Protesters and protest signs at the Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C. in June 2020 – Washington, D.C./United States of America – June 7, 2020 (Shutterstock)
By Maribel Hastings and David Torres
The United States is being stalked by different scourges: the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting economic crisis; the political violence against African Americans and minorities; and a prejudiced president, incapable of having empathy for anyone and anything, who continues fomenting violence and division.
He is, in many ways, the worst president in the middle of one of the worst moments in this country’s modern history, a moment in which a true message of unity is needed, not “patriotic,” but of definitive repudiation of a society in which the new racial segregation is savagely tearing away at its insides, leading to such deep wounds that we have become debilitated in the eyes of the whole world.
But Trump is not only light-years away from healing these wounds, he’s continued to demonstrate that he has every intention of preventing them from closing completely. From the case known as “the Central Park Five,” in 1989, to what is occurring in this exact moment not only in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but the other main cities of the United States, his racial rhetoric has only served to confirm his affinities with the supremacy that he represents.
Essentially, the coast-to-coast protests over the assassination of George Floyd, an African American, at the hands of an Angle Saxon police officer in Minneapolis put the eternal problem of racism, inequality, and injustice on the table once again. Throughout the entire history of this nation, minorities have suffered at the hands of the dominant classes and Anglo-Saxon authorities.
The case of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1992, for example, had become the breaking point of racial tensions that had been simmering after other similar episodes, such as in Watts in 1965, which were a reflection of this systemic racism that has accompanied this country since its founding, in which minorities of color have always received the worst treatment.
Incredibly, almost three decades after the revolt in Los Angeles, it occurs again in this 21st century in which the wave of neo-fascism advances by leaps and bounds, making it clear that this will not be the last incident of violence in which racial minorities are the ones who are killed.
But this case also highlights what happens when the person who occupies the White House, Donald Trump, not only incites but offers protection to prejudice and racism. It’s such that the “bad apples” that operate in police departments throughout the country, along with the groups and individuals who promote white supremacy, have found a defender in this president. That is why they go around emboldened, ever since he came to power. For that reason, they are inclined to do whatever is needed to keep him in the White House.
Both before and after he was president, Trump has always been on the side of the supremacists and racists. In Charlottesville, Virginia, when they demonstrated against Jews and minorities and one of them rammed counter-protestors, killing a young activist, Trump referred to them as “good people.”
There’s no doubt that Trump is a symptom of a sickness that has afflicted this country through its history. This nation was forged by the sword of violence, looting, and blood. Against U.S. natives, against Mexicans and Hispanics, against African American descendants of slaves who, despite the advances on the topic of civil rights, continue to be discriminated against. The injustices have not ceased. Institutional racism continues, alive and kicking.
In that way, the knee of white supremacy, now from the position of power with Trump, has not been removed from the neck of a nation of minorities who have been hurt, vilified, abused, ignored, and distanced from the true safety that a socio-economic system without precedent, like the United States’, has pretended to offer. Unfortunately, the system only works for some people.
Since the protests began in recent days Trump has only incited them. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted when the disturbances in Minneapolis began. Then he tries to backtrack, but at the last provocation comes back because that is his nature; he can’t avoid it. Now he has used the crisis to blame Democrats and liberals. The nation needs calm and direction, two things that Trump is incapable of offering.
It doesn’t take much to put this historic moment in context: with a relentless virus that has killed more than 100,000 U.S. citizens; with a new racial revolt that promises to shake up, yet again, already tense social relations; and with a leader who foments hate to take political advantage as the elections draw nearer, this nation suffocates: like George Floyd, the United States can’t breathe.