The death of George Floyd and a continental congress

By Mwangi Wachira Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/21 13:13:40



Demonstrators march through Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the US, June 19, 2020. New Yorkers on Friday marked Juneteenth, the day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, with marches and protests as the country is having a new moment of reckoning about racial injustice. Photo: Xinhua



Kenyans and Africans know that the US is an experiment to create one people out of many. E pluribus Unum. 

But as we saw when police officer Derek Chauvin crushed the life out of George Floyd, the price that people of African origin pay for this experiment is colossal and far higher than any other group.    

A political, social and economic knee presses on the necks of African Americans, especially men, every day. 

Every minute in the US, a motorist is stopped without cause. A loan or job applicant is denied. A student is given a lower grade. A shopper in a supermarket is followed, a jogger is shot, a patient is ignored or treated poorly, a home buyer is shown inferior houses, a worker is denied a promotion, a judge pronounces an excessively harsh sentence. And an arrested and handcuffed George Floyd is murdered for no reason other than his African origin.  

This is the racist culture which has choked African Americans for generations.   

It explains why large segments of African and Hispanic Americans have health conditions that lead to higher rates of death from COVID-19 than other racial groups in the US. The fault is not in their race; it is in the dominant culture.

Other groups have endured racism in the US. 

Genocide committed against the original peoples by European invaders is now recast as nation-building.     

Racism against Chinese Americans was the law, much as it was for African Americans. Japanese Americans were sent to concentration camps during World War II.     

Other than Native Americans, these groups have since secured far bigger stakes in the US than African Americans whose labor and toil dug the foundation for the US starting at Jamestown in Virginia in 1619.  

George Floyd's "I can't breathe" was heard around the world and most of all in Africa.      

As long as African Americans live poorer lives for no reason other than their African origin, the US lacks the moral authority to sanction other countries for allegedly choking their minorities. That is the simple message delivered to the US in demonstrations in Tunis, Nairobi, and Cape Town in the last two weeks. It was also delivered in Budapest, London, Paris and many cities in the US.

A white American who buys cigarettes with a fake bill, as George Floyd allegedly did, does not pay with his life. So, why did the policeman murder George Floyd? Because he was acting on behalf of probably a majority of white Americans who go through the motions of racial coexistence but privately share the policeman's fear and hate of African Americans.

Most white Americans are governed with law and order in equal measure. Generally speaking, African Americans like George Floyd or the Green Card holder from Kenya receive more order and less law.     

The US has many laws to regulate police behavior. They did not save George Floyd. More laws will not save George Floyd's son. So, what can be done to give African Americans self-determination?      

It took two Continental Congresses in the 18th century to lay the foundation for the US. The US Congress should be convened as a Continental Congress to give African Americans political, economic, and social space or self-determination so that they do not have to deal with racism 24 hours a day.    

Perhaps the US should be reconstituted as a confederation giving different races full internal governance over defined regions. Over specified time, Americans will redistribute themselves such that George Floyd's great-grandchildren will not face policemen who enjoy crushing the life out of African Americans. Likewise, the policeman's great-grandchildren will not police people whose humanity they doubt. This massive migration will give Americans of goodwill the opportunity to choose regions and pay the price. In real life, not just in demonstrations.

If this redesign can be done peacefully over several generations, the US would be an exception to the rule that freedom is never granted or given; it is always taken.   

Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of African Americans believe that what they need can be granted peacefully.  

To paraphrase Robert Kennedy, it is time to dream of things that never were and ask, why not. In memory of all George Floyds since Africans landed in Virginia in 1619 with chains on their feet after being caught in Congo.

The author is a former senior economist from the World Bank. [email protected]



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