Racism: a world issue

George Floyd, 2016
On May 25, in the United States of America, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Floyd bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. During the arrest, Derek Chauvin, one of the police officers that were sent to the scene, knelt on his neck and back for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Seeing the excessive use of police force, since George Floyd was collaborating with the detention and posed no threat, several people joined in asking the police to get off of him, mainly because Floyd complained several times about being hurt and constantly said "I can't breathe". As time went by, videos made by witnesses display Floyd showing no signs of life, and neither Chauvin moved away or his colleagues tried to stop him; officer Derek Chauvin only removed his knee from George's neck when the paramedics arrived at the scene and told him to, although it was too late - George Floyd died from asphyxiation. 

The official autopsy found Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by subdual and restraint, but a second autopsy, commissioned by Floyd's family found that the evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as the cause of death, with neck compression restricting blood flow to the brain, and back compression restricting breathing. Chauvin and the three other officers were fired from their jobs. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman initially charged Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder and manslaughter, but Minnesota's attorney general added an upgraded charge of second-degree murder against him, and charged the other three in the death of George Floyd, with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. 

(Left to right): Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and
 Tou Thao face charges in the death of George Floyd

As the videos of Floyd's death became viral, protests took place in more than 75 U.S cities and around the world against police brutality, police racism and lack of police accountability. Petitions and movements were created, like the "Black Lives Matter" movement, to change the reality of police brutality towards the black community in the USA. 

State civil rights action

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights opened an investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis Police Department, and on June 5, the Minneapolis City Council authorized the mayor to enter into a restraining order with the State of Minnesota banning chokeholds and neck restraints, requiring police officers to intervene against the use of excessive force by other officers, and requiring authorization from the police chief or other designate before use crowd control weapons such as chemical agents and rubber bullets. On June 8, 2020, the reforms to the Minneapolis Police Department were approved by the Hennepin County Court.

Memorials and protests

Parisians held signs demanding justice and paid homage to
 Adama Traore, a black Frenchman who died in similar circumstances
The area around the location at which Floyd was killed became a memorial throughout May 26, with many placards paying tribute to him and referencing the Black Lives Matter movement. As the day continued, more people showed up to pay tribute and the crowd, estimated to be in the hundreds of people, then marched to the 3rd Precinct of the Minneapolis Police. Participants used posters and slogans with phrases such as "Justice for George", "I can't breathe", and "Black Lives Matter". As protests spread all across the United States of America, the world hasn't been able to remain quiet in the face of such a huge, yet common, problem as police violence, especially towards the black community in the United Stated. Thousands of people took the streets of Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, London, Lisbon in support of the movement, adding to tens of thousands who rallied in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and other European countries, as the strained situation in the U.S. has brought the issue of racism and discrimination into focus globally.

Protesters gather around Winston Churchill statue
 in Parliament Square during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in London

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson issued a statement urging Black Lives Matter protesters in the U.K. to "work peacefully, lawfully" following days of unrest that saw the statue of wartime leader Winston Churchill twice defaced.

A top European Union agency told the European Union Observer on Monday, June 8, "highlight that discrimination and violence against black people is not only a problem of one country - it is a commonplace". 

Why is it so important to fight against racism?

Racism exists since the colonial era, when white people were given legally or socially sanctioned privileges and rights while these same rights were denied to other races and minorities. In that time, white people enjoyed exclusive privileges in matters of education, immigration, voting rights, citizenship, land acquisition, and criminal procedure throughout history. It causes harm to those who are suffering from it, not only hurting individuals, but also communities and our society at large.

Levels of racism
Studies show that experiencing racism has deep effects on people's health and welfare, as it can cause feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety and depression. Furthermore, it can affect people's freedom and dignity, as those who endure racism can be made to feel they have less freedom, or are second-class citizens, not being able to have access to the same kind of opportunities as white people, and it is shown they are more likely to suffer from discrimination and abuse by authority forces, because of systemic racism. This type of racism persists in our schools, offices, court system, police departments, and elsewhere, as a result of white people occupying most positions of decision-making power, while people of color have a difficult time getting a fair shake, let alone getting ahead. 

Since the election of President of the United States, Donald Trump, hate crimes have been on the rise, and white supremacists have been emboldened, anti-immigrants rhetoric has intensified,as a result of the President's beliefs and values. Nevertheless, racism isn't just a Black people's problem, it's everyone's problem, because it erodes the fabric of society. Leaders at every level must use their power, platforms, and resources to help employees and communities overcome these challenges and build an inclusive world.

Article written by:
Adriana Santos
Millena Ferraz



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