The struggle against Racism; How the killing of George Floyd has changed the scenario
Written by: Divyanshi Thanvi, Student, Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala
Death of George Floyd in the US has paved the way for anti-racist activism in the world. The human tendency to prove oneself superior to another has once again created chaos after the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. The country which fought its long battle with slavery has once again been challenged by another but not a new social evil. Racism is something which everyone has witnessed whether personally or not; history is filled with examples of those who chose to stand against it and changed the scenario. The convention on the elimination of racial discrimination protects the rights of minorities on an international level. Even today Asians face discrimination in western countries. In India, the constitution disbars discrimination and ensures equality. Social media has transformed the current anti-racist activism. As the world is struggling with COVID 19, it has to acknowledge a graver illness as soon as the situation becomes normal.
The murder of George Floyd by a policeman on duty in Minneapolis in the US state of Minnesota has once again brought into the light the infirmity of racism through which the human society still suffers. The incident which took place on 25 May 2020 has gained condemnation and started anti-racist movements across the globe even during the world pandemic. Humans as members of the animal kingdom are obsessed with proving themselves superior to other beings that we ended up segregating ourselves into exclusive biological categories. Racism is not new to this world; our history is filled with all such instances where this human tendency to establish supremacy over other humans led to wars and genocides. The Armenian Genocide by the Ottomans and the Holocaust in early 1940s are examples where millions of innocent people died just because the preparators wanted to cleanse their land off. The Apartheid in Northern America and South Africa reflects the case where the foreign rulers discriminated against the indigenous people because of their skin color. When the Europeans entered the eastern countries, they brought a sense of colonial supremacy along with their draconian regime, the impact was so strong that Asians are still not ready to let go of the ideology which equals beauty and lighter skin. Racism is not concerned with skin color only, it exists at different levels within different societal structures.
What has been more saddening that the incident took place in the country of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Her ‘Nahs’ and his ‘Dreams’ are still an illusion. The US abolished slavery in 1865 but even after the 13th Amendment black people in America have been segregated till today, the Jim Crow Laws, the Red Lining, the Boston Busing crisis are the examples which depict the different ways in which the American society has been threatened with the supremacy complex. Studies show that while the public overwhelmingly supports integrated schools, only a third of Americans want federal government intervention to enforce it. The term “apartheid schools” describes still-existing, largely segregated schools, where whites make up 0 to 10 percent of the student body. The phenomenon reflects residential segregation in cities and communities across the country, which is not created by overtly racial laws, but by local ordinances that target minorities disproportionately.[i]
Racism and Heroes
In Pretoria when Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi was thrown out of the train despite carrying first-class ticket because of his nationality and race he decided to protest against the oppressive laws. This incident sowed the seeds of tolerance and non-violence in his soul and marked the beginning of the Mahatma, the 1963 speech made Martin Luther King Jr. a champion of Human Rights, his dream became dreams of millions of oppressed people in the USA, when Rosa Parks said “NAH!” when asked to vacant her seat in favor of a white citizen, she gave courage to millions of people to say no to oppression, no to segregation and no to being discriminated against in their own country. Nelson Mandela gave voice to the Africans to fight the Apartheid, his ideas and policies gave birth to a constitution which was formed on the basis of racial equality and called for greater inclusion without painting the oppressors in a grey shade.
International Community and Racism
After witnessing two terrific world wars among the nations with great powers, the members of international community to ensure liberty and rights of people signed the UDHR in 1948 which declared “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” .[ii] But racism continued to prosper as some humans denied considering the others as humans and hence their dignity and rights never mattered to them. In the 12th and the 13th centuries the attitudes of European Christians toward Jews became more hostile in ways that laid foundation for the racism and later developed.[iii] The zenith of this development was witnessed in the 1960s when Anti-Semitism tightened its grip from Europe to rest of the world, the Holocaust was over but its shadows still haunted the world. This led to the declaration of International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1965 Considering that all human beings are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law against any discrimination and against any incitement to discrimination.[iv]The convention was successful in curbing what it should but failed when it came to practice of Apartheid as in this case the oppressor was the State itself.
Racism in India
The case in India is different from other nations as citizens of this country have both discriminated and discriminated against in different parts of the world; we were and are still discriminated in foreign countries the difference is merely that earlier we were thrown out of trains now we are accepted only if we do something which is praise worthy. Every day Asian students face and fight racial discrimination in the other side of the globe, in American and English film industry there are various examples which depict Asian and Indian characters as one foot short of happy meal. We as a society discriminated with our people through casteism and surely often do. What began in the European age of imperialism still holds strong in India, 43.5% of still would prefer not to have neighbours of a different race. [v]Tribes like the Siddis are among those neglected ethnic groups in India which have faced years of racial discrimination. As a nation we have always thrived for equitable justice, the constitution under A.14, A. 15, A.16, A.19 and A.21 ensures equality and justice for all. India was amongst the most outspoken critics of apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa. In fact, India was the first country to raise this issue at the UN (in 1946) and played a leading role in the formation of a Sub-Committee against Apartheid set up by the General Assembly. [vi]
From Martin Luther King to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor
Things have changed in the recent past, George and Breonna were killed in spite of the movement for which Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, but the existence of social media and awareness among people regarding racism has changed the scenario now. Today, more and more people have realised the value of liberty and equality, and this realisation has come after years of struggle and revolutions. The countries which themselves suffered from the evil till last century have called for a racism debate at the UNHRC. As the world is struggling with COVID 19, it has to acknowledge a graver illness as soon as the situation becomes normal.
[i]Segregation in the United States, History TV, May 16, 2019 <https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/segregation-united-states> [ii] United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, art 1, Dec. 10, 1948<https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights> [iii] Fredrickson, George M. Racism: a Short Story. Princeton University Press, 2015. [iv] International Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, art. 3, Dec. 21, 1965<https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cerd.aspx.> [v] Max Fischer, A fascinating view of worlds most and least tolerating countries, The Washington Post,( May 16, 2013 at 12:58 a.m. GMT+5:30), <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/05/15/a-fascinating-map-of-the-worlds-most-and-least-racially-tolerant-countries/> [vi] PERMANENT MISSION OF INDIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS NEW YORK BRIEF ON INDIA AND UNITED NATIONS<https://www.pminewyork.gov.in/pdf/menu/submenu__1521185553.pdf>