In the last two weeks we have witnessed huge demonstrations and protests across the USA, and around the world, triggered by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill.
Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty six seconds while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down in the street, begging for his life – repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. A second and third officer further restrained Floyd while a fourth prevented bystanders from intervening. During the final three minutes, Floyd was motionless and had no pulse while Chauvin ignored onlookers’ pleas to remove his knee, which he did not do until medics told him to.
The brutal way in which George Floyd was murdered by the white policeman caused a huge outrage regarding black lives matter, the slogan black lives matter became the theme of the demonstrations and protests we have witnessed around the world even here at home. One can’t help but to ask the question of what kind of hatred this is that caused a human being to suffocate another human being to death for no reason except that George Floyd happens to be black.
The murder of George Floyd has brought into sharp focus the issue of systemic racism around the world and in our society.
It has brought back horrid memories for many and opened up old wounds of pain and suffering caused by systemic racism experienced by many black people in our country. Most black people continue to suffer under this ugly systemic racism and people around the world are fed up and have come to a tipping point – rightfully so. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this evil amongst us, we have a responsibility to confront and defeat racism whenever it raises its ugly head in our society and our communities. In this day and age, one would have thought that when it comes to racism very few people would be in dispute about what is right and wrong. With the exception of extremists, no one would wish to endorse racism. Just about all of us know nasty racist behaviour when we see it. Unfortunately, it is not the case and we need to fight against systemic racism, which is embodied in many of our societal institutions. We must continue to oppose it until we have defeated racism in all its forms.
I’m reminded of our late former President Nelson Mandela when he said “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.” He had the deep conviction that “No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, people must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”
At a time when issues of racism are manifesting around the world – in the news headlines, social media, and television, Mandela’s view on the matter teaches us that racism is not a given and can be defeated (or a better word may be eradicated). One of the saddest things about racism is that it can be passed down from generation to generation, though attitudes and behaviors – depending on what we teach our children. But Madiba pointed us in the right direction on this matter: saying we can socialise, especially our children, out of all forms of racial prejudice by simply teaching them respect the dignity of others, to accept their uniqueness and to love others.
Yes, legislators and the government must play their part by passing laws that will deal with and criminalise racism. The moral dimension of racism places a responsibility on the individual. Individuals must be held accountable for their racist behaviour. While racism will have structural qualities that can be defined and analysed politically, it can’t just be all a product of intangible and political forces. Human agency and attitudes play a role in shaping social reality. This, to me, is the area where we can all play a part both as individual citizens and as organizations.
Racism has brought so much human suffering over the years, and continues to do so. It is very disappointing and discouraging when one sees the poor response on racism and divisions by leaders across the world and we are again reminded of our late former President Nelson Mandela when he said: “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people”. Leaders that are willing to sacrifice for peace, prosperity, and unity are rare. The world is crying out for leaders with integrity and honesty.
We should all decide to respond to racism individually and collectively around the world. How would we do that? By creating campaigns or joining existing ones which seek to create awareness of racism and its effects and empower people to take action against racial prejudice and discrimination when it occurs. Individual citizens of different countries, including non-religious and secular organisations must pick up the cudgels in the fights against racism and confront it on all fronts whenever racism raises its ugly head.
If we are going to defeat racism in this world, organisations like the African Union, the European Union, as well as the likes of FIFA, and other global organisations must intensify their fight against racism, they cannot afford to let their guard down until racism has been defeated. If we all unite and stand together as people of the world and deal with racism wherever and whenever it shows up, I believe we will defeat racism and remove it out of our communities and our society.
In conclusion, we are calling for justice to be done in the case of Mr Collins Khosa from Alexandra who was brutally murdered by members of the South African Defence Force, the very people meant to protect him during the Lockdown period. The family deserves justice and so do all of us as the Citizens of this country, we need to see justice done.
PASTOR RAY McCAULEY IS THE PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCHES AND THE CHAIRPERSON OF NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL (NRLC)