AFRICAN American, George Floyd was, until Africa Day, May 25, known only to a handful of people; mainly his family, friends, co-workers and neigbours. But his murder so shook the world that it displaced news of the coronavirus which has infected over seven million people and claimed more than 400,000 lives.
In death, Floyd became so famous that when he was buried 15 days later, most major channels in the world gave it live coverage, world leaders, including Pope Francis and millions across the world paid tribute. Despite the body language of the American President, millions of Americans, including military and security chiefs joined in the tributes. Public staff, from policemen to American embassy staff, including in Nigeria, took a kneel as a mark of respect for a man whose painful, tearful murder, threatens to reset his country’s race relations and justice system.
Taking the kneel is also a regret and apology for his murder by men paid from public funds to protect lives and property, and a vow that all will be done to ensure that such foul murder will no longer be tolerated or protected by their country. Many African Americans are murdered annually by the police just as the Ku Klux Khan for hundreds of years burnt, battered, strangled, lynched and murdered Blacks, but so powerful was the force of George Floyd’s death that millions see it as America’s opportunity to cleanse itself of centuries of racial genocide and injustice.
The American establishment has knelt on the necks of African Americans for 401 years now; two and half centuries holding them as slaves and the last century and half trying to convince itself that African-Americans are human beings deserving of fundamental rights like the right to life, and full American citizenship. America over the past four centuries seemed to have gotten away with these crimes; but it took a White policeman kneeling on the neck of Blackman, George Floyd, for about nine minutes for it to recognise that there can be payback time.
The desperate attempt of President Donald Trump to turn out the military against protesters, attempts to sabotage the protests and even produce a false autopsy report, merely added fuel to the protests. The protest movement is so massive, and the waves for reform, so strong that no pro-establishment African-American or self-respecting White has dared swim against it. The tsunami the Floyd’s murder has triggered may eventually sweep away the Trump Presidency.
Certainly, America as the biggest economy in the world – with a $22 trillion economy size – and the strongest military, including its control of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the unipolar military alliance, is too strong to fall. However, its Achilles heel is that it was a colony built mainly on the genocide of the indigenous Indian people and the slavery of the imported Black people.
Despite having failed to transform its race relations, it is unlikely that it is the indigenous Indians or other brown people that will bring it down. That is likely to be the historic duty of the enslaved Black people like the abolitionist lineage of Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman, the grandchildren of the intellectuals like W.E.B. Dubois, Richard Wright and Langston Huges, the inheritors of dove-like Martin Luther King Jnr, the fire-spitting Malcolm X and John Brown who despite being a Whiteman, in a Christ-like manner, laid down his life for the emancipation of the Black slave.
So, despite being as heavy as lead, America is as light as a feather; it is like a solid rock by the seaside which the toothless waves eat up. It should have listened to Marcus Garvey in 1919 when he campaigned for racial equality and justice.
America should have reflected in 1963 when during the ‘March on Washington’ Martin Luther King Jnr warned that: “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood… There will be neither rest nor tranquillity in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges…We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”
The United States should have heard the “I can’t breathe” cries of Eric Garner in 2014 or correctly read the message of Colin Kaepernick who two years later, took a kneel to protest police brutality and racial injustice in ‘God’s own country.’ But America has become like the falcon which cannot hear the falconer. This is typified by the actions of President Trump who seemed so irritated and insulted by the protests that he threatened to turn out the military to clear protesters from the streets.
Did the American establishment listen to one of Garvey’s children in Jamaica, Bob Marley, when in his “Babylon system” obliquely referred to the United States as “the vampire, falling empire” which is “Suckin’ the blood of the sufferers?” I do not think the momentum the protests has unleashed can stop America from returning to its old ways of racial bigotry and naked exploitation, or compel it to radically reform its internal security system, especially its police force.
A country built on exploitation and run on an unjust system necessarily needs a brutal police force to maintain its old ‘law and order’ falsehood. No, I do not think the American system is about being brought to its knees. But the protest movement is like the seemingly harmless Muhammed Ali punches that rocked his opponents and a combination of such punches that brought the mighty down to the canvas.
The American empire like the Roman Empire which existed for two thousand years, will not last forever. Again like ancient Rome, the slaves and former slaves will play a major role in its decline. Like the British Empire that ruled the waves and in its glory invaded several countries, its sun will set.
America is too big to collapse and in any case, were it to do so, it will fall on many countries, crushing them under its weight. Rather, I see it implode, and some of the internal contradictions that will aid that cave-in, including its inhuman treatment of the African American people, are already in place.
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