We must look at the bigger picture
“We must be concerned, not merely about who murdered him, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy that produced the murder”
The above quote was from the Reverend Martin Luther King’s eulogy of the Reverend James Reeb, a white minister, who was murdered in 1965 after the March on Selma, and remains relevant in the killing of George Floyd here in 2020.
Examining the system, way of life and philosophy that produced the Floyd murder requires an in-depth perspective of the roots of the inhumanity witnessed by millions on that viral video.
This murder, of course, is the latest example of American policemen killing unarmed black men — a recurring theme linked to the foundation of the nation. Racism has fuelled that system’s success over the centuries.
After Christopher Columbus discovered the well-populated Americas, various European power elites, using the justification of racism, committed genocide in rewriting history. After the takeover, that same inhumane philosophy facilitated the brutal enslavement of millions of Africans, whose labour grew the bottom line.
George Floyd’s graphic murder has touched our common humanity, igniting an unprecedented response across the globe. It has been inspiring to see the rainbow coalition of protesters, even including some police, join in expressing anger at the inhumanity on display and calling for fundamental change. Those responding stand on the shoulders of many who came before us.
The milestones of note include the following:
• Those enslaved openly rebelled against that inhumanity across the Americas, including Bermuda. In 1804 the successful Haitian Revolution defeated Napoleon, leading to decades of Haiti’s inhumane isolation by power elites
• Formerly enslaved Bermudian Mary Prince assisted the diverse, London-based Abolition Campaign, leading to emancipation in British territories in 1834
• White abolitionist John Brown in 1859 led an unsuccessful, armed attempt to liberate Maryland and Virginia as non-slavery states
• After emancipation, leveraged by the US Civil War in 1865, the Reconstruction failed to address the implications of slavery. This ushered in the decades of terror fuelled by racism, resulting in the lynching of thousands and formal segregation
• In response to the institutionalised violence, promoted by the likes of the Ku Klux Klan, a variety of movements emerged such as National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and the Garvey Movement
• The 1930s US Labour Movement, while not fully addressing the divisiveness of racism, did move the needle forward somewhat
• The Civil Rights Movement emerged in 1950s and laid the groundwork to remove the formal trappings of segregation and leveraged the cultural shift of the 1960s. Leaders such as Dr King were able to offer glimpses of the potential of overcoming the system’s racially divisive tactics
• In its role as superpower, America’s global policy has cost millions of lives and trillions of dollars in numerous formal and informal wars — from Vietnam to the Middle East. This legacy resonates with that founding philosophy and the implications of racism
• In the political calculus of the reality of America, the race game continues to be played out, resulting in circumstances such as mass incarceration in the 1980s. The United States, with 5 per cent of the world’s population, has 25 per cent of the globe’s imprisoned people — more than two million people, with 40 per cent of those being black. This inequity is being addressed by stalwarts such as Brian Stevenson, who, inspired by his grandmother’s stories of her formerly enslaved father, has liberated 145 persons from death row
Here in 2020 amid the pandemic, the internet has facilitated the exposure of the inhumanity of the guiding philosophy. “Peace” officer Derek Chauvin has exemplified the cruelty of the system that Dr King has urged us to examine. While this incident took place in the US, it does have global implications and, consequently, the response reaches across the planet.
Moving forward, we may be guided by Dr King’s suggestion to consider more than “who” and reflect on the “what”. This could include various principles:
1, Think Globally and Act Locally. Any examination of history demonstrates that this “system” is global in nature
2, Aim to uncover the role of racism as an ideology in the equation
3, Be the change that we want to see in the world
4, Honour those on whose shoulders we all stand
5, If we take to heart MLK’s speech of April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, we may think beyond Minneapolis
Dr King called for a fundamental examination of the philosophy guiding our collective way of life.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda
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