The Murder of George Floyd and the Future of the African-American Vote Bank
Updated: Jun 5
Every once in a while, America finds itself at a crossroads. More often than not, the road they choose to take results in historic consequences. While the nation under Trump was already rather volatile due to questionable administrative decisions and divisive policies, these past few months have been especially hard on the American state.
A week after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, various American cities have seen mass protests that have remained largely peaceful, instances of rioting and looting however have also arisen and have come under the eye of the general public due to their sensationalization in the media. The words “ I can’t breathe” are now a metaphorical undertone for the long marginalized African - American community. It has become a battle cry as well as a stark reminder of the oppression that they have faced since the first slave ships docked at Virginia in 1619.
In large numbers, people have stepped out in the midst of a pandemic to voice their anguish and rage at the unnecessary murder of another one of their own people.
A large majority have engaged in peaceful protests, demanding structural reform and accountability for public servants but the stray incidents of violence have often overshadowed their pleas for change. The media chose to consistently cover only violent protests and this has in turn changed the public perception of the movement George Floyd's murder triggered.
It caused many Americans to view the protests not as a reaction to the years of systemic oppression but rather as a group of individuals endangering the safety of other citizens through their violent actions thereby painting the protests as a threat to national security.
It has also allowed President Trump to dodge demands for structural reform by furthering his divisive strategy of engaging in white nationalist politics loosely packaged as concern for America which has long been at the heart of his administration and campaign in the past.
The crossroad earlier mentioned is regarding the choice the African American community will have to make come November this year.
In 1968, when the face of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, The United States of America saw one of the most aggressive uprisings by the black community in its history.
The riots and subsequent damage to the public and private property allowed the then heads of state Nixon and Reagan to capitalize on public fear and ‘prioritize law and order’. Essentially, this meant that the rioting and violent uprising enabled an antagonistic right-wing agenda. It meant ignoring the calls for equality and condoning the systemic racism present in everyday American life. It went beyond that too. It empowered versions of a police state, where officers could act without bothering about the consequences. Greater incarceration fuelled by racial profiling was the policy approach rather than the prevention of crime by addressing the demands of the African - American community.
That dark period in American history is no different from how Trump has chosen to handle the crisis. He too promises to ‘prioritize law and order’ as a part of his current administrative campaign as well as his re-election campaign. He will attempt to discredit the entire 'Black Lives Matter' movement while managing to absolve the police of any guilt and enabling them to wash the blood off their hands.
In order to survive this tactful racist agenda, the African American community will need to move away from the uprisings and protests and grow into the idea of actively voting and working towards changing the system through the constitutional machinery they are granted and possess.
The only way to escape being scapegoated repeatedly is to unseat the leader who brands them as ‘thugs’. The opportunity is not far. In November 2020, Donald Trump will face re-election and his rival Joe Biden (the candidate of the Democrats) has seemingly outperformed him in the last few weeks. Biden’s approval rating among American voters now stands at 53% compared to Trump whose approval rating stands at 43%. He has campaigned as an empathetic and experienced individual in contrast to the aggression and unpredictability of the incumbent president. Come November, the two roads presented to the public will lead to two very different American and global realities. If the BLM movement can sustain its flame and act as a harbinger of change, it greatly affects the election and voting patterns in the polls.
However, if the movement begins to stagnate and is unable to effect any real change especially among the black demographic (who have notoriously avoided voting in the past) then the dystopian situation America is currently facing might become their new reality.
Authored by Naomi Kurian.