Race relations are caught in a vicious cycle in the United States. Despite being a democracy that claims to be among the most advanced in the world, with multiple agencies ‘monitoring’ the state of human rights in other countries and lecturing them on how to do it well, its own record is among the worst in the world. Ironically, the really bad situation evolves from none other than claims to constitutionally mandate freedoms. This is why it clings on desperately to the ‘right to bear arms’ based on a twisted interpretation of the Constitution, resulting in the greatest number of shooting deaths anywhere. Sadly, the black and the Hispanic communities are the biggest victims of this ‘freedom’.
Two recent incidents have provoked widespread and violent protests in the US these days. In one, three white men chased down and shot dead a black man jogging in ‘their’ area, because they believed he could not be there except for some nefarious reason. In the other, four cops so brutally arrested a black man that he died as a result. It was a repetition of an earlier such incident, that had started the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in the country.
On the other hand, however, owing to a whole lot of reasons rooted in the history of how US came to be what it is today, violent crime and drug abuse is high among the black and Hispanic communities. Police officials are always on edge when dealing with individuals and groups in certain areas. The widespread disrespect for authority in popular culture leads to unnecessary tension in any engagement of these communities with the police. Although, statistically, the cost the law enforcers have to pay for this situation is high, it is not part of the popular narrative. All kinds of measures, such as body cameras worn by the cops, have been taken to ensure law enforcement is carried out by the book, but the situation remains out of control.
Things are made worse when perfectly legitimate protests descend into rioting and looting, thereby strengthening the stereotypes against the blacks. When extremist organisations deliberately infiltrate the protestors’ ranks – as happened during the CAA protests in India – the original reason is forgotten altogether. The rioting, looting and burning that has been going on in as many as 40 US cities over the past six days will further polarise public opinion, impacting upon national politics. Everybody will want to exploit the situation in the coming elections, meaning thereby that solutions for the actual problem will be a long time coming.