The Brazen Daylight Police Murder of George Floyd and The Racist Origin of American Policing
by Muhammad Al-Hashimi
As I write, the whole world is now in its 40th day of protest of the brazen daylight murder of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department on 25 May 2020. George Floyd, a 42 year old Black man and resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was apprehended by four uniformed Minneapolis police for allegedly trying to make a purchase in a local store with a fake $20 bill. The police arrived, ostensibly after having been called by the store owner, as Mr. Floyd was about to drive away. A bystander caught the officers on video as they dragged Mr. Floyd from his car, handcuffed him, and threw him to the ground. At no point did Mr. Floyd offer any resistance. Of the four officers present, one proceeded to put his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd while two of the other officers dug their knees into Mr. Floyd’s back. The fourth officer stood guard to hold off the crowd that had gathered.
For the next 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the first officer, Derek Chauvin, dug his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck as Mr. Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. At one point, Mr. Floyd was so desperate that he called out for his mother who was already deceased. Several of the bystanders pleaded with the officer to remove his knee, but to no avail. After some 6 minutes or so, it was clear that Mr. Floyd was dead, but the officer kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for another 2 minutes. What people saw on social media across the world was the senseless suffering and pain of a man due to the color of his skin, a clear violation of fundamental human rights as enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human. Mr. Floyd had been brazenly murdered in broad daylight by Officer Derek Chauvin and his three accomplishes. Their wanton murder of a defenseless Black man has resulted in the manifestation of a global martyr. The George Floyd Anti-Racist Movement has been launched across the world!
George Floyd: A Global Martyr around Whom the World has mobilized
Of course, the video of the foregoing incident went viral on social media all across the world. The result has been a virtual spontaneous global outcry and protest movement against racism that no one could have imagined. It exploded across the globe like an uncontrollable wildfire! In several cities, large and small in the UK, France, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Tunisia, Kenyan, South Africa and so many other places, crowds of protestors have gathered to protest the murder of George Floyd, crowds largely mobilized by the international Black Lives Matter movement
In addition to its global spontaneity, the movement has shown a self-generating sustainability unique in modern history. More specifically, as I write, this global movement is now in its 40th consecutive day of unrelenting protest since Mr. Floyd’s murder! And there does not seem to be any end in sight as many more forthcoming protests have already been announced.
Added to the spontaneity and self-sustainability factors, there is a third interesting factor to consider: this movement is primarily a youthful one where a significant number of white youth are participating. In fact, the various media over the last 40 days have brought us video of protest gatherings in different parts of the American nation and the world where the white youth clearly outnumber the non-white participants.
There is a fourth factor that is so astounding to me: this movement is taking place in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, more often referred to as COVID-19. To date, close to 12 million people across the world have contracted this respiratory disease while over 500,000 across the world have died from it. Fortunately, nearly 7 million people have recovered from the disease. And yet, when global health officials are calling for the world’s populace to practice social distancing and stay indoors as much as possible to avoid contracting the disease, the young protesters are disregarding this advice for safe behavior and bravely gathering together across the globe on a daily basis to speak out against the injustices that result from racism.
These foregoing four factors combine to make for an urgent, unique global call against racism and racist practices in society never seen before. As a result, some positive change is beginning to take place.
Global Outcry against Imperialism, Colonialism, and Slavery
The global outcry has not only been against racism by way of police brutality. It has actually sprung into a historical outcry against imperialism, colonialism, and slavery, as all of these institutions are inextricably connected to racism. As a result, statues commemorating icons of these institutions are being torn down or desecrated in many parts of the United States and across the world.
For example, in the United State, statues of General Robert E. Lee, the former military leader of the southern Confederate states, are being desecrated or torn down in many southern states. It was the southern Confederate states which seceded from the American union and then went to war to protect their economic investment in slavery. This episode was known in American history as the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865. The Confederate states were ultimately defeated and by 19 June 1865, the last of African slaves held in bondage were freed. Also, statues of Christopher Columbus are coming under attack because of his genocide of Indigenous populations in the Caribbean. In the southern American state of Virginia, a statue of Christopher Columbus was torn down, set on fire, and rolled into a nearby lake by anti-racist protesters.
In the American nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., the statue of Confederate General Albert Pike was torn down and set afire by anti-racist protesters on 19 June 2020. Then, on 22 June, anti-racist protesters attempted to tear down the statue of one the most notorious racists in American history. This is none other than the statue of Andrew Jackson that stands in Lafayette Square, right across the street from the White House. Andrew Jackson, in addition to owning several African slaves, signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 in his capacity as the seventh president of the United States. Under this act, some 60,000 individuals of the Cherokee, Muskogee, and other Indigenous nations were removed from their lands in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee and forcibly marched several hundred miles to reservations in Oklahoma. This series of forced marches conducted by the American army over the next several years saw several thousand individuals die of whooping cough, typhus, dysentery, cholera, and starvation. This series of forced marches became known as the “Trail of Tears.” The attempt to tear down the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Park was unsuccessful as a contingent of police moved in to force the anti-racist protesters away from the statue.
Not even statues of the so-called Founding Fathers have been spared. A statue of Thomas Jefferson, a rich plantation slave holder who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and who became the third president of the United States, has been torn down in Portland, Oregon on 14 June. Then on 18 June, a statue of George Washington, the slaving holding first president of the United States and also a signatory of America’s founding documents, was also torn down by anti-racist protesters in Portland on 18 June.
In the United Kingdom town of Bristol, a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston was torn down by angry anti-racist protesters and rolled into nearby Bristol Harbor. In Belgium, a statue of the imperialist and colonial oppressor King Leopold II was removed by officials in the city of Antwerp after being defaced there by anti-racist protesters. In the Caribbean nation of Barbados, anti-racist activists have been signing a petition to have the statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson removed from its capital, calling it an egregious affront to the Black population.
Philonise Floyd Goes Before UN Human Rights Council
Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, went before the United Nations Human Rights Council by way of a pre-recorded message on 17 June 2020, delivering said message to the Council’s Urgent Debate on Racism. Mr. Philonise Floyd said, in part, the following:
“The officers showed no mercy, no humanity and tortured my brother to death in the middle of the street in Minneapolis with a crowd of witnesses watching and begging them to stop, showing us black people the same lesson yet again: black lives do not matter in the United States of America…. You watched my brother die. That could have been me. I am my brother’s keeper. You in the United Nations are your brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in America, and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd. I am asking you to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us: Black people in America”
The Urgent Debate, only the fifth to take place since the Council began its work in 2006, was initiated by the Council’s African Group, after a call from more than 600 rights groups to investigate alleged police violence resulting from George Floyd’s death (see ‘“I am my brother keeper,” Philonise Floyd tells UN rights body, in impassioned plea for racial justice’ at https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066542 ).
Economic Fallout: Racist Logos Bite the Dust
Many makers of consumer items that have for decades carried racist logos on their products are running scared as a result of the George Floyd Anti-Racist Movement. For example, on 17 June, The Quaker Oats Company, makers of the Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mix, announced that it was retiring this 130 year old brand and logo because the logo is a negative stereotypical depiction of a Black woman, Aunt Jemima, who appears to look like she might have been a house slave who was a cook in the kitchen of a white southern plantation owner. Of course, the fear here is that the Quaker Oats Company might become the target of the protests spawned by the George Floyd Anti-Racist Movement. Better to get rid of Aunt Jemima logo before this happens!
Even a professional sports logo has gotten caught up in this fear because of economic reasons. The Washington Redskins, an 87 year old member of the National Football League, is the winner of five national championships over the years. A storied team that has produced several great players who have gone on to be elected to the National Football League’s Hall of Fame, is nevertheless a team which has beendogged by protests, especially in recent years, over its team name of “Redskins” and the logo depicting an Indigenous warrior. From the Indigenous point of view, the word “redskins” has its origin in the genocidal effort of white colonial settlers to eradicate Indigenous peoples in order to steal their land. Beginning in the 1600s, colonial officials began to offer rewards to white settlers who went out and killed Indigenous people. Once killed, the settler had to cut off the scalp of the dead individual and bring it to the colonial officials for a monetary reward. This process was a kind of incentivized, freelance killing of Indigenous people by any white settler looking to make extra money. The avaricious settlers gave a name to the mutilated and bloody corpses they left in the wake of scalp-hunts: redskins (p. 65 of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of The United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz).
Now, Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins has said for years that he would not change the racist name of the team in spite of continual protests from Indigenous people and their supporters. Suddenly, Mr. Snyder has been approached by his corporate sponsors who are sensitive to the George Floyd Anti-Racist Movement. They have put pressure on Mr. Snyder to change the name or else they will withdraw their sponsorship. As a result, Snyder recently announced a “review of the name” which clearly indicates a change of the team’s name is forthcoming.
A Bit of History: African Slavery and Indigenous Peoples’ Land Theft are the Original Manifestations of Racism in America
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz—Malcolm X—often said, “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.” Thus, a look at the historical origin of the modern American police department starts in the 17th century with the importation of African slaves onto the American mainland.
White European settlers, mostly from the British Isles, had begun to establish colonies on the eastern seaboard of America in the early 1600s. These white settlers also began importing African slaves—mostly from the coastal regions of West Africa—to do the hard labor in these nascent colonies. At virtually the same time, these same settlers were appropriating land, mostly by force, from the Indigenous communities with whom they came in contact. This forceful appropriation meant the removal of the Indigenous communities to make space for the continuous arrival of new settlers from the British Isles and Western Europe. This expansion would evolve into the so-called original 13 colonies. So, for the next approximately 160 years, both the importation of African slaves and the forced appropriation of Indigenous lands continued until the dawn of the American Revolution in 1775.
Now, while the white colonial settlers were perpetrating the naked aggression against the Indigenous populations and maintaining the oppression of African slaves, the colonial settlers themselves were experiencing, in turn, the economic oppression of their colonial masters, the imperialists as represented by the British monarchy. There began the rumblings of revolt by the burgeoning white settler population against the economic oppression of their colonial master. By 1775—the same year the settlers revolted against the British Empire thus precipitating the American Revolution—the colonial population of the 13 colonies had grown to an estimated 2.5 million inhabitants of which approximately 460,ooo were African slaves. Concomitantly, this population of 2.5 million had expanded over some 375,000 square miles of Indigenous land, land forcibly taken from the people of the Indigenous nations who would eventually become known as the “American Indians.”
The Slave Patrols and The Militias
It is very important to understand that several decades before the formal founding of the American nation, the colonial slave holders formed armed slave patrols to hunt down and round up African slaves who had managed to escaped from colonial plantations. Concomitantly, the colonists formed armed militias for the purpose of forcing Indigenous peoples off their land to be confiscated by the colony. It would be these slave patrols and militias that would be the foundations of the modern police departments. Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in her book titled Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment informs us of this relationship:
“Following the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles [29 April to 4 May1992] and the development of Cop Watch groups in cities around the United States, along with the widespread incarceration of Black men in the 1990s, what had long been known by scholars, but rarely acknowledged in media or history texts, became increasingly clear on a national level: The origins of policing in the United States were rooted in slave patrols…. Black people escaping to freedom were hunted down to prevent labor loss to their white slavers, and also to send a message to those enslaved who might be strategizing to lose their chains through rebellion or insurrection” (bold emphasis added; p. 59, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment by Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz).
Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz goes on to give insight into the anti-Indigenous militias and their interface with slave patrols:
“By 1704, the South Carolina colonial government had codified slave patrols and embedded them within the already existing volunteer militias, whose principle role was to repel Native Americans whose land they had appropriated. Members of slave patrols were drawn from militia rolls in every locale. The South Carolina structure of slave patrols was adopted in other colonies by the mid-eighteenth century and would remain relatively unchanged until the Civil War. Following U.S. independence, this structure and practice was applied to what became the Cotton Kingdom, following the U.S. wars against the Muskogee peoples that ended in their forced relocation to Indian Territory.”
“Virginia was the first of the thirteen English settler colonies in North America, but there were fewer enslaved Africans there, and they were more widely dispersed than in [other settler colonies such as] South Carolina, as Virginia settlements were long surrounded by resistant Native communities. The Virginia militia was founded for one purpose: to kill Indians, take their land, drive them out, wipe them out. [White] European settlers were required by law to own and carry firearms, and all adult male settlers were required to serve in the militia….[After establishing militias several years earlier,] in 1705, the Virginia colony enacted its first slave code and established slave patrols….In 1727, the Virginia colony enacted a law requiring militias to create slave patrols, imposing stiff fines on white people who refused to serve.” (bold emphasis added; pp. 60-61 of Loaded)
Abuses Meted out by the Slave Patrols and the Militias
Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz, in quoting from an 1860 book titled The Practice at Law in North Carolina, informs us of the activities of the slave patrols that had been and continued to be standard across early America:
“The patrol shall visit the negro houses in their respective districts as often as may be necessary, and may inflict a punishment, not exceeding fifteen lashes, on all slaves they may find off their owner’s plantations, without a proper permit or pass, designating the place or places, to which the slaves have leave to go… The patrol shall also visit all suspected places, and suppress all unlawful collections of slaves, shall be diligent in apprehending all runaway negroes in their respective districts; shall be vigilant and endeavor to detect all thefts, and bring the perpetrators to justice, and also all persons guilty of trading with slaves; and if, upon taking up a slave and chastising him, as herein directed, he shall behave insolently, they may inflict further punishment for his misconduct, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes” (bold emphasis added; p. 63 of Loaded).
The foregoing was basic, standard punishment. Repeated attempts to escape the plantation by the same slave might have ultimately resulted in the amputation of part of the slave’s foot such as a toe in order to significantly reduce the slave’s ability to run away.
The militias had their own brand of brutality against Indigenous nations. For example, one Indigenous nation, the Tuscarora, were dealt with in the following manner by white settlers:
“During the first three decades of Virginia settler incursion, the colony’s militia was used solely to attack and burn down Tuscarora towns, incinerate their crops, and slaughter the families who resided there. By 1722, the embattled Tuscarora joined [another Indigenous nation] the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) and migrated north for protection from settler terrorists, while some communities remained in severely deteriorating conditions” (bold emphasis added; pp. 61-62 if Loaded).
Thus, the extreme brutality against African slaves and Indigenous peoples was unconscionable. And it is this immoral behavior of brutality that has been passed down from generation to generation as the slave patrols and militias morphed into modern American police departments. This is what is meant by the institutionalized racism of American policing!
The Texas Rangers
One of the most celebrated and glorified police departments in America today is the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers as an institution was glorified in a TV show titled “Walker, Texas Ranger” starring Chuck Norris. The show originally ran for 8 years from 1993 to 2001 on the CBS network. It now can be seen in reruns on various secondary TV stations. Underneath this veneer of celebration and glorification is a very dark history: “Like slave patrols in the Deep South, the Texas Rangers—formed primarily to kill Comanches, eliminate Native communities, and control colonized Mexicans to take their land—also hunted down enslaved Africans escaping to freedom. They [the Texas Rangers] began to operate in the 1820s” (bold emphasis added; pp. 65-66 of Loaded by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiza). Thus, the Texas Rangers was a super militia and slave patrol organization, originally established to suppress and oppress all non-white individuals in the early Texas territory that would eventually become the 28th state in 1845.
The American Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution
In reading the original American Declaration of Independence of 1776, one will find that Indigenous peoples, more commonly called “American Indians,” are called “savages.” In the original American Constitution of 1787—Section 2 of Article 1—African slaves are referred to as 3/5th of a person. In other words, the seeds of racism are enshrined in the very documents that patriotic Americans regard as the epitome of human rights and justice. Now, critics may say that the context in which these references are found to Indigenous people and African slaves does not necessarily imply racist attitudes. For me, the context is irrelevant; the moment you define a person as a savage or as a fractional being, you are relegating those individuals to a subhuman status. Consequently, you have taken a racist attitude toward these individuals. Subsequent events will prove that while the lofty language generally of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution may encourage one to regard these documents as great examples of human rights and justice, these documents are nevertheless human rights failures. The Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution are human rights failures because these documents were intended only for white men! And here I mean “white men” literally, for even white women did not enjoy equality with their white male counterparts given the fact that they did not enjoy the right to vote until 1920, approximately 133 years after the original Constitution of 1787 was penned! That right was enshrined in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Section 8 of Article 1 and the Second Amendment of the American Constitution
Section 8 of Article 1 of the American Constitution outlines several powers of Congress, among them the power of calling forth anti-Indigenous militias from which, as we have seen, the slave patrols were often selected: “The Congress shall have Power… To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” Then, four years later in 1791, the Second Amendment, which insured the continuation of the militias by allowing their formation without an act of Congress, was added to the Constitution: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Notice how the lofty language of both the original Constitutional statement and the subsequent amendment hides the original racist purposes of the militias. Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz clarifies this point as follows: “Although the U.S. Constitution formally instituted ‘militias’ as state-controlled bodies that were subsequently deployed to wage wars against Native Americans [i.e., Indigenous nations], the voluntary militias described in the Second Amendment entitled settlers, as individuals and families, to the right to combat Native Americans on their own….Slave patrols comprise…[the other part of] the story in the Second Amendment;…and slave patrols seamlessly evolved into modern police forces,…[and] have normalized racialized violence and affinity for firearms in U.S. society (bold emphasis added; pp. 53 and 71 of Loaded).
Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall and The American Constitution
No less a personage than the great Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to be appointed Chief Justice on the American Supreme Court, realized that the American Constitution was originally for white men only. In 1987, he actually turned down an invitation to attend a celebration marking the 200th birthday of the publication of the Constitution. In an article titled “Marshall on Constitution: ‘Defective from Start’” written by David G. Savage, we learn the reasons why Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall refused to accept that invitation:
“Distancing himself from the ‘flag-waving fervor’ and the spirit of celebration that has accompanied this year’s 200th birthday of the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said [to a reporter] that the original government plan [i.e., the Constitution] was “defective from the start” and required “two turbulent centuries” to correct. “The true miracle was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life,” Marshall, the first black to sit on the high court, said in a speech delivered to a legal convention in Maui, Hawaii. He pointed out that in 1787, the Constitution’s framers left out a majority of Americans–women and blacks–when they wrote the phrase, ‘We the People.’”
“[Marshall goes on to point out that]… it took the Civil War and the three constitutional amendments that followed it–the 13th, 14th and 15th–to abolish slavery and give all citizens ‘equal protection of the laws,’…[while]…the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, gave women the right to vote….”
“Marshall said he hopes that this year’s bicentennial celebration [of 1987] will not be a ‘blind pilgrimage to the shrine of the original document,’ but rather will inspire “a sensitive understanding of the Constitution’s inherent defects, and its promising evolution through 200 years of history.” (bold emphasis added; italicized excerpt taken from “Marshall on Constitution: ‘Defective from Start’” by David G. Savage, online at https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1987-05-07-mn-4540-story.html)
Even though working in a major center of power as the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Thurgood Marshal was not mesmerized by an originally defective document he had been sworn in to uphold. For him, the Constitution was only meaningful due to “its promising evolution through 200 years of history.” And that evolution has not ended as the fight for freedom and justice continues in America to this very day.
Stolen Labor and Stolen Land: The Foundation of American Capitalism
A strong argument can be made that the cotton produced by African slaves was an important pillar to the foundation of American capitalism. By 1803—62 years before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that ended de jure slavery in America—cotton was the leading American export. (In fact, cotton would remain the leading American export until 1937 under the de facto form of slavery known as sharecropping) During that time, Great Britain, the most powerful nation in the world, imported 70 to 80 percent of its cotton from the cotton-producing slave plantations of America! This cotton powered the British textile mills. Overall, slave-grown cotton counted for more than half of America’s export earnings. On the global level, African slavery in America produced 60 percent of the world’s cotton. “Thus slavery paid for a substantial share of the capital, iron, and manufactured goods that laid the basis for American economic growth.” (bold emphasis added; quotation taken from “Historical Context: Was Slavery the Engine of American Economic Growth?” by Steve Mintz, online; also see “Why Was Cotton King?” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., online).
Obviously, as slave cotton expanded, more land was required. Thus, there remained an ongoing thrust to forcibly divest Indigenous populations and nations of their lands by any means necessary. By the 1850s, most native peoples in the south and southeast—the Cherokee, the Muskogee, the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the Shawnee, and so many others—had been driven off their original homelands to small plots of land east of the Mississippi River to an area mostly located in what is now the state Oklahoma. Indeed, this area became known as “Indian Country.” The lands of the south and southeast were especially suited to raising cotton and therefore greatly coveted by slave masters and land speculators.
The slave patrols and the militias made certain that stolen labor and stolen land maintained their centrality in the growth of America under capitalism. After the American Civil War, though legal slavery had ended, it was replaced by sharecropping, an economic relationship between former slave master and former slave very close to actual slavery. Meanwhile, the militias, often assisted by the American Army, continued to forcibly appropriate native lands west of the Mississippi River, pushing Indigenous peoples onto relative smaller tracts of land called reservations until the Pacific Ocean was reached. This is because these lands west of the Mississippi, though not necessarily suitable for growing cotton, were, nevertheless, found to be rich in gold, silver, oil, and other resources.
Clearly, American capitalism is founded on the stolen labor of African slaves and the stolen land of the Indigenous nations. The slave patrols and the anti-Indigenous militias helped to maintain the institutions of stolen labor and stolen land. The slave patrols and anti-indigenous militias themselves became institutions whose racist ideologies were passed down to our modern police departments.
In the foregoing presentation, I have barely scratched the surface with regard to how insidious is the racist history of the institution of policing in the United States of America. First of all, the institution of policing in America is based on the institutions of the African slave patrols and anti-Indigenous militias. Secondly, the African slave patrols were designed to ensure the ongoing theft of African labor; the anti-Indigenous militias were designed to ensure the ongoing theft of the land of the Indigenous peoples and nations. Thirdly, stolen African labor and stolen Indigenous land were the foundations of white American corporate wealth. Lastly, white American wealth became the foundation of American capitalism. Thus today, modern American policing and American capitalism are inextricably linked. This fact will help to understand why modern policing instinctively protects American corporate property while oppressing non-white communities.
Clearly, as I have attempted to show above, today’s police brutality against Blacks and Indigenous peoples is a result of the American imperial project that forced and maintained Blacks in slavery and forcibly removed Indigenous peoples from their lands, lands stretching from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans. The wealth of America has its foundation in the stolen labor of African slaves; the wealth of America has its foundation in the stolen land of the Indigenous nations. Thus, America as a nation is guilty of crimes against humanity ranging from enslavement, physical mutilation and rape all the way to genocide of non-white peoples for most of its history!
As We Look to The Future
As I have watched The George Floyd Anti-Racist Movement unfold, I have observed two things. First of all, there have been some young activists who have voiced the opinion that if the current peaceful protests do not work, a more militant approach may have to be taken. Secondly, it has been mentioned by some activists that they are very well aware of the fact that some police departments have been actively recruiting white nationalists, individuals who believe in the primacy of white supremacy in the corridors of political and economic power in America. Thus, there are some very threatening signs lurking in the background.
If systematic racism in the American system of policing is going to be tackled effectively, some dismantling and defunding of police departments must take place. This will be the only the way to tackle the deeply imbedded institutionalized racism that now prevails. However, this will require a sensible, workable plan to rebuild these dismantled, defunded institutions into new institutions where racist practices are minimized. They must be rebuilt in such a way as to handle legitimate policing activity that significantly reduces the occurrence, even the possibility, of racist abuse of the non-white populace. This will, in my opinion, go a long way to defuse the tension that exist between both sides—the uniform police and the non-white populace that they are supposed to be serving. Otherwise, the hardening of attitudes I mentioned above may lead to civil disturbances that are based on armed conflict, especially in the urban areas.
Thus, meeting the primary demands that the George Floyd Anti-Racist Movement calls for—dismantling and defunding police departments and replacing them with entirely new institutions meant to serve non-white communities, not abuse them—may be the last hope in America to peacefully bring about change in America’s police institutions. May we all pray for and work for peaceful solutions.
Muhammad Al-Hashimi, PhD, is an Adjunct Professor at Euclid University (Pole Universitaire Euclide), www.euclid.int, Washington, DC, USA; and Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa. Copyright© Muhammad Ali Alula Al-Hashimi, 2020 / 1441; (4 July 2020 / 13 Dhul-Qada 1441)