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A dark chapter


June 2, 2020

Just a few days ago the US reached the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid-19. Even as the country was grappling with these losses, many more disturbing events have taken place.

Just in the past week, while the nation was coming to grips with Covid-19 losses, President Trump announced the US will leave the WHO and withdraw the special trading status that had been granted to Hong Kong, following Beijing's announcement of curtailing many freedoms in the territory. A full-blown cold war between the US and China is now on the cards.

As we were trying to process all of this, the nation and the world witnessed the horrific strangling death of George Floyd, a black man at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer while three of his colleagues stood by, continuing to ignore the victim’s pleas. “I can't breathe” has become a cry for justice by black citizens of America. The entire incident was recorded on camera and led to an uproar across the country, resulting in protests but also violence and looting in some places as anger boiled over. Protests have now spread to over 30 cities.

Sadly, the killing of this unarmed black man by a police officer is hardly an isolated incident. In just the last few years, many such incidents have come to light thanks to phone cameras.

Just a few weeks ago, a black man Ahmaud Arbery who was jogging through a neighborhood, was shot and killed by two white men in Georgia claiming they thought he was a thief. Even greater outrage was when the police looking into the incident decided no crime had been committed and no arrests needed to be made. It was only after a video of the killing was posted on social media and led to a national uproar, that the killers were apprehended. Whether in the end justice will be served remains to be seen.

In fact, many southern states have a law on the books referred to as “stand-your-ground” law. It roughly means that a person who “feels” threatened has a right to shoot someone, even an unarmed person, and that would be considered self-defence, regardless of whether their safety was actually threatened. How an armed person can feel threatened by an unarmed person is anybody's guess.

The roots of anti-black racism are very deep in the US. It took 75 years after abolition of slavery for civil rights and voting rights laws to be passed, and yet the struggles of this community continue. The killing in Minneapolis did not happen in a vacuum. There is a long and recent history of such incidents. For example, just a few months ago a policewoman barged into a black woman's apartment and shot her while she was watching TV in her own home. It was an accident, we were told.

Into this mix comes Donald Trump, a man wholly unsuited to lead the nation in times of crisis. Upon the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Trump’s first instinct was to threaten to shoot the rioters. While no one should condone violence and arson, a leader is supposed to feel the pain of a community, calm citizens’ nerves and lead everyone out of the crisis. These are qualities that haven't remotely touched Trump.

Where all of this will lead the country is hard to say. But with an inept bigoted man at the helm, it will likely not be a good place anytime soon.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Washington DC. Website: blogs