What racists fear: George Floyd
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” — Desmond Tutu
The events unfolding in America regarding the number of police killings in various states, culminating with the televised murder of George Floyd, has opened the eyes and the mouths of many across the globe. Even here at home, we saw one of the largest peaceful demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As a black man raising two black sons, there is something very personal to know that Mr Floyd's murder was inflicted upon him so brazenly by law enforcers who knew they were being recorded.
In a world with laws that have severe punishment for such cruelty, it is incredible that law enforcement would justify such actions in their mind. These officers were clearly confident that what they were doing in the name of law and order would be condoned by the wider audience that would eventually view it.
My thinking is that such unbridled hatred must be fuelled by the extreme fear of what a gasping black man represents to the officers and their racist supporters over the centuries. Symbolically, to the racist, George Floyd represents a people who are so dangerous that they must be destroyed by any means necessary.
Blacks and whites have lived together for hundreds of years in America. By all accounts, whites have benefited excessively and disproportionately from the relationship. Therefore, let us ask ourselves a question: what threat did George Floyd represent that would evoke such deep-seated fear and hatred that resulted in such a cruel, televised murder?
It is also equally important that we marinate on this in Bermuda because we are not strangers to the hazards of racism or the bogeyman fear and threat of the black man.
We are all aware of the statistical facts of black men in the prisons in the United States. With this knowledge, why didn't the police officers simply have Mr Floyd locked up instead of killing him?
With a system that is obviously and evidently working in the favour of this racist police officer, why was he not satisfied by the clear opportunity to handle the situation within the confines of the law? Clearly, there must be something else other than racial prejudice that would cause the officer to literally squeeze the life out of a helpless, handcuffed black man with his face pressed into the pavement.
It leads me to conclude that what racists fear most is not the things that we as blacks do to harm ourselves and the communities in which we live. It seems clear that it is something else because we statistically display enough negativity to satisfy them.
The jails are overflowing with us. We are mainly the unemployed and underemployed. We are the homeless beggars in the streets. We are the face of the poor, the fatherless and on and on.
For anyone who hates a race of people so much, surely these statistics should provide sufficient pleasure to them. However, the hatred continues and intensifies with such disgusting and revolting acts as this murder and many others.
Therefore, the obvious conclusion is that what fuels these racists is not our dysfunction as black men, but our successes. George Floyd, under the police officer's knee and under the knee of the system the officers represent, recognises a people that will not be confined to the place that racists reserve for him.
Symbolically, George Floyd did not stay confined to the plantation with the rusty chains of enslavement. He did not satisfy himself with being segregated and relegated to accept the life of a second-class citizen. He has demonstrated a determination and diligence to lift himself up by his bootstraps to pursue the rewards of commerce and to be educated to the highest possible levels.
George Floyd represents a people who have defied all the odds and have shown no sign of relenting. He has gone as far as to manifest the “audacity of hope” to occupy the highest office in America. Accomplishing this, he overcame extraordinary and astonishing stumbling blocks put in his way and unprecedented racial attacks to leave an historical example that will inspire his people for generations to come.
I imagine that for a racist, this is truly terrifying. George Floyd has proved that he is unstoppable. With his last breath, he called for his dead mother like a child, but this has inspired America, Bermuda and other nations around the world to take to the streets in spite of a global pandemic.
Even the deployment of the strongest army in the world and the fury of its commander-in-chief have not stopped the protests and calls for justice.
It must drive racists to severe acts of desperation because George Floyd's very presence in the world promises a future that the demonstrators are demanding.
A world where people are not afforded opportunity because of their complexion but because they earned or created it. A world where racists do not have enough supporters to hold any office whether they be in governments or in boardrooms. A society where racists are called out and not allowed to enjoy the power of perpetuating racist policies and systems. A world where the virtues of liberalism and conservatism unite to allow everyone the opportunity to live a productive and fulfilling life.
I imagine that, to a person whose perception of himself is that he has the guarantee of a favoured place in the world because he looks a certain way, it must be terrifying what George Floyd represents. I invite such persons to look around carefully at how history is unfolding. What your existence is hinged upon is hopeless and has no future.
I also invite the rest of us to appreciate that it is not the rage, the rioting and the looting that is ultimately feared or is most powerful. It is our combined determination to continue manifesting to the world that “still we rise”.
We continue to express human dignity in spite of more than 400 years of racist murders, lynchings, rapes and injustice. We will not be stopped. This is what George Floyd's racist haters fear most.
• Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017