Underlying all the serious racial issues which have bubbled to the surface in America after the murder of George Floyd is the reality that at the end of the day it is all about economics. Many people today recognize this situation better than ever before, but some remain unwilling to comprehend that the end of slavery in the United States only created new methods to discriminate against Blacks. Unfortunately, the demonstrations, police attacks, and violence which occurred in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing added voice to those who have been unwilling to recognize the historic racism and inequality that is part of the fabric of American history. Beyond the suppression of opportunities for people of color in United States in their quest for jobs, education, housing, and economic opportunity, is an unwillingness to recognize that the United States is no longer a majority White country.
Barack Obama’s election as the first African American president re-triggered in part the re-emergence of the dormant racism in American society. The explicit and in many circles unarticulated racism in America was responsible for much of what some people found attractive about Donald Trump. (Americans need to remember that not everyone was laughing at Archie Bunker’s character in All in the Family the 1970’s. Many people said he was speaking their language, just like Donald Trump.)
Americans need to recognize that diversity is growing in the United States. Life will not be returning to what it once was. There is a battle going on that White people will never win. It explains, furthermore, why the racists in America rallied behind all the ugly discriminatory actions and proposals taken by the Trump Administration for the past 3 ½ years; against Muslims, immigrants, voting suppression, public education, census counting, jobs, etc. No one should assume that if Joe Biden selects a person of color as his vice-presidential nominee, it will not rile up some of these same racist forces. They once again will shudder at the thought that America could be facing a woman of color a heartbeat away from becoming president.
None of this discussion absolves President Trump, other public officials, the media, and other elected officials from their responsibility for so much of the internal division in the country. Coming in the midst of the greatest health and economic catastrophes Americans have ever faced, has not helped the public to recognize the underlying historical problems and their societal responsibility. President Trump has exacerbated the problem with inflammatory rhetoric and failed leadership.
The stark reality will hit once Black and Brown people assert themselves in the economic life of the nation. Blacks are no longer merely the instruments to help professional athletic team owners ride to the bank. College athletes on scholarship are not going to endanger their lives in sports so that universities can use them to buttress their bottom line by forcing them to play during a pandemic. If blue collar employees and service industry workers refuse to endanger their lives by working while Covid is raging all around them, then the drivers of industry will need to confront the new reality. If the preponderance of inner-city school teachers, who are Black and Brown, refuse to teach in public schools with inadequate health protections, governments and civic leaders will need to react.
The late John Lewis taught African Americans that you can achieve recognition and success without violence. All you needed was opportunity. Barack Obama showed Blacks it is possible to attain even the highest office in the land by working in the system. The death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement may well demonstrate to all Americans that people of color are part of and no longer outside of the country.