Why George Floyd matters?

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - June 16, 2020 - 12:00am

It has been more than two weeks since the George Floyd incident, and yet the demonstrations in many US cities are still ongoing. There were even sympathy demonstrations in other cities in other countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Australia protesting the unjustified and unnecessary killing. While there have been many similar killings in the US of African-Americans as far back as a hundred years ago, Floyd’s death happened in this century when slavery, racial discrimination, and equal rights for all races have significantly progressed and practiced. It also happened at this time of a global COVID-19 pandemic that is engulfing the whole world, with infections and fatalities percentage-wise, among the highest globally with the Afro-American minorities.

George Floyd was a middle-aged Afro-American who was accosted by the Minneapolis police on a complaint of passing a bad check at a convenience store. It would have been a minor arrest but the policeman pinned down Floyd with his knee on his neck/throat for nine minutes, choking him to death. The footage of the bodycam showed Floyd yelling that he couldn’t breathe, and bystanders and another policeman asking the kneeling policeman to ease up or turn him over. The arresting police did neither and Floyd died. Floyd wasn’t exactly an exemplary or model citizen, in fact he had a police record for various crimes and misdemeanors; but this wasn’t the issue or the point. The issues were and still are, racial inequality, racism, unaddressed grievances, and police abuses.

The demonstrations spawned by this incident in other countries also brought out similar police abuses on racial and economic minorities. In Australia, it was about the treatment of aboriginal minorities, in France it was about the migrant minorities, and in Lebanon about the impoverished economic minorities. In the Philippines, while there were no direct links to the Floyd incident, the issue of unequal treatment by the authorities in the enforcement of the lockdown regulations and police abuses during the lockdown trended in social media.

There’s no doubt that the advent and the progress of digital information technology and social media have contributed to the awareness and reactions of people to these festering issues of racial inequality and police abuses. At a time when people were glued to social and main media while in quarantine, and just raring to go out after weeks of isolation, the Floyd incident was just the needed spark to get them into the streets. The economic recession brought about by the pandemic also added fuel to the sense of deprivation and poverty that highlighted the revulsion to authority. This is all about injustice.  Economic, social, and political injustice, that more people are now more aware of and want something done about, or will do something about it, or at the very least demonstrate about it.

Filipinos are the most tolerant of the races, so racism may not be an issue, except that there is a growing anti-mainland Chinese sentiment, not because of race, but because of territorial and economic encroachment. A great majority of Filipinos resent China’s occupation of islands in the Philippine territorial waters, the entry of illegal drugs, and illegal gambling. This is an issue of injustice that may take racist and abuse of authority dimensions.

In the June 12 Independence Day issue of this paper, other columnists cited injustices; the persecution of political opponents by sham court proceedings, a government with enough money to build infrastructures and armaments but giving only a pittance to the poor, and the avoidance of testing overzealousness of the police. These have happened and are happening in our country. That is why George Floyd matters to all and everyone.

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