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June 19, 2020

Racism, Coronavirus and Police Brutality

Some thought -and numbers- about the deep-rooted racism of American society.

Photograph by Koshu Kunii / Unsplash
Edited by Iliana Papangeli
Translated by Gigi Papoulias

 

On May 25, 2020, 46-year-old African-American George Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin on the corner of one of the largest roads in the United States, located in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis is a large city in Minnesota, a state in the Midwest. Minnesota is a conservative state, albeit traditionally a Democratic one. Of course, Hillary and Biden are among the Democrats. In the 2016 presidential election, the Democratic Party and Hillary won 46.44% of the vote, while Republicans and Trump won 44.92%. One would say that they “won” by a hair.

Whites (83.33%) make up the majority of the state’s population, followed by African Americans (6.19%) and Asians (4.75%). Most are Protestants, followed by Catholics, and then there are very few Mormons (VICE USA has made very interesting documentaries about their way of life).

Since 2015, the Washington Post has created a database, which records every fatal shooting by a police officer on duty. To date, more than 5,000 fatal shootings have been reported in the United States. In 2019, in Minnesota, 11 people were shot dead by police. Of that number, four were white, three did not specify their race, two were unknown, one was Latino and one was African American.

ProPublica’s research team revealed in a report that more African Americans have died from coronavirus. A few weeks ago, the New York Times featured a report about Ngozi Ezike, a doctor who is the director of the Department of Public Health in the state of Illinois, a mother of three and an African-American woman. In addition to the difficulties of being a mother and an African-American doctor, the journalists also reported that African Americans are at the highest risk of dying from the virus, due to long-term inequalities that have made access to the health care system difficult and prohibitive.

According to the New York Times, 30% of those who have died from COVID-19 in Illinois are African American. Illinois has one of the largest African-American and Latino communities in the United States. It is also a blue state, more so than Minnesota. Democrats in the 2016 election gained 55.83% of the vote and Republicans 38.76%. According to the Washington Post, in 2019 in Illinois, 13 people were killed in police shootings − eight were African Americans, three were unidentified, one was white and one was Latino.

During the summer of 2019, while in New York, I visited the American Museum of Natural History. Aside from the dinosaurs and the planetarium, what struck me and shocked me was a small corridor where newspaper clippings from the times of slavery were displayed.

Slave owners placed ads and offered a reward to anyone who returned runaway slaves. There were other types of announcements, such as when and where the next “black” market would be held, where slaves were bought and sold along with mules, pigs, carts and other products.

Racism is deeply rooted in American society, and that is reflected in the way the state is structured today, where police – a legal force – although controlled and funded by local communities, are equipped by the US central government itself and operate like low-paid mercenaries.

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