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Racism, the American affair

It is impossible that you haven't heard of George Floyd, The African American who died on May 25 during a simple police arrest. To find out more, click here, otherwise, here is a short summary of the situation. On Monday May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was arrested in the city of Minneapolis, United States, for using a counterfeit banknote in a store. Four policemen surround him and put him to the ground with the ventral plating technique. Peacekeeper Dereck Chauvin placed his knee on the man’s neck. George suffocated and screamed for help as best he could. He died of suffocation a few minutes later in the hospital. This man is an additional victim of the racism that has reigned in the country for centuries. For several days, the whole world has risen to demand justice from George Floyd and all the other victims of racist acts of this kind, but above all, to defend the equality of civil rights.

But how could the country considered to be the most powerful in the world have achieved such a level of hatred and violence towards certain communities ?

Racism in the United States has been a phenomenon since colonial times. It all started from the Spanish colonization of America (1492), with the voyages of Christopher Columbus at the end of the 15th century. To mark the first colonial arrival on American soil, Christopher Columbus founded Navidad. It is the first colonial building in the "New World" and it is this construction which earned him the title of Viceroy of the Indies. Shortly after settlers arrived on the American continent, racism appeared.

Representation of Christopher Columbus arriving in America October 12, 1492

The settlers landed on the American continent and appropriated the land in violent ways. The first large territory to be colonized was the Aztecs, which is located in present-day New Mexico. While the head of this empire was welcoming with the settlers, he imposed their power and their religion (Christianity). A war was declared, causing the mass-genocide of Native Americans. The Spanish colonial movements in America were vigorously contested by the populations already installed, but with the exception of the Mapuche people, their resistance proved to be powerless. The methods of the conquistadors were so gruesome and violent that gradually entire populations were decimated. Two pre-Columbian civilizations were even totally exterminated: the Aztecs and the Incas. It was above all the military superiority of the Spanish and the prophecies of these two civilizations, which assimilated the Spanish to Gods, which enabled the colonists to conquer these territories. The demographic losses of the various civilizations were such that, the population of the Inca Empire was estimated between 12 and 15 million individuals in 1532 against less than a million a century later. The Mexican population has even been reduced by 90% !

Besides these massacres, there was also discrimination against native Americans. From the beginnings of colonization, a crossbreeding process took place. Rape was very common, and forced marriages (in most cases) were organized. The conquistadors took over and shared the Indian women who had fallen into captivity.

One of the first to denounce these inhuman methods is Bartolomé de las Casas. Arriving in 1502, as a settler, he was horrified by the actions of Christians against the natives. He went so far as to abandon his domain to be named defender of the Indians by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros in 1516. He then launched into a fight against the massacres and the mistreatment of the survivors. According to him, the primary causes of the disappearance of indigenous people were wars, forced labor in gold mines, sexual slavery, mass murders and suicides to escape famine and ill-treatment. He indicates that the colonists' ambition for conquest and the thirst for gold pushed them to an absurd tyranny while the Amerindians were initially welcoming and peaceful.

In 1619 the first slave in the United States arrived in a Dutch ship, he was black and African. The first arrivals were systematically sent to work on Virginia plantations. These exchanges developed which led to the Triangular Trade (or Atlantic Trade). A business that spanned throughout 3 continents: Europe, Africa and America.

Representation of Triangular Trade

This trade consisted of going to Africa, kidnapping (or paying at lower cost) Black Men with the aim of reselling them on slave markets in America for local products. These products could be sugar, coffee, cotton and even cocoa. These foods were then brought back to Europe and were intended for the upper social classes.

Through this historical plan, it is clear that the history of the countries of the American continent has been built on the foundations of racism and white and Christian supremacy.

Following this, the country continued developping, and with the American Civil War, a system based on racial segregation was put into place. This system worked in part with Jim Crow laws between 1876 and 1965. These laws represented the legal application of racial discrimination within the country. Like slavery, this racism was well-founded. Indeed, this segregation was based on an interpretation of Genesis 9:25 (in the Bible), as well as on racial doctrines.

In 1896, the Supreme Court legitimized this new legislation by formulating the doctrine "separate but equal". Thus, it formalizes segregation in public transport, at school, in public toilets and even in the church. Black people were also excluded from restaurants, libraries, public gardens (where one could read signs such as "Negroes and dogs not allowed", ...

Blacks had to systematically step aside from whites. In addition, the justice system always found them guilty regardless of the real dispute. A racism so strong that thousands of blacks were victims of lynching by whites calling themselves "vigilantes". Sometimes these lynchings turn into pogroms (Massacres and looting of the Jews by the rest of the population), and the white men guilty of these crimes even took photos, they felt protected by American justice. In 1919 the massacre of Elaine was perpetrated which was the deadliest racial conflict in the history of the United States (a Culture Point will be dedicated to it tomorrow, Tuesday June 9, 2020, to receive the notification, subscribe to our Newsletter - “LOGIN” button at the top of your screen).

All of this racism was fueled by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which combined racist rhetoric with xenophobia toward immigrants, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism and anti-unionism. With their violent speeches, this group added the systematic use of lynching and spectacular staging (burned crosses in black neighborhoods, etc.) aimed at creating a real climate of terror on the black population. Films advocating this type of practice have even been shot and shown to the general public. We can cite the best known of them, "Birth of a Nation".

Until the 20th century, racial discrimination was legally accepted in the United States and granted white Americans rights and privileges denied to Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Latin Americans. Euro-Americans were therefore privileged by law in matters of education, immigration, the right to vote, citizenship, acquisition of land and criminal procedure from the 17th century until the 1960s. Official racial discrimination were largely prohibited in the middle of the 20th century and came to be perceived as socially unacceptable and / or morally condemnable. These are actors such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcom X, ... who have helped to change attitudes.

representation of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Malcom X

However, racism is still reflected today in socio-economic inequalities and borrows more modern and indirect forms of expression. The most predominant being symbolic racism. Racial stratification continues in the employment, housing, education, bank loans and government sectors. According to many NGOs that fight for human rights, discrimination permeates all aspects of life in the United States and extends to all people of color. Today, African Americans are twice as likely to be killed as a white man. A figure which is cold in the back, more especially as the United States is the first world power. The term democracy is

then flouted on numerous occasions by many citizens. Very often the police kill black people without pretexts. To counteract these acts, revolutionary movements have gained momentum in recent times like the "Black Panther Party" with their cries of "Black Power". Considered by some to be radicals, the movement created in 1966 denounces in particular the police mistreatment of black Americans.

Abuse that led George Floyd to death on May 25. Since this inhumane act, demonstrations multiply in the United States. The majority of the American population now demands that everyone be treated equally, regardless of ethnicity.

The protests we are experiencing today have grown to such an extent that the world is revolting against these racial injustices and police violence. The striking photographs keep turning on the canvas. There is in particular that of Deveonte Joseph who poses in the chaotic streets of Minneapolis his diploma by hand. Grunge News managed to locate the photographer, Nathan Aguirre, and interviewed him for you alongside an Atlanta protester. The interview will be available this Thursday, June 11.

Photo by Nathan Aguirre de Deveonte Joseph, diploma in hand

In the United States, racism is rooted, beyond mentality, in the land and the history of the country. The country has always lived in racism, in the discrimination of a community. Groups of fanatics as powerful as the Ku Klux Klan are still present today, violence is still perpetuated on the African-American community! Today’s protests will change the country, many hope.

Finally, Grunge News invites you to watch the movie “BlacKkKlansman“ by Spike Lee which tells the true story of a black policeman who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan at the time when David Duke was the Grand Wizard of Ku Klux Klan.

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