Land of the unfree: On U.S. unrest

America is in great need of legislative reform that supports a pluralist ethos

June 01, 2020 12:02 am | Updated 12:32 am IST

If ever there were a doubt that racism in the U.S. had outlived eight years under former President Barack Obama, the events of this week, including protests following the death of an African-American, George Floyd , in police action in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have set them to rest. Even as rallies and police crackdowns engulfed a wide swathe of American metros, President Donald Trump inserted himself into the controversy and triggered a broader debate on censorship of posts by social media platforms. On Friday, Twitter masked and attached a caution note to a tweet by Mr. Trump for “glorifying violence”. In that tweet he had labelled protesters calling for action against police for Floyd’s death “THUGS”, adding “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, a reference to a threat by a police chief, who in 1967 declared “war” and vowed violent revenge on African-Americans in Miami Beach. As outrage spread across social media, Mr. Trump appeared to dial down his rhetoric subsequently, tweeting, “It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement.” This is hardly the first time that the U.S. President has fanned the flames of hatred. He has said, among other things, that Mexicans were rapists and drug dealers, and in early 2017 he banned visitors from certain Muslim-majority countries.

It is almost inevitable that racial tensions will bubble to the surface in an election year and explode when incendiary remarks are made by leaders. Amid such a toxic public discourse, fuelled by a Republican Commander-in-Chief, hope for a more reasonable, tolerant and bipartisan approach rests on the shoulders of Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. Should Mr. Biden select an African-American or a minority community leader as his running mate, the base of potential voters could broaden and help improve the Democrats’ odds of taking back the White House. The potential candidates for this role include California Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Maxine Waters, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, not to mention former First Lady Michelle Obama. However, the mere tokenism of including persons of colour as a vice-presidential candidate or in a potential Biden cabinet of 2021 will not suffice to heal the painful fractures in American society, riven by hateful rhetoric on race. The balm must include far-reaching legislative reform on the use of excessive force by police against minorities, punishment for all hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and inhumane treatment of migrants at the border. Unless such an agenda, focused on the complete reform of government institutions toward supporting a pluralist ethos, is adopted by the next occupant of the White House, the American dream will remain a mirage for many.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.