By Zhong Sheng, People’s Daily
It’s been two years since George Floyd died under the knee of a white police officer. The African American’s death sparked lasting and widespread protests across the U.S. in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “I can’t breathe” has become a slogan for racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. to oppose racism.
However, systemic racism, a “stain on the soul of America,” is still a huge obstacle in the way of racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. pursuing human rights.
Just as The Washington Post put it, people of all races took to the streets to demand accountability, justice, and reform, and Black people should not continue to be targeted for harm based on the color of their skin. However, it’s been two years and Black people still can’t breathe.
Racism is a deep-rooted tumor in American society. It is continuing to cause human rights tragedies for the racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S.
According to USA Today, hundreds of people from ethnic minority groups were killed by U.S. law enforcement officers just within a year after the death of George Floyd. Statistics released by American social groups indicated that 266 African Americans were killed by police officers last year, and they were almost three times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police.
At the 49th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council held in March this year, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet noted that given the large number of deaths of African Americans caused by police brutality in the U.S., relevant departments should take practical actions to investigate into such cases and bring relevant lawbreakers to justice.
Racism is an institutional and systemic defect of the U.S. It is embodied in every aspect of American society.
In February 2021, Stanford News, a website of Stanford University, carried an article examining systemic racism in the U.S. The article suggests that in education, the youth of color are more likely to be closely watched; in the criminal justice system, people of color, particularly Black men, are disproportionately targeted; and in the economy and employment, from who moves forward in the hiring process to who receives funding from venture capitalists, Black Americans and other minority groups are discriminated against in the workplace and economy-at-large.
Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, pointed out that the structural racism in the U.S. has deprived colored communities of the opportunity to lift their social stratum, making it harder for colored groups to get higher-quality education, jobs, housing, healthcare, and equal judicial treatment.
According to a report by the U.S. News & World Report, the U.S. ranked among the bottom 10 countries for racial equality.
Racism is exacerbating the social divide in the U.S., making discrimination, hatred, and violence prevalent.
The recent mass shooting targeting at African Americans in Buffalo, New York astonished the world. From the 2015 shooting by a white gunman at an African American church in North Carolina to the 2019 El Paso killing targeting Latinos, and to the rising Asian hate after COVID-19 broke out, the U.S. has been seeing more hate crimes motivated by racism.
According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, 32 percent of Black adults, 21 percent of Asian adults, and 14 percent of Hispanic adults in the U.S. said they worried every day or almost every day that they might be threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity, while this figure was 4 percent among white Americans.
Do equality and human rights really exist in a society where people’s rights to life and existence, the most important human rights, are measured by their skin colors?
The repeated tragedies like the death of George Floyd prove that systemic racism needs a systemic response, said a UN official. There needs to be a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach to dismantling systems entrenched in centuries of discrimination and violence, the official added.
However, the U.S. system cannot dismantle racial inequality and discrimination against African Americans, said E. Tendayi Achiume, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.
Given the polarization of American politics, the U.S. government can barely roll out any practical measure to narrow the racial gap. Some American politicians even publicly resorted to right-wing extremism to fuel the white supremacy.
The U.S. President admitted that “White supremacy is a poison running through our body politic” in a recent visit to the city of Buffalo.
However, the current political system is not only unable to offer an antidote, but also constantly exacerbating systemic racism.
Without racial justice, the U.S. cannot be a truly free and democratic country. Two years after George Floyd was killed, the systemic racism in the U.S. society is still there and making ethnic minority groups unable to breathe. This is how human rights are “protected” in the country.
The U.S. should face up to its deep-rooted systemic racism to avoid further human rights tragedies.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)
By Zhong Sheng, People’s Daily