POLITICAL THEORY
POLITICS

Breathless…

22 NOVEMBER 2020

 

In the city of Minneapolis George Floyd died exhaling, with his last breath, these words: "I can't breathe". Obstructing the paths of the vital breath, preventing the simple act of freely inhaling and exhaling the air that surrounds our planet and that we instinctively know how to fill our lungs from the first moments after birth, this is what the corona virus, version 2019, is doing, keeping humanity under threat. But this is not the virus that killed George Floyd

Wandbild Portrait George Floyd von Eme Street Art im Mauerpark; Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

        n the city of Minneapolis George Floyd died exhaling, with his last breath, these words: "I can't breathe". Obstructing the paths of the vital breath, preventing the simple act of freely inhaling and exhaling the air that surrounds our planet and that we instinctively know how to fill our lungs from the first moments after birth, this is what the corona virus, version 2019, is doing, keeping humanity under threat. But this is not the virus that killed George Floyd: if he lacked, in his last moments, that air which is the very element of life, it is because another man murdered him, with his knee stuck in the back of his neck, crushing him with all his weight. When the televisions show us the video of the murder, they warn us that we must be prepared to be shocked. 

And they do well to warn us so much the long agony of George Floyd is unbearable; unbearable, the rattle where one hears that he calls his mother, dead however two years ago, as if to evoke the one who transmitted his own breath to him when he was still in his belly; unbearable the fact that among the four policemen in whose hands he died, not a single one has been found to ask them to back down in the face of the assassination; unbearable, finally, the look in the eyes of the main murderer who seems to think he is crouching on a trophy.

What the video shows is an image of this so-called structural racism to indicate that it manifests an institutionalized culture that predisposes certain authority holders to racist behavior and acts. If those who have the responsibility to protect citizens and maintain order understand this duty as the mission and license to police the city against certain categories of people defined by the color of their skin or the neighborhoods they live in, they create and maintain this structural racism that corrodes many justice systems, not only in the United States.

As long as this culture is not eradicated, justice can’t be just: this is the message of the demonstrations that took place in major American cities, but also in London, Berlin, Toronto, etc. We note here, because it is important today not to forget any racism, that in Tunis too, those who present themselves as Afro-Tunisians have demonstrated to denounce the anti-Black racism of which they are victims. Those outside the United States who show their indignation in this way do so out of solidarity, of course, but also because they are experiencing the same urgency, and are driven, at home, by the same ethical demand for racial and social justice in a world that has become more diverse, more multicultural, more multiracial everywhere.

We are shocked, it is true, to see the demonstrations sometimes turn into riots, confrontation with the police, looting, forcing the local authorities to resort to curfews. It is thus established that the crowds that protest are also infiltrated by militants of the Extreme Right and Extreme Left who see this as an opportunity to create a chaos conducive to some obscure end, but also by elements who have no other agenda than looting. But in no way does the violence stain the image of the healthy and generous indignation that brings together people of all origins, far beyond those who traditionally claim to belong to the Black Lives Matter movement. In any way, it doesn’t diminish the power of the ethical demand, which is everywhere brandished by the demonstrators: that of fighting inequalities and bringing about a world based on the affirmation of our common humanity. It is this breath that the name George Floyd carries today. It is the air he asks us to breathe together.

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                    As long as this culture is not eradicated, justice can’t be just

                    It is this breath that the name George Floyd carries today. It is the air he asks us to breathe together.

Translated by SOPHIE GALABRU

Philosophy World Democracy

It will not be a world democracy, since it must be the people themselves who create themselves and arrange themselves. Rather, we affirm a democratic essence of the world: peopled by all the living and by all the conversing, wholly configured by their existence and by their words.

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