As the nation holds it's breath in the trial of Derek Chauvin, preparations are in place to deal with civil unrest if the verdict goes the wrong way. There is no clearer evidence of the racial divide than the fear that now exist over the consequences, if Derek Chauvin is not convicted for the murder of George Floyd. I have a sinking feeling that Republican leadership are hoping that at the very least, there will be a hung jury, because nothing would suit them more right now, than for riots to break out up and down the country, so they can attack Biden on law and order.
I have listened to almost all of the televised trial proceedings and I believe there is no doubt that the prosecution has done an outstanding job, in making their case that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone that didn't find the evidence presented compelling. However, if it's one thing I've learned since immersing myself in US politics, truth and common sense mean little in the US today. It's a measure how 4 years of nationalism can fracture a society to the point where good sense is mocked and common sense is ignored.
To any right minded person, the wearing of a mask to prevent the spread of a virus that has killed over 560,000 Americans, is a no brainer and yet, it's become a major civil liberties issue. In the same way, 40,000 dead Americans from gun violence should in any normal society, indicate that there is a gun control problem. Not in the US, it's become a nation in which common sense norms are wrapped up in the alleged withholding of rights. All it tells me, is that those killed were denied their right to be alive today.
It's a sad reflection on society that law enforcement has become a haven for racist intent. Let me be clear, I am NOT calling all police officers racist. However, the evidence is, that a significant number of officers either through bias or subconscious bias, treat minority communities differently when if comes to enforcing the law. The fact that a black man is twice as likely to be shot by police, is evidence that there is a real problem. It's not just about getting shot, it's about wider harassment and the racial targeting of minority communities as they go about their daily lives. It appears that 'caught in possession of a black face' is now sufficient cause to generally make life difficult for people of color. This excellent report in the Guardian by James Forman Jr, explores How 20 years of stop and search has widened America’s racial divide.
US policing is decentralised, so collecting stats on stop and search is challenging to say the least. However, this deep dive on the subject by the team at Nature in May 2020 is absolutely fascinating. You'll need to get your thinking head on though, as the detail is not for the faint hearted. Needless to say, the conclusion is one that in many areas of the country, stop and search stats reflect that of use of force, so it appears the chances of being pulled over on suspicion of 'driving a vehicle whilst black' are disproportionate. Given that stops are often a pretext for potential further harassment, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that racist police can drive around all day harassing people of color, if that's what they want to do.
Racial bias in policing is just one part of societal systemic racism which was aggravated by four years of Donald Trump. Let's be clear, Trump is not the cause of racism in the US, he just helped elevate it to a level of acceptability that made otherwise hidden racists to come out of the shadows. It's hard to overstate the impact Trump has had on race relations following his attacks on the BLM protests of 2020. It will take a long time to recover trust and respect, especially if the verdict in the Chauvin trial goes the wrong way.
It seems discrimination is simply baked into every part of daily life, from job opportunities to getting finance to help for black business owners. It should then come as no surprise, that small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic have been black owned businesses. This report by Rohit Arora at Forbes highlights the issues black businesses face. I know that the Biden administration is more than aware of this inequality and has taken a small step in the American Rescue plan to begin to address it. The point I'm trying to make, is that America is a racist society (sorry but there can be no other conclusion). It's a bit like being an addict or an alcoholic, you can't address the problem until you admit there is a problem and the Republican Party is wilfully blind to the facts on racism. It does not serve their political goals to recognise it, so they pretend it does not exist.
A critical consideration, is that the Democratic Party is absolutely reliant on the black vote to win elections. For too long now, they have just paid lip service to the needs of black voters and rocked up every 4 years expecting black folk to stand in line and vote for them. Had it not been for the black vote and in particular the votes of black women, Donald J Trump would still be sitting in the Oval Office. The minority vote is the key to unlock the door to long term power in both houses and without it, the Dems are just caretakers. With this in mind, it would be electoral suicide to ignore the needs of these communities moving forward. This is exactly why the GOP is making an all out effort to suppress the black vote, which brings us full circle back to the filibuster.
As things stand, the new administration has had an outstanding first one hundred days. The Covid vaccine roll out has been the highlight, but the American Rescue Plan has signalled intent. Given the opportunity, The American Jobs Plan could build on it to achieve transformational change. The only thing standing in the way are Republicans. Kevin McCarthy claims that Biden's description of infrastructure is an insult to the English language. My reply to Mr McCarthy is, it takes intellect to understand the nuance of the English language, something he and his colleagues seem to be devoid of.
Today my thoughts are with George Floyd's family and the families of all those lost at the hands of law enforcement and to senseless gun violence. These families have suffered unnecessary senseless loss, for which no words can ever offer comfort. In a world that has robbed them of those they held so close to their hearts, it is only fair and just, that justice is seen to be done. I know for many, their hurt and despair has been further deepened by a failure of justice and this MUST change moving forward.