My Turn: Continuous tragedy and the thread of racism

For the Monitor
Published: 6/1/2020 6:00:28 AM

What is the common denominator among the following tragedies?

George Floyd: Death by asphyxiation by knee of a white Minneapolis police officer. Floyd was 46 years old, black, unarmed, innocent, handcuffed and not resisting, pleading for his life for several minutes, screaming “I can’t breathe!” over and over and over until he stopped breathing and the country watched the life leave his body, while three other officers stood by and watched.

Ahmaud Arbery: Death by rifle by two white vigilantes in Georgia. Ahmaud was 25 years old, jogging, minding his own business, when assaulted by white men who were trolling the neighborhood to make a citizen’s arrest; in other words, a modern-day lynching.

A disproportionate number of the over 100,000 American deaths related to the coronavirus COVID-19 are black and brown people from all over the country, mostly from poor urban areas, who are underserved in the areas of health care, housing, employment and other basic needs. We don’t know the proportion because people weren’t paying attention until it was too late. I hate to say this, but I’m certain the white supremacists and white nationalists are dancing in the streets (without masks) at this news.

The common denominator is racism, plain and simple. It breaks my white-privileged heart and I’m racked with guilt because I just don’t have any idea what I can do from my safe haven in the North Country, which has been spared the ravages of COVID-19, death by racist cops and lynching by white mobs.

So, I will use the only super power I have – the right to vote (which, by the way, is denied the black and brown community by overreaching voting laws and gerrymandering that puts road blocks in their way). We need a leader in the White House (which I suggest we paint gray, so even its color is less discriminatory) with a moral compass to speak out against racism instead of fomenting racist behavior.

Trump’s response to Ahmaud Arbery’s death was to declare it was “a horrible thing” practically in the same breath that he was suggesting “it could be something that we didn’t see on tape” that justified the shooting.

Trump’s response to George Floyd’s death was to tweet that it was a “very sad event” and calling for the investigation to be expedited. Later in the day he tweeted that he “greatly appreciate[s] all the work done by local law enforcement.” Excuse me, Mr. President, but it was local law enforcement that killed Mr. Floyd. They need to be held accountable.

Trump’s response to COVID-19 is to blame Obama, suggest deadly cures, delay, deny and deflect responsibility (China and WHO), blame governors, refuse to wear a mask, and ignore the science and the racial disparity in the rate of deaths. Frankly, I wish he would hold huge rallies and fill the convention hall and see whether Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest works in his favor.

When the president is caught disseminating false information on Twitter and is called to the carpet, he immediately threatens to curtail the legal protections that shield social media from liability. But when a police officer applies his full weight while kneeling on a black man’s neck for several minutes causing his death, the president doesn’t suggest outlawing the use of knees on necks or chokeholds (as in the case of Eric Garner). Why can’t these violent tactics used by police be eradicated completely from their arsenal? They are deadly weapons after all, disproportionately used against black men. In fact, I wonder, have there ever been any white men killed in this manner by cops?

But sadly, the presumptive Democratic nominee who will be running against Trump in November has his own problems when it comes to race.

Joe Biden has taken the black and brown communities for granted, assuming they are all in his back pocket. His comment “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black” on “The Breakfast Club” was callous and racist. While his apology admitting that he had perhaps been “much too cavalier” helps a little, he has this annoying habit of repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth. I refuse to be like the Republicans and pass it off as Trump being Trump or Biden being Biden. It is not presidential. Biden needs to be more presidential.

I’m not happy that the presidential contest is going to be between two aging white men. I can tell you I won’t vote for Trump. He’s a disaster. I will be watching closely to see who Biden picks for vice president and his cabinet, because it sure as hell better represent the diversity of the United States much more than Trump’s lily-white, privileged, rich men and women (and one token black man).

We need a president who will tackle racism once and for all. Reparations would be a good start.

(Susannah Colt lives in Whitefield.)


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