George Floyd. Everyone knows who he was. Everyone saw him die. Everyone saw the demonstrations which were organised following his death. Everyone saw how those demonstrations occasionally turned into riots. Everyone saw how for some people, looting their neighbourhood seemed to be more of a priority than anything else.
In 2020 America erupted into something akin to a veritable race war, with racial tensions between multiple ethnic groups placed under the media microscope. Biden was elected and made a mealy-mouthed statement about uniting the country, but appears to be doing a worse job of that than his predecessor.
According to Gallup, 94% of Democrats approve of Biden’s performance so far, whilst only 11% of Republicans feel the same way. For Trump, the Gallup figures at 100 days were: Republicans: 87%, Democrats: 12%.
Division is still very much visible in the US. On the occasion of Biden’s first address to Congress there was a marked difference in the behaviour exhibited by the two sides. The Republicans sat, whilst there were moments when the Democrats appeared to be on the verge of a socially-distanced Mexican wave.
So, the deep divisions which can be found in American society are present in American politics, too. So much for leading by example.
Whether or not Biden has the strength or mental agility to heal the nation is a moot point, but at a less elite level, things aren’t moving in a positive direction at all.
George Floyd was killed whilst in the custody of the Minneapolis police at the intersection of two streets: 38th and Chicago. In May 2020, the city’s leadership placed barricades around this area, which “is now a memorial and a sacred space.”
The problem is that the people who created and who control the memorial appear to be less than interested in solving the problems which led to Floyd’s death. Rather than trying to find a way of effectively dealing with racists and racism in American society, they appear to be stoking the fire of discontent. In the aftermath of Floyd’s killing, we saw some genuinely disturbing examples of people attempting to redress what they saw as centuries of racism against black people by turning the tables and humiliating white people.
Nobody can think for a moment that organised humiliation is truly the way to heal America, but that doesn’t mean that some people aren’t going to take advantage.
At George Floyd Square, the barricaded area surrounding the spot where he was killed has been transformed into a space for “community, public grief and protest”. People are requested to “enter with reverence, humility and openness, as an invited guest”. The language is a tad overblown, but the problem doesn’t lie with the overblown language. It’s the message which is menacing: “For White people in particular:”
What follows is a rather bizarre list of gobbledygook which leaves me, personally, both confused, and slightly concerned about the direction America is heading in. The word ‘white’ has been capitalised. The person who wrote the sign intended to highlight that this information relates exclusively to Caucasian people rather than, say, Asians. If that is the case, then why not underline the word? Why not put that word into italics, or print it in bold? It’s not clear.
The rest of the instructions are equally perplexing. There’s an instruction to ‘decenter yourself’, whatever that might mean. To my ears it’s suggestive of some sort of yoga instruction issued to meditation students. Presumably, the idea is for the white visitor to concentrate on everything other than themselves. If that is the case, then the message is clear: you are white, you are not worthy. The instructions continue in the same line with the next one:
“Remember you are here to support, not to be supported.”
Again, the same message. Instead of trying to bring communities together, the person who created this list of hippy claptrap is actively pushing for discrimination between races. In all likelihood with the intention of repaying white Americans for the slave trade which was banned in 1794.
Surely, logic dictates that individuals cannot realistically be held accountable for something that happened more than two hundred years ago. Again, the point is a moot one. The message, however, is the same: you are white, it’s always been about you, now we’re telling you that you count for nothing.
Suffering is now racial, and black suffering outranks white suffering.
The next one is an outstanding example of the use of words to communicate absolutely nothing:
“Be mindful of whether your volume, pace, and movements are supporting or undermining your efforts to decenter yourself.”
Bloody Hell. What? Seriously, I need someone to translate this piffle. Be mindful? So now we’re expected to second-guess ourselves and determine whether we’re too loud, or moving too fast or too slowly, or merely moving incorrectly, all of which might hamper our efforts to place ourselves beneath all others? Christ. Having struck a vein, the author of this drivel continues in much the same style:
“Seek to contribute to the energy of the space, rather than drain it. Bring your own processing to other white folks so that you will not harm BIPOC.”
Honestly, what can any sane member of society make of a couple of sentences like those? It’s nonsensical sentences like these that place extreme stress on the ties that bind the US and the UK. Ultimately, if the Americans continue down this path, there will come a day when we’ll have two peoples speaking the same language, unable to comprehend what the other is saying. That’ll be one for the record books: a world first. How does one contribute energy? How does one drain energy? Presumably, Americans receive lessons in energy contribution and drainage. As far as I’m concerned, it’s as clear as mud. The second sentence is likewise so jargonised that I can barely make head nor tail of what it actually says. But, as with the other instructions, the message is clear. Irrespective of what ‘processing’ is understood to mean in this sentence, the clarion call is that white people should not hurt BIPOC. BIPOC? Another new acronym, following close on the heels of the reports that acronyms themselves are racist, this one, given that it was created by non-whites is obviously not racist. Obviously.
BIPOC for the uninitiated (as I myself was) stands for Black Indigenous and People of Color. Great. The use of acronyms is obviously helping heal America.
The last instruction is surely the worst:
“If you witness white folks doing problematic things, speak up with compassion to take the burden off Black folks and our siblings of colour whenever appropriate. Seek to engage rather than escalate, so that it can be a learning movement rather than a disruption.”
Glorious, as only sentences created by committee can be.
It’s time, it appears, to not only split America along racial lines but, in the interest of reducing the burden that sprang and continues to spring from America’s past, a burden which only oppresses non-white members of society, the time has now come to split the white race, too.
How is any of this going to heal America? It won’t.
The George Floyd Memorial is presently an ‘autonomous zone”, controlled by activists. The police, perhaps unsurprisingly, are not allowed in.
How is any of this going to heal America? It won’t.