The sadistic murder of George Floyd turned the United States upside down. It was if the country suddenly woke up in unison and realized we might have a police problem here. The solutions however are more complicated. I called for democracy to handle it; others have different ideas. How we arrived at this point in time is even more of a hot topic. Whether it’s police brutality, street crime, religious extremism or major wars, violence in the United States has almost always been rooted in racism or some form of prejudice.
A History of Racism and Violence
It’s very easy to detail America’s history of racism and violence. Slavery, Civil War, Indian Wars, lynchings, Jim Crow, Japanese internment, prison industrial complex, on and on. As George Carlin once joked, you give us a color, we’ll wipe it out. Let’s not forget the violence that met the resistance of the oppression. A few riots seem insignificant to the centuries of racism that birthed them, but here we are. Are we on the cusp of change? Not likely.
The point is racism has been a focal point of American history since the beginning. Throughout time, blacks have been reminded just how inferior they are by the people and system that governs them.
Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, only under extreme duress do they affect real change in their lives. Even then, the government steps in to make sure nothing really changes. Slavery was followed by Jim Crow, the civil rights movement was followed by the war on drugs and the crack epidemic. Etc.
Branded at Birth
From birth, the United States labels their ethnic minorities. Its right on the birth certificates. The question of race can be found on loan and mortgage applications, job applications, etc. Just about everywhere you look, Americans are judging you on your race. A black person in the U.S. is referred to as black, negro or African American. In France they are simply referred to as French.
From that point on, if you’re poor and black, the United States makes it especially impossible for you to make ends meat. If you want to know just how hard it is, ask a white guy. Ask a poor white guy just how hard life can be and then add centuries of systemic racism, slavery, and brutality to the mix. The truth is the U.S. doesn’t give a damn about the poor, regardless of your color, and racism plays into all of it. Divide and conquer the old saying goes.
It’s the Economy Stupid
I got into a small debate recently about a meme I posted. It compared murders by police statistics between the Untied States and three Scandinavian countries. The numbers were direct, but even if you calculated per capita, a citizen in Norway was 33 times less likely to die at the hands of the police.
The point was completely missed of course, social media being what it is. The argument was an an unfair comparison. Scandinavia has less minorities and therefore less police violence. The democratic socialism aspect never crossed their minds. Instead they seemed to suggest, unknowingly or otherwise, that minorities were responsible for the violence. That is a genuine assumption among conservatives to this day.
The thing is, unlike Norway, Denmark, Sweden and others, the United States has no real safety net. No national healthcare, no sick leave, little welfare, and daycare. Any ethnic group that has been systematically brought to its knees for centuries with nothing at the bottom to keep them afloat, turns to crime to survive. They’re left to fight and die for the drug scraps society leaves them on the street.
Unfortunately, poverty always affects the oppressed in far higher numbers. Blacks, Latinos, Natives are clear examples. Educational and occupational opportunities don’t present themselves when you’re busted for marijuana possession and are now labelled a criminal for life. Unless you’re white.
Don’t Forget Religion
The fact is, whether you’re a street hoodlum or a violent cop, it’s safe to say that systemic racism had a hand in creating you. It’s no different with religious extremist violence. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists all have violent factions.
All religions at the extreme end are rooted in Racism and prejudice. Just like racism toward minorities, the government plays a key role. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, the U.S., all have had their hand in propagating hate toward other religions.
Violence through racism at the hands of everyday white people is common in the United States. But murder rates among the police, the Ku Klu Klan and Christian right (sometimes it’s all the same person) pales in comparison to the violence among impoverished minorities. There is a reason. Again, the government to the rescue.
Systemic racism forces poor black people to fight and kill each other over scraps. That same system enables poor white religious folks to kill Muslims for money. Yes, racist Christian terrorists occasionally lash out against other Americans. Normally however, they just join the army and are free to kill whatever race of people the country happens to be occupying that month.
Racism and prejudice truly are everywhere in the United States and so to is the violence that comes from it. The statistics don’t lie. When you mix all this hate and racism in a country loaded with guns, what you have left is an extremely dangerous place not fit for a first world country.
The worst part about all this is that nothing is about change, protests or not. Yes, I’m pessimistic because the current system in place does not allow change. As I’ve demonstrated, Racism leads to poverty and inequality. That poverty leads to violence. The solution then is to alleviate the poverty/inequality to stop the violence. When people are on a more equal footing, racism also tends to take a step back.
But how do you do that? There is only one way to properly address poverty and inequality, anywhere. The answer lies in Scandinavia and those extremely low murders by police numbers, socialism. A form of economics demonized as much as any minority. The country needs it now more than ever and they just finished rejecting it.
I really don’t know where the country goes from here. The current laissez-faire capitalist system won’t change anything. Neither will the politicians who profit from it. Police brutality might be tackled to some degree over the next four years, but systemic racism and violence isn’t going anywhere.