VOICES ANAND NEELAKANTAN SHINIE ANTONY DAMYANTI BISWAS SHEILA KUMAR SATHYA SARAN MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI THE NEW SUNDAY EXPRESS BUFFET MAGAZINE PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT JUNE 7 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 American Civil War Police ordering protesters to the ground in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd Police killings of two black Americans ignited race riots throughout the US, which is devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Blacks, Latinos and Indians are in racism’s crosshairs as the country’s image as the citadel of equality and freedom is tainted. By RAVI SHANKAR O n Christmas Eve of 1968, astronaut William Anders of the Apollo 8 lunar mission took a photograph which came to be known as ‘Earthrise’—a seminal view that changed our vision of the earth. Last week, visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk created history with SpaceX, which brought the United States back to the future—it was the first space mission to take off from American soil since 2011. However, if astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley could take a picture of their country today from outer space as they orbit through the star-studded cosmos, it would show an excoriated nation that has reverted to its dark past—a legacy of colour prejudice and brutality . How racist is America? Have white supremacists encouraged by Republican rhetoric and partisan police cleaved the US apart beyond redemption? What does this bigoted division mean for the future of the world’s most powerful nation which owes its might to immigrants? Last week, all of America burned. George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was suffocated to death by a white police officer kneeling on his neck. The phrase “I can’t breathe” uttered by the dying man became the war cry resonating through the worst ever race riots to scar the country since Charlotte in 2016. The conflagration of fury among blacks and whites alike spread across over 40 cities in America such as Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and more. Curfew was imposed over most of the country The National . Guard was summoned. Armoured tanks encircled the Capitol. President Donald Trump nearly called in the Army America became a war . zone. COLOUR-CODED NATION The anarchy couldn’t have come at a worse time for America reeling under a deadly Covid-19 contagion inflamed by frighteningly poor public management. Under Trump, the American economy had prospered, business confidence was at an all-time high and an aggressive trade war against China had marked him as an uncompromising Captain America. But a lethal combina- Police keep protestors at bay near the White House in Washington; killing of George Floyd tion of pandemic panic, job loss and an absence at the top to heal and reassure the desolation worsened the xenophobia, which had brought the real estate tycoon to power as an outlier nationalist. Coincidentally after Trump’s rise, hate crimes have gone vertical—aggression on non-whites at last count by the FBI is up by 17 percent; over 45 percent of the victims of all races comprise Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists. Blacks suffer the most; according to Fatal Encounter, a database which monitors US police brutality not , a single day has gone by this year up to May 30 without a police-related death; African Americans are killed at double their population ratio of 13 percent. Today White Americans , excluding White Hispanics constitute 60.4 percent of the population. New census projections predict that the US will become “minority white” in 2045. According to Census Bureau’s 2018 figures, 26.5 lakh Indians lived in America in 2018. A group of 16 Democratic senators, including the first Indian-origin senator Kamala Harris, has requested the Trump administration to take concrete steps to stop minority persecution. Politics in America is driven by colour, just like caste dominates the Indian calculus. In February 2015, former Louisiana Governor and Presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal had joked about Michael Jackson’s hit single asking, “You mean I’m not white?” During the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination campaign, SR Sidarth, a dark-skinned 20-year-old University of Virginia student and campaign volunteer, was mocked by a Republican senator as a “macaca”—a species of monkey . Sidarth posted the videotape on YouTube. It went viral and the senator lost the election. In 1965, US President Lyndon B Johnson had cancelled the official visits of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Mohammed Ayub Khan after they opposed the Vietnam War. Johnson said, “ After all, what would Jim Eastland (conserva- tive Mississippi senator) say if I brought those two niggers over here?” Trump looks like a raging liberal Democrat compared to Johnson. WHITE HOUSE Vs BLACK Last Sunday the lights , suddenly went out in the White House, home to 43 presidents. To many Americans, the sudden darkness symbolised a nation that had lost its way in the long night of hatred. While police fired rubber bullets, pepper bombs and tear gas canisters at protestors outside the historic 19th century building, Trump, wife Melania and son Barron retreated to a fortified underground bunker, last used on 9/11. From its safety Trump threat, ened angry citizens with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.” He declared that ‘many’ Secret Service agents were “just waiting for action,” and “we put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and good practice.” The Service promptly refuted the president. Its press release read, “The Secret Service respects the right to assemble, and we ask that individuals do so peacefully for the safety of all” though its agents faced serious harm and some were injured. Republicans were split over the responses of their president who snapped at state governors to “dominate” the situation and not “look like a bunch of jerks.” A Yahoo News/ YouGov poll conducted on May 29 and 30 found that the majority of Americans think that Trump is a racist and should stop “posting messages on Twitter.” A majority of Americans, over 55 percent disapproved of Trump’s handling of the protests, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, including 40 percent who “strongly” disapproved. Another poll conducted on May 31 and June 1 even said that 54 percent of Americans supported the protests. Former Republican President George Bush obliquely criticised the White House’s handling of the George Floyd Turn to page 2 Los Angeles, 1992 On April 29, 63 people were killed in riots that broke out after four cops accused of violent excesses and arrest of Rodney King were freed. Detroit, July 1967 A police raid of an unlicensed bar patronised by blacks ignited the five-daylong ‘12th Street Riot’, in which 43 people died, 2,000 buildings Calendar of Colour Prejudice the prosperous black district of Greenwood, jealous of the success of the wealthiest African American community of the time in the US. Attacks on the ground and bombing from private planes destroyed ‘Black Wall Street’. 6,000 blacks were jailed and 39 were killed: Red Cross Democrats and mostly black Republicans after a crowd of freed slaves and Republicans in Louisiana protested the newly-legislated Black Codes. Memphis, May 1866 A shooting between white policemen and A still from the movie Watchman on 1921 Tulsa riots destroyed, and 7,300 people arrested. put the toll at over 300. Watts, Aug 1965 The Watts riots of Los Angeles occurred after an African-American parolee was stopped by cops. Thirty-four died and over $40 million was lost in damages. Atlanta, Sept 1906 Armed white mobs attacked African Americans in the Georgia city. According to the Atlanta History Center, black Americans were hanged from lamp posts, shot, beaten or stabbed to death. At least 25 African Americans and two whites were officially reported to be killed. Unofficial estimates put the toll as 100. Detroit, June 1943 Shortages in housing and jobs exacerbated by 400,000 new migrants, both black and white from the South, sparked riots killing 34. Tulsa, May 1921 White mobs destroyed businesses, raped and murdered residents of New Orleans, July 1866 Around 44 were killed in a violent conflict between white black Civil War veterans in Tennesse led white mobs and policemen to rampage through black neighbourhoods attacking, raping, and killing black soldiers and civilians. Forty-eight people lost their lives. It led to the passing of the First Reconstruction Act 1867. Manhattan, July 1863 The New York City draft riots wiped out Manhattan’s black community after Congress passed a law to draft working-class white men to fight in the American Civil War. The official number of dead is between 119 and 120.
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