Dear Partners in thought,
The recent and now universally-known wrongful chokehold death or indeed murder by a police officer of African-American George Floyd is adding another element, that was always if not historically societally simmering, to the challenges facing America in its pandemic and reelection times. It is a highly sensitive subject and I beg your forgiveness not simply for addressing it but for looking at it unemotionally, which is of course very hard when dealing with such a horrible death regardless of the potential chain reaction I would like to relay.
America was in the throes of one of its worst crises, like the world at large, likely since WW2 even with the Great Depression being also often mentioned as a good comparison as to its economic and financial impact. Then came unexpectedly the murder by police of George Floyd, a black man, in the midst of the great pandemic that had been incidentally very hard on the African-American community. This murder is one of a few cases involving black men having died in “police custody” or through police interaction (or even involving former officers) in the U.S. over the last ten years and are known for the names of their victims, like Trayvon Martin or very recently Ahmaud Arbery. These are terrible events that have to be condemned and may or do reflect the weight of history, also pinning a tiny minority of white men, usually feeling left out, not wanting to deal with black men, possibly rejecting the affirmative acton drive of these few decades or simply being racist. It is also possible that the death of George Floyd was triggered by the pandemic lockdown constraints and frustrations that saw a clear rise in mental illness and domestic violence and took its toll on an already unstable police officer, likely with racist tendancies. Whatever the reasons behind the act of knee-chocking somone’s throat for nine minutes, there is no defense and the crime is unspeakable, whether Mr. Floyd was a white, black or Asian American. The fact he was black added a dimension that led to race riots, sadly associated with looting and violence (the latter at times from all sides) while the protests may at times have been hijacked by extremist groups from both far-left and far-right, as well as professional knuckleheads” with their own political and/or looting agendas.
That the Floyd murder and ensuing riots took place in the great pandemic period was reminiscent of April 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated and massive riots erupted across American cities all in a context of a pandemic-like Vietnam war with its rising death toll and questionable management, if not rationale then. The similarities did not escape Donald Trump as his polls started falling due to his unusual leadership style and management of the national Covid-19 containment not to mention his approach to pandemic geopolitics tainted by the November rendezvous. Donald Trump is undoubtedly aware that Richard Nixon was also elected in November 1968 on a law and order programme that was directly linked to the racial riots of 1968, admittedly while he was also claiming that he would put an honourable end to the pandemic of the time. Having lost the opportunity to face a Bernie Sanders and not counting on a great economy (even though we will hear about the V curve for 2021), there is little doubt that he will use this card to win in November and inverse the Covid 19-induced poll trends.
There is a fair chance that the many white voters, certainly older, male and female, could opt for societal safety in November regardless of their dislike for Trump as a person and a President if the riots kept degenerating and shops burning to the ground. Faced with this Trump 2 eventuality the black community leaders should be very careful unless they would existentially thrive on shouting only, to focus on “what matters” and the big picture in the current American context. It would be strange as America has lost in excess of 100,000 lives to Covid-19, for one death however horrible, to set the easy stage for a Trump re-election and four more years of instability for America and the world, with unforeseen negative consequences for all, not to mention the African-American community.
One of the first steps for the black community leaders should be to ensure a proper security approach to protests so extremists and looters are not allowed to highjack them and give a very bad name to a rightful expression of anger. The other step should be to listen more to Barack Obama, indeed showing the presidential leadership that America misses today, and follow his focus on actual programmes that make a difference like those he lauched un 2013 to ensure police officers were better trained. The need to be both careful and productive in the rightful expression of the anger and demands of the African-American community falls within their leaders today. Otherwise the death of George Floyd would have served the wrong agenda, not to say those that believe in a bygone age and like things as they were.