Schools, want to tackle racism? Here’s how

Ideas

Schools, want to tackle racism? Here’s how

Take a long, hard look at yourselves and change what breeds racism or you will face more and more challenges

Columnist

Believe it or not, there is a connection between the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police in America, the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, England, and the eruption on social media of bitter complaints about racism posted by past and present pupils of SA’s elite white schools.

What is it about the killing of George Floyd? Black men especially are regularly harassed, beaten, imprisoned and killed in America. That is a sad and brutal fact that is so commonplace it no longer shocks as it should. Sometimes, however, those events provoke intense local and national reaction, as in the 1992 circular beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles policemen or the shooting death of Michael Brown by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. However, no black man’s death, even the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King jnr, has generated such huge and sustained protests not only across the US but in major capitals about the world, from London, Paris, Berlin and Auckland to countries such as Brazil, Iran, Syria and Canada. Why?

I think the main reason for the intense reaction to the death of this black man is that this was as close as one could come to witnessing a slow-motion (eight minutes and 36 seconds), extrajudicial, racial killing recorded in plain sight. It sparked fury about the world because it evoked raw memory of racial oppression in the past, and racial harassment and marginalisation in the present. The Black Lives Matter movement would take to the streets and trigger actions unimaginable a year ago, such as the Mississippi legislature voting to remove the confederate symbol from the state flag, Nascar banning confederate flags at its rallies or the famed Princeton University taking down the statue and names of a former president, Woodrow Wilson, from its buildings. All because of one horrific killing, when a white policeman dug his knee into the soft tissue of a black man’s neck as he pleaded for his life (“I can’t breathe”) and called for his late mother, even as life slowly ebbed away...

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