Protests in the US: how deep-rooted is the racism?

Mass protests continue in the United States after the killing of George Floyd, an African American, by a policeman. While most rallies have been peaceful, some protestors have resorted to vandalism and looting. In reaction to the unrest 1,600 soldiers have been stationed near Washington. European media examine the structural causes for the racism which has brought the protesters onto the streets.

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El País (ES) /

Ancient feelings of superiority

It will take a spiritual revolution to eradicate racism in US society, says political scientist Sami Naïr in El País:

“This has to do with the historical formation of a country that was constructed on the basis of the genocide of the Native American groups by European conquerors and, subsequently, the trafficking of slaves imported from Africa. The memory of these ethnic and cultural oppositions during the founding period has become consolidated at all levels of the North American social system, in institutions and in daily life. ... It is a society made by whites for whites, from the point of view of whites. Changing this perception will require a mental revolution.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Racism replacing class struggle

The US is a divided country, and even more so since the start of the pandemic, political scientist Nadia Urbinati comments in La Repubblica:

“Poverty and unemployment have reached levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. This divided America feeds the racism virus. It wears the guise of white suprematism - a tangle of ideologies triggered by anger at the decline in the dignity of work. ... Whites who lose their jobs feel ill-treated. They see themselves as victims of an injustice for which they blame decades of subsidies which, according to the suprematist ideology, have made work easier for African-Americans and other ethnic minorities while punishing whites. ... This propaganda is traditionally the safety valve against class-specific readings of crisis and poverty.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Obama didn't come up with a solution either

When protests erupted across the US after the black American Freddie Gray died in police custody in 2015, the country's first black president also failed to find a convincing response, Milliyet recalls:

“When Gray died, it was the first time proceedings were initiated against the police in such a case. This was linked to the fact that Barack Obama was president at the time. Of course the political climate is important. ... However, things aren't quite as clear-cut as all that. After Gray's death many said that Obama had turned out to be a coconut: black on the outside, white on the inside'. The fact that he called the demonstrators 'looters' and tried to respond with a balanced approach was a source of huge disappointment for many black people. The US media, led by pro-Obama broadcaster CNN, became the 24-hour police propaganda centre.”

Falter (AT) /

It's easy to point fingers at the US

In Europe too, white people need to take action against racism, Falter demands:

“We simply can't understand what it's like to be in mortal danger because of your skin colour. ... It's easy to point your finger at the US right now. But Austria also has a history of police brutality and racial profiling. ... In Austria too, black mothers and fathers worry about their children, and talk with them about how they should behave in public and how they should react if they're stopped by the police. ... 'In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist,' says US civil rights activist Angela Davis. ... In concrete terms, this means white people must use their privileges to take action against racism, support organisations and actions of black people, and educate themselves.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Put an end to structural racism

American society must come to terms with the fact that the police have a xenophobia problem, NRC Handelsblad demands:

“In the Trump era, it is all the more important that this debate is conducted. The 'Black Lives Matter' movement, created in 2013, has played a crucial role in making structural racism visible. This movement has spawned leaders and intellectuals who keep the debate going. And the fact that people film assaults makes it more difficult for violent police officers to go unpunished. The fight against structural racism begins by making it visible. White Americans, who have much less contact with the police, can no longer deny that something fundamental is wrong.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Ineffective against deep-rooted inequalities

The Trump administration can't be blamed for all the factors behind the current situation, says Dnevnik:

“At least three such mass protests, which also escalated violently, took place during the time of the first black president Barack Obama. The underlying roots of the problems do not permit quick solutions. ... In a certain sense the outcome of the Afro-American protests unfortunately resembles that of the inconclusive protests after every rampage in the US. The demands of the streets are always followed by political promises that are then quickly forgotten. Despite the fact that these promises would be much easier to fulfil than the abolition of racism and the injustices that result from it.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Bye bye, American Dream

The police violence against blacks is the trigger but not the underlying reason for the riots, 24 Chasa puts in:

“Social inequality in the US is greater today than it was in 1933, when similar social revolts took place, albeit with different ideological slogans. It was then that Franklin Roosevelt came to power with his 'New Deal', and the era of the American Dream began. In 1933 the richest ten percent of the population owned 47 percent of the national wealth. By 1970, it was down to 34 percent. Those were the golden years of the American Dream. ... Today the rich own 50 percent of all wealth. The difference between now and 1933 is that this time the class of ideologists has managed to turn social inequality into racial hatred.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Progress must not be forgotten

The violent protests should not obscure the fact that the living situation of Afro-Americans has greatly improved over the last five decades, the Financial Times points out:

“The institutionalised segregation of the Jim Crow south is now just a shameful memory. In 1968, just 54 per cent of black Americans graduated from high school, compared with more than 90 per cent today. The poverty rate for African-Americans, which stood at almost 35 per cent in the year of King's assassination, was down to 22 per cent in 2016, the year of Donald Trump's election. Since then it has fallen further, though the coronavirus recession may reverse some of those gains.”

Lost in EUrope (DE) /

Not a word from Brussels

On his blog Lost in EUrope, Eric Bonse criticises what he sees as the EU's selective silence on the protests:

“If there is unrest somewhere in the world and the state reacts with violence, the EU diplomats have a standard response at the ready: they call for restraint and moderation. But in the case of the United States not even that happens. ... Trump incites violence and sows hatred. He also adds fuel to the fire with fake news and disinformation. But the EU is at a loss as to how to respond. Fake news always comes from Russia, disinformation from China. If the unrest was taking place there, the EU would certainly have reacted by now.”