Beijing, China | XINHUA | “I can’t breathe,” moaned George Floyd in distress, moments before he died handcuffed, with his neck pinned to the ground under a U.S. police officer’s knee. Floyd’s last words have become the voice of protesters among his fellow African Americans and other minority groups who were once again calling for an end to generations of suffering under the U.S. systematic racism.
Almost a year has passed since the black man’s death ignited waves of protests against police brutality and racial injustice, yet as a country so entrenched in its original sin of racism, the United States can hardly act for a real change.
To add insult to injury, footage recently released showed that two police officers in Virginia, without reasonable cause, held a black army officer at gunpoint and pepper-sprayed him. Ethnic minorities who were enraged at the December incident said that had Caron Nazario, the black officer, not worn the uniform, he could have well been shot.
Actually, it is unsurprising to witness recurrent racist incidents in a country where white supremacy is part of its genes. Discriminatory policies were systematically implemented in what is now the United States as early as its colonial period, during which countless native Indians were massacred in targeted atrocities.
Also in this land, numerous Africans were enslaved and tortured to death during the period between the establishment of colonies in North America and the American Civil War. Racial segregation against African descendants has not been fully abolished until the mid-20th century.
Moreover, during the founding and development of the United States, the exclusion and discrimination against the laborers from Asia has been equally severe, as exemplified by the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act in the late 1800s.
The historical and structural problem of racism has been festering like a cancer in nearly every aspect of the life of U.S. minority populations.
Regrettably, the situation has never changed despite waves of anti-racism movements in the past decades, and seems hard to turn for the better in the foreseeable future because of the government’s habitual inaction and a social system born with racist thoughts.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian Americans have become victims of surging racial violence and targets of hate crimes.
Even more worryingly, in recent years, white supremacy in the United States has turned more extreme and violent. Racist extremists are forming organizations, including cross-border ones, which have a pernicious tendency towards fascistization.
Last month, during the 46th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, representatives from 116 countries and international organizations reviewed the human rights situation in the United States and made 347 recommendations on human rights improvement, urging the country to effectively address such issues as racial discrimination, police brutality and hate crimes.
If the United States, as touted by itself, is a melting pot for different racial groups, the pot has actually smashed. With interracial inclusiveness being depleted, even a slight incident could possibly evolve into social unrest as a result of the scourge of racism.
“I can’t breathe,” this is Americans’ lamentation for the country’s shameful racist history and reality.