Anti-racism protests are sweeping the United States following the death of African-American George Floyd. The video of him being kneeled on his neck by a white police officer was appalling. Floyd pleaded he could not breathe, but the police officer did not move an inch despite the efforts of other citizens to stop him. Even a large man could not survive nearly nine minutes of suffocation in handcuffs.
There was already deep-seated anger in African Americans. A black man was shot by a white man while jogging, and another black man was shot by a police officer for driving through a red light. Research shows the second leading cause of death for black men in their 20s is police brutality.
The fact that African Americans have been hardest hit by COVID-19 reflects inequality in U.S. society. Social distancing and timely treatment are a luxury when you are already financially struggling. As of 2018, black households earned two thirds of their white counterparts on average. The percentage of African Americans who attained degrees at college is 10 percentage points lower than the national average.
Instead of allaying their anger, U.S. President Donald Trump is provoking it by threatening to use force against protesters and insulting them. Having received only nine percent of black votes in the 2016 presidential election, Trump might have concluded that he should focus on winning the heart of white voters.
Against this backdrop, it is not difficult to understand why African Americans are furious and taking to the street. However, this cannot justify violence such as burning down police cars and shooting the police. It is true that they are acts of only a small portion of demonstrators, but it should not be dismissed as small exceptions as they might end up determining the characteristics of the entire protest.
Democracy is about driving change through a unified voice, especially by making the voice heard in elections. Violence only divides the voice.
The good news is that protests are becoming less violent as things stabilize. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” It still rings true today.
Taeck-Dong Chang firstname.lastname@example.org