From ‘I Have a Dream’ To ‘I Can’t Breathe’

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Above photo: George Floyd protest, “I can’t Breathe, by Nam Y. Huh.

The killing of George Floyd by the police has caused an anti-racist and anti-fascist uprising in the United States that resumes the Black Lives Matter struggle begun in 2013 after the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, a struggle that gained strength after Michael Brown was shot by the police in 2014, in Ferguson.

As it happens, it is probable that the death of one person may have at least the same influence on the outcome of the presidential election in November as the  COVID-19 crisis, that has already claimed the lives of more than 110,000 people in the U.S. Floyd, a security guard who was out of work due to the pandemic and who was accused of paying for a plate of food with a counterfeit $20 bill, was choked to death by police kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

But the killing of George Floyd is just the tip of the iceberg of a system based on racism and class discrimination that allows 99% of deaths at the hands of the police to go unpunished, during the years 2013-2019, according to the website Mapping Police Violence. In 2019 alone, there were 1,042 people shot by the police.  According to a Washington Post investigation, this represents a proportion, per million people, of 12 white persons, 23 Hispanic persons, and 32 African American people.  That is to say, in the United States, you have a three times higher chance of dying by a police shooting if you are Black.  Another terrifying statistic shows that although about 50% of all people murdered are white, about 80% of those given the death penalty have been condemned to die for having killed a white person. And if we consider the pandemic of COVID-19 that is battering the planet, in the U.S., where the population is 13% African American, 26% of those dead of COVID-19 are Black.  One need only glance at the project The Covid Racial Data Tracker to confirm that those who have the highest risk of dying from COVID-19 are African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.

All this is occurring less than 5 months before a presidential election where, initially, the re-election of Trump seemed probable, based on favorable figures of economic growth and reduction of unemployment, and faced with a Democratic Party in disarray with a boring candidate like Joe Biden. Nevertheless, today, with a health crisis that translates into an unprecedented economic and social crisis that has left more than 40 million people unemployed between March and May and has produced a 6% reduction in the GNP, according to the IMF, Trump is not so certain of victory and is starting to show signs of nervousness.

This is why the tycoon appealed back to his hard-core base, tweeting on May 29, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” referring back to expressions used by racists and police in 1967 at the height of the civil rights movement, and in 1968, the year of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  On the 31st, he tweeted “Law and Order,” the same phrase with which Richard Nixon won the election in 1968.

Confronting Trump are the African-American population, migrants, students, women, and environmentalists, with doubts about whether Biden will be capable of articulating their demands and of including the sectors of society that they represent, along with the left-wing led by Bernie Sanders.  Due to this, his running mate as vice-president, assuredly a woman will be very important. It is unlikely that it will be Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has a centrist profile similar to that of Biden, nor Elizabeth Warren who is too far to the left for the Democratic establishment.  The choice of vice-presidential candidate may be among three African American women:  Kamala Harris, a senator from California; the former candidate for governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams; and the representative from the key state of Florida, Val Demings.

And just as Make America Great Again was a powerful message that allowed Trump to win an election, Black Lives Matter is also in the struggle on social media, where one of the most important figures is Bernice King, the daughter of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, who re-publicized the 1963 Letter From the Birmingham Jail, in which her father said that the greatest stumbling block for Black freedom is not the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderates, who prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice. King stated in the letter that “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

From Make America Great Again to Black Lives Matter.  From I Have a Dream, from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr in 1963 to I Can’t Breathe of George Floyd in 2020, the pandemic is changing the geopolitical chessboard, and the rising up of the people of the U.S. against structural racism in their society may also change the result of the presidential election.

Meanwhile, as a new poster of George Floyd says, there’s no fire big enough to be able to bring justice for the murder of George Floyd and the other victims of police and racial violence in the United States.

Translation, Resumen Latinoamericano, North America Bureau