Have you noticed that America has been encountering double epidemics? The first is the coronavirus while the second is racism. Racism has long been an integral part of America because the USA, in part, became a wealthy country through the slavery of African people.
Racial oppression and violence have been ingrained into the culture of the country for long. Now, the nation is drowning in the problems racism creates, which is tarnishing its image in the outside world.
Are all Americans racist? Does the prospect for addressing racism appear bleak despite Black Lives Matter protests?
Undoubtedly, the USA sees racist violence more often than in other countries. George Floyd's tragic death is only the most recent addition, which has given birth to the radical Black Lives Matter protests around the world. However, racial oppression began much earlier for most Black people.
A study conducted by The New York Times tracked the experiences of 101 Black teenagers in Washington DC for two weeks and revealed that they reported 5,600 experiences of racial discrimination . That boils down to an average of more than five instances per day for each teenager. That is more than 70 instances each week.
One of them gave an example where a white friend asked, "Why don't you like chocolate cake? Is it because it is the same colour as you?" It hurts to imagine how it feels to go through such circumstances.
The rest of the world asks who is responsible for these problems? Although some might attribute responsibility to all Americans, think-tanks and independent scholars reckon it is unwise to generalise and blame all Americans.
"Blame, in many cases, sits with white Americans because they are the dominant majority. When they get comfortable with racist systems those become nearly impossible to change. White Americans have to see the problem before they can help fix the problem," says Professor Dr Bernice M Olivas, a teacher at Rhetoric at Salt Lake Community College
She continued to explain the current issue with police brutality. "One of the biggest problems is that police are not held accountable for hurting or killing people. They have qualified immunity and they are rarely punished for violent behaviour. Unfortunately, police brutality happens most often on black people and other people of colour. Although most Americans are against racism, the law enforcement system is racist because the police are not held accountable when they harm or kill Black people and other people of colour," Dr Olivas explains.
According to a 2018 study in the Lancet, police kill more than 300 black Americans - at least a quarter unarmed - each year in the US. The study also found that these killings have spillover effects on the mental health of black Americans not directly affected.
What is more, the US government seems unconcerned when it comes to addressing this severe issue.
Findings from the latest NBC News poll demonstrated that 64 percent feel racism remains a major problem in the USA. Yet, how come the US government is oblivious to it? It is thoroughly incomprehensible why so little attention is paid by the government to this.
Racism in the US is not just a police problem. In Brooklyn, New York, an Asian woman suffered a racist acid attack while taking the garbage out on April 5. A few weeks earlier in Texas, a man targeted and stabbed a Burmese-American man and his two children, ages 2 and 6, at a Sam's Club.
These are among the worst examples of thousands of anti-Asian and anti-Black incidents that have been reported since the Covid-19 crisis began, but what is more distressing is how all these events can go unnoticed by the US government when it is obvious that racial discrimination is taking place regularly?
Notably, although the US is a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Trump has not nominated a representative to the treaty's monitoring body. This implies that the government takes no interest in stopping or at least combating racial discrimination.
Still, federal government agencies can act on their own to address this upsurge in racism. The US Commission on Civil Rights has recently raised concerns about racism and violence. The USA has many prestigious universities, professors, scholars and scientists; hence, it would not aim to tarnish its image overlooking this widely experienced issue of the nation.
As racism persists and profoundly affects the way people live in the USA, it can bring about a breakthrough if the police were policed. Inaction from all levels of the government in the USA leaves them appearing complicit in this.
The protests are highly likely to be a turning point in stopping this additional virus to coronavirus in the USA. Since President Donald Trump's election, mass demonstrations have largely been concentrated in major cities but the death of George Floyd, a black man whose neck was pinned to the ground under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, sparked the most widespread mass demonstrations in recent memory.
Despite the threat of a global pandemic, crowds large and small – from rural towns to suburbs and big coastal cities – gathered to protest racial injustice and police brutality against African Americans.
As of June 9, more than 970 protests had taken place in 400 cities and towns across the US, according to a research conducted by the marketing firm Ipsos and teams from the Universities of Chicago and Oxford.
"The numbers and the breadth are pretty impressive," said Chris Jackson, senior vice president at Ipsos. "We are seeing these protests happening in all 50 states. ... It is not just the big cities; it is towns across the board. And the large majority of these protests have been peaceful protests."
Such voluntary participation from American citizens of every walk of life conspicuously points to the fact that a majority of the Americans desperately want racism to stop. Even if some people stereotypically put Americans in the dock for this injustice, these spontaneous protests in all 50 states simultaneously point out that racism is not something that most Americans want to be part of their system.
Immigrants, foreign students and foreign businessmen add diversity to American culture. Racism, however, leaves them outraged, feeling unwelcome and depressed; it sends a wrong message about the US to the outside world. So to protect its image and human rights, it is pivotal to get rid of the issue of racism in the US. The changes to laws in some states of the country provide a ray of hope.
As it stands now, the citizens, police and the government of the US should act in unison, and they are the ones who could play the most crucial part in bringing an end to this heinous crisis. As the world has, for the first time, witnessed such a radical movement against racism, during widespread "Black Lives Matter" protests, it leads us to be optimistic about some positive change. Let us hope for a better America, better next generation and a better world!
Mahde Hassan is pursuing his bachelor's degree in English at East West University; he also works for the British Council of Bangladesh as an invigilator. He can be reached at [email protected]