What is the George Floyd case and why it inflames America
The United States is experiencing one of the most dramatic moments in its history. After the wave of covid-19 that literally mowed down the country, the States are now in the midst of a real revolt that, starting from the heartbreaking murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, is rapidly spreading throughout the Confederation (with reactions all over the world) also exponentially increasing the level of confrontation between the police forces and the civilian population.
But how was it possible to get to this point?
To understand what is happening today, we need to take a long step back. At least as long as the legs of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who, in 2016, decided to remain on his knees during the American anthem to protest the oppression of minorities within the States.
The gesture, which in fact denounced in a symbolic, non-violent yet evident way the racism still present in American society, cost Kaepernick his team’s place and the ostracism from all the NLF (National Ligue Football) teams. Clearly the Kaepernick protest is not what the clashes started from but it is a red dot in the history of the States, from which perhaps it is better to start not to have to go too far back in time, at least until 1970, the year in which Segregationism it was abolished in the USA (exactly 50 years ago, not centuries ago).
From that red dot we draw a line that leads us, through the last 4 years and through a context of growing and creeping racism, xenophobia and misogyny fueled by political rhetoric (against Mexicans, against the Chinese and obviously against minorities tout-court who do not respond to the phenotype “middle-class heterosexual white male”), until the stroke of hour X, or the arrival of Covid-19 within the borders of the American continent. The virus, left free to circulate from the muscular narrative of part of politics, has struck on two fronts: health and economic. Both sides saw the weaker sections of the population, including a significant percentage of the African American population, suffer the most severe consequences. According to estimates dating back to April, for example, in Chicago 72% of the victims of covid-19 belonged to the African American community. A number that has probably gone up due to the US health system in which access to care is distributed on an income basis.
New York, June 1, 2020 (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
© Spencer Platt
With the growth of the virus, similarly to Europe, we have also seen the dramatic increase in unemployment benefit applications (true “thermometer” of the US economy and an index that makes Wall Street swing heavily). Less open companies, less work, less work, more unemployed who, needless to say, have concentrated in some specific social groups. In May 2020, unemployment was divided as follows: 18.9% of Hispanics, 16.7% of Americans, 14.5% of Asians and 14.2% of whites (women, needless to say, are among the most affected with 15.5% unemployed).
This immense powder magazine of deep instability was finally triggered, on May 25 of this year, by the murder of George Floyd. These are the facts: on the night of May 25, the 46-year-old Floyd leaves the house to buy cigarettes and pays them with a fake 20 dollar bill. The shopkeeper, aware of the fact, calls 911 and quickly a Minneapolis police patrol stops Floyd: instead of ascertaining the possible extraneousness to the facts (currently it is not clear if the man was aware of holding fake money) he immobilizes him for 8 very long minutes, squeezing his chest and neck with one knee and inducing suffocation despite the man’s repeated entreaties.
St Paul, Minnesota, June 1, 2020 (Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images)
© Scott Olson
“I can’t breathe”, the phrase repeated several times by the agonizing African American, has become a symbol of revolt but also a symbol of an America that has no mercy for those who live a life without “being able to breathe” but, on the contrary, continue undeterred in her oppression. And it was only to the social networks and videos made by those present, threatened by the colleague of the policeman who immobilized the man, that one of the many “collateral victims” of the relationship between the police and the African American community (it is estimated that one of the main causes of death among young African Americans are the gunfights with the police), it has become a news that has spread all over the world and above all that has started the protests. Protests that, as we have said, are not for Floyd’s death but for a situation now largely under control that at this point it seems that President Trump himself is not able to manage.
Minneapolis, June 1, 2020 (Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images)
© Scott Olson
The last act of managing the now dramatic situation was to pose, with the Bible in hand and the grim expression, in front of the Episcopal church of Washington, thundering in a speech to the Nation and calling himself a “President Law And Order “and threatening the intervention of the army. A powerful image in its brutality that has paired with the filming of the police who cleared the road (then traveled by Trump) by shooting tear gas at zero elevation. A constant blowing on the fire which clearly risks aggravating an already unsustainable situation.
Usually a conflict is said to make the re-election of the President-in-Office almost certain: we would not want Trump to have decided to follow this rule literally by triggering a civil war.