The death of George Floyd has shaken the whole world but why? There was really nothing to be surprised at. He was a 46-year-old man originally from Houston, Taxes migrated to Minneapolis in search of work and luckily, he found a job as a truck driver and bouncer. Before his death, he was working in a Latin American restaurant at the post of a security guard. Of course, with a height of 6 ft 6 inches and with a natural athletic structure, he would be getting offers for the duty of a security guard. Isn’t it a biased appointment? In U.S. African-Americans are preferred for the job of a security guard or bouncer reasons, first due to their body structure and second to systematically deprive them of working on high-paid jobs. But inside Floyd’s huge body was a warm heart that cannot be seen by the naked eyes. Many people from his family and friends told him that he had a loving and charming nature. If that is the case, then why was he arrested? The police officers don’t arrest anyone without any reason, right? So, yes there was a reason for his arrest.
On 25 May, a teenage grocery store worker accused him of using a forged $20 note. He had purchased cigarettes from Cup Foods in Minneapolis. Though the owner of the shop, Mike Abumayyaleh wasn’t there at that time, and after his death, he told that Floyd was his regular customer and have never caused any trouble for him. It means that the Policer officers without verifying the information that too given by a teenage boy choked him to death. Within 17 minutes of a complaint made by that boy, the four Police officers reached at the site to arrest Floyd. One of the officers named Derek Chauvin was seen choking him by pinning his knee on his neck. He continued to choke him for eight minutes and 46 seconds even after Floyd became unconscious and eventually lifeless. The rest of the officers were literally enjoying the scene while the bystanders were calling out for help. But during such situations whom do you call when those who have taken an oath to protect you are themselves, murderers?
Is this the first incident? No, not at all. There are many such incidents that happen on an almost daily basis across the world but go unreported. It is surely in our hands to make it the last incident. For that, there is a need to put an end to racism. Before diving into how to do it, let’s get some clarity about the concept itself. So, what is racism exactly? To understand it, first, we need to understand the concept of race. So, the race is basically a social construct, when applied to humans it divides the society on the basis of physical features like skin color, the shape of the nose, lips and eyes, and body structure. It was first used to describe different people from different regions like we have ethnicity and nationality nowadays. Later, in the 17th and 18th century when Europeans started facing rebellion from non-Europeans nations then Philosophers and Enlightenment scientists gave it a biological meaning. From then on, the race became and is understood as something which is naturally inherited from the ancestors.
As colonialism expanded, the concept of race was used to dominate and suppress the non-white colonialized regions. The meaning hasn’t changed much to the day, especially in folk understanding where people still believe that race is a natural phenomenon. Though the scientific study says that race is not a categorization of human beings on the basis of their biological traits. Sometimes, people also get confused between race and ethnicity but the two are totally different concepts. Race can be differentiated by perceived common physical characteristics, which are thought to be fixed, whereas ethnicity is defined by perceived common ancestry, history, and cultural practices, which are seen as more fluid and self-asserted rather than assigned by external forces. To make it more clear, take an example of India, here in general Indians are called Asians or to be specific South Asians but within India, there is further division like Kashmiris, Bengalis, Punjabis, Keralites, etc. these are different ethnic groups. But ethnicity and nationality overlap each other for example, all the above mentioned ethnic groups have a nationality of India. In the end, all three categories-race, ethnicity, and nationality are socially constructed.
From a Sociological perspective, racism is a social construction, it means that which was made by humans can also be destroyed by humans itself if it is against humanity. Racism doesn’t arrive in a single night. It took several years to take this ugly face and is analytically distinct from racial discrimination and racial inequality. Racial discrimination concerns the unequal treatment of races, whereas racial inequality concerns unequal outcomes (in income, education, health, etc.). While racism is often implicated in both processes. The Europeans had built this notion that whites are superior to blacks to make slavery justifiable. To date, people used this concept to discriminate between white and non-whites to exploit the later in every possible way. The result of it is right in front of us, the blacks are systematically secluded from the rest of the Americans which is directly related to the chances of getting good health treatment and education and getting better job opportunities.
We usually become racists whenever we see someone whose physical appearance is quite visibly distinct from us. This unconsciously makes us feel uncomfortable and we start to bully him/her. When this feeling is combined with a feeling of doing discrimination on the basis of commonly perceived superiority and inferiority notions then it takes a most heinous form like in the case of Floyd. Now, the time has come to end racism. Start from your own, stop yourself from calling someone kallu, chinki, etc. to make a healthy society where everyone gets an equal opportunity and treatment without any uncomfortable gaze.
Zainab Ashraf is a student of Masters in Development Communication at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi