society in the guise of doing their official duties. The failure may also result in erosion of citizens’ trust in law enforcement and polarize society.

Secondly, US angry post George Floyd murder racial injustice protests are particularly significant to the world because de facto racism hence racial injustice is not confined to USA. It has been reported to also exist, albeit perhaps at lesser extent, in several European countries, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and even China.

(Updated: June 15, 2020)


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