The United States is in the midst of a historic wave of anger following the brutal killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man by police officers in Minneapolis. Enlivened by scenes of looting, protests against the violence have spread throughout major American cities, reminiscent of the dark hours of 1968 and the death of Martin Luther King. Our colleagues from Le Temps interviewed Mohamed Mahmoud Mohamedou, professor at the Graduate Institute (IHEID) and a specialist of racism.
Two misconceptions should be avoided:
- Racism is hardly unique to the United States.
"Assuming that (...) would be tantamount to considering anti-Semitism only in the context of European history.”
He referred to Islamophobia in France, the resurgence of neo-Nazi movements in Germany and anti-Semitism in Europe in general.
- Racism is also not simply a relic of segregation that still lingers six decades after the US Civil Rights movement.
"The race issue has in fact never been solved in this country [the United States]…. but we are also faced with a failure that should be of global concern.”
Racism doesn’t just belong to the Trump era. Remember Los Angeles’ Watts in 1965; Detroit in 1967; Los Angeles in 1992; Ferguson in 2014. Trump only "took advantage” of last week’s events, embuing them with even more racist overtones.
Mohamedou defines the problem of racism as persistent and pervasive. He regrets its relative absence from debates in the media and the academic world. The issue also has failed mobilize young people in a way comparable to the climate crisis or the Arab Spring.
The Covid-19 pandemic context in which these riots are taking place, and the resulting threats to public health, should not hide the fact that the world has witnessed "murder in the real sense of the word” in Minneapolis.
"Our sense of déjà vu should not absolve us from understanding the systemic injustices that allowed this act to take place.”
"We cannot (...) present ourselves as human rights defenders through International Geneva or the European Union while regarding discrimination in the United States as inevitable.”