The Brutal Legacy of White Racism in America and Beyond

Memorial in honour of George Floyd. Credit National Geographic

The vicious and cruel murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis on 25th May has once again brought to the fore, the instances of racism experienced by people of colour, particularly those of African descent on a daily basis in the United States of America. I was very appalled when I saw the video of what transpired on that fateful day.

George was arrested by police officers investigating a report of cigarettes having been purchased with counterfeit money. He was handcuffed and pinned to the ground and Officer Chuavin placed his knee of George’s neck.George repeated pleaded with the officer for mercy as he was unable to breathe. The police officer refused to remove his knee from George’s neck and the end result was that he strangled George in broad daylight. I ask myself what did this black man do to deserve such a cruel death and more importantly what kind of human being would be so cold as to ignore the desperate cries of a dying man? I still haven’t been able to come up with an answer.

The question must also be asked, how many more innocent black men and women must lose their lives before the system changes? What happened to George can be best described as the public lynching of a black man. I believe that the problem is more systemic rather than situational. The police force in the United States is an organization formed out of the belly of white supremacy. It exists in a white supremacist culture and the result is that the lives of many innocent black men and women are tragically lost in interactions with law enforcement.

Make no mistake, in today’s world black life is seen as dispensable. Black people are often vilified and discriminated against because of our physical features which do not accord with European ideals of acceptance and beauty. Added to this is that fact that the majority of the world’s black population live in the developing regions of the world. Namely, the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America aka“shithole countries" as per U.S. President Donald Trump. The persistent poverty and underdevelopment that characterizes these regions means that we are often seen on a global scale as an inferior race.

This ideology of White Supremacy and Black Inferiority is ingrained in the very fabric of the U.S. society. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,

because of slavery, the black man’s colour became a stigma".

Hence the reason that often times when heinous crimes are committed by white males against black people the justice system is still in their favour and they are acquitted by a jury of their peers. We all remember what happened with Trayvon Martin and countless others.

It is very hard for me to imagine what my ancestors had to endure as enslaved Africans working on the sugar plantations in the West Indies. But I believe that by seeing the video of George’s cruel and abhorrent murder by that racist police officer in presence of three other officers, the world received a wake up call that white racism is alive and well not only in the United States but worldwide.

We in the Caribbean have always been inextricably linked to the struggle for social justice by the black community in the U.S. In this vein, I must mention notable Caribbean sons such as Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Kwame Ture and Bob Marley who in one way or another influenced the civil rights movement.Furthermore, at present many members of our Diaspora are on the streets of various U.S. cities standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. In the words of the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor. Sir Hillary Beckles:

“This Minneapolis fight was Marcus Garvey’s fight; it was Martin’s fight; it was Malcolm’s fight; it was Marley’s fight. It is a Caribbean fight and it’s a global fight”.

All lives can’t matter unless Black Lives Matter. I heard someone say that earlier this week and I wholeheartedly agree . I am against the violence and looting etc but I believe that these protests are an appropriate vehicle to raise global awareness as to the plight faced by Black people worldwide as we seek to surmount the many obstacles that have historically been placed in our path by others in order to restrict, retard and constrict our development.

It is my hope that justice will be swift in this matter and may God comfort George’s family and friends during this most difficult time. The people of the Caribbean are standing in solidarity with you.

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Colin Denoon

Colin Denoon is an Attorney residing in the beautiful twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He is a proud alum of the University of the West Indies.