Racism around the world

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - June 14, 2020 - 12:00am

When I first saw the brutal murder of the African American George Floyd by Minneapolis policemen, my initial reaction was that this was another tragic event in the United States. Over the decades I have read about the suffering of African Americans at the hands of racists from the white majority.

When the news spread across the world of Floyd’s suffering, I next saw protests across the US that represented public outrage. Even whites joined the protest rallies. Although the overwhelming majority of the protesters were peaceful, the US police responded with violence. Most police officials and Donald Trump called the protesters terrorists.

I think the world was especially shocked when protesters at Lafayette Park, in front of the White House, were dispersed by police with tear gas and rubber bullets. The reason for the dispersal was for Donald Trump to be allowed to walk across the park to a nearby Episcopalian Church and have a photo op holding a Bible in his hand. He did not even bother to say a prayer or do some Bible reading. Later on Trump bragged that dispersing the protesters was like ”cutting through butter.”

Until that point, I still saw this whole affair as part of the ongoing American racial tragedy. But as news spread across the world of the police brutality against Floyd, something extraordinary happened. Solidarity marches and protest rallies across the world took place from London to Sydney from Beirut to Brazil.

“Black Lives Matter,” a slogan and hash tag coined some seven years ago in the US to draw attention to police abuses against African Americans, began to trend globally on social media networks and among protesters on the streets.

In Belgium protesters demanded the removal of the statue of King Leopold II, who had ordered the conquest of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. In order to subjugate the local population, he ordered what is now known as genocide. In Syria’s Idlib province, an artist painted a portrait of Floyd on the side of a bombed building in an attempt to draw attention to the misery of Syrians bombarded regularly by an oppressive regime and its foreign backers. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, protesters threw rocks at police in protests that turned Floyd’s death into a rallying cry against the racially tinged, right wing policies of Brazilian President Bolsonaro.

The protest rallies in the streets of America have turned into demands to erase racism in society and to restructure police departments in order to eliminate police brutality. It seems that these two issues, racism and police brutality, are major issues around the world and not just the United States.

Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioural traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided based on the perceived superiority of one race over another.

Racism is a worldwide scourge and no country is immune. What makes the issue different in China is that racist behavior is practiced openly unlike in other countries where it is not officially condoned or accepted. Observers believe that the Chinese, as a people, are not more or less racist than any other nationality. Racist sentiment in China may seem prevalent simply because it is so blatantly and matter of factly expressed when and where it doesn’t exist. The principal target, for now, of Chinese racism are black Africans who are studying or working in China.

The COVID-19 crisis has worsened racism in China. In recent weeks there have been videos and stories of Chinese police rounding up Africans and forcing them out of their homes and hotels and putting them out in the streets in a backlash against those thought most likely to be carriers and transmitters of the coronavirus. There is a report of a fastfood restaurant in Guangzhou where there was a sign that said: “Notice: We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant.” It seems local authorities were unconcerned with potential accusations of racism.

There is racial discrimination all over Asia. Some are common; but some are surprising. Among the best known example of racial discrimination which has led to violence is the persecution of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar. Nearly one million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh. With horror stories of rape, torture and killings, there is apparently a deliberate attempt to purify the racial composition in that country following the model of Nazi Germany which sought a pure Aryan state by trying to kill all the Jews.

Hong Kong is an international city trying to maintain its separate government from China. However, there is also tension between mainland Chinese and native Hongkongers. Rents have increased and smuggling organizations have grown rapidly. Mainlanders have also been criticized for allowing children to defecate and urinate publicly. Mainlanders are referred to as “locusts” by Hongkongers because they are seen as invaders who swarm into the city and drain its resources.

Part of Indonesia is Papua which is peopled by Melanesians who are racially black while the Indonesians are brown. Amnesty International has estimated that more than 100,000 Papuans have died as a result of violence against them. Hundreds of thousands of brown skin Javanese and Sumatran have also been resettled in Papua over the last decade.

One of the worst cases of racism in the world is in Israel where the Jews are the dominant race and the Palestinian Arabs are the “minority” race. The Arabs are required to live in restricted areas behind walls separating them from their workplace. Most of them are not allowed to vote and do not have any participation in self-government. The situation in Israel has been called “apartheid” by international observers.

Racism exists in Asia and throughout the world in varying degrees of intensity. It is no wonder that George Floyd’s death sparked outraged in many parts of the world.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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