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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/24/20

UPRISING: Is This the Broadest Popular Movement in US History?

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From Consortium News

That's not a chip on my shoulder.
That's your foot on my neck.

- Malcolm X

On May 25, a Minneapolis police officer tortured George Floyd to death in what his brother, Philonise Floyd, called "a modern-day lynching in broad daylight." Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.; the anti-racist uprisings continue.

Why do a majority of people in this country now support the Movement for Black Lives? Why have calls to defund and abolish the police entered the mainstream discourse? Why are people risking the deadly coronavirus to join the protests? And why are we seeing what may be the broadest popular movement in the history of the United States?

More than 400 years after the first Africans were kidnapped, forcibly brought to this country and enslaved, White supremacy continues to infect our society. Police murder black people with impunity. Black people are incarcerated at an unprecedented rate. White fragility keeps whites in denial about white skin privilege.

n his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. said that racism must be exposed. He wrote, "Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."

When the shocking image of Officer Derek Chauvin choking the life out of Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds confronted us, we were forced to take sides. People of all races and ages were collectively enraged.

"People are marching as a way of screaming, a way of exhaling pain, as an enormous group catharsis," Charles Blow wrote in The New York Times. "This isn't only about the pain of police brutality, it's about all the pain. This is about all the injustice and disrespect and oppression. This is about ancestry and progeny."

The powerful video of Floyd's lynching is reminiscent of the 1950s civil rights movement. Televised images from Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 "were so forceful that they told their own truths and needed virtually no narration," David Halberstam wrote in "The Fifties." "It was hard for people watching at home not to take sides: There they were, sitting in their living rooms in front of their own television sets watching orderly black children behaving with great dignity, trying to obtain nothing more than a decent education, the most elemental of American birthrights, yet being assaulted by a vicious mob of poor whites."

Although white supremacy continues to permeate our society, President Donald Trump has unleashed the dogs of racism in a frightening way. An early promoter of the Birther movement, Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. When he said there were "very fine people on both sides" in Charlottesville, one side was the white supremacists.

In the face of massive protests throughout the country, Trump announced on June 1 that he had ordered federal troops to Washington, D.C., "to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights." This is evidence of what Kali Akuno, co-founder and co-director of Operation Jackson, calls Trump's "Brown Shirt Force." In a reference that evokes Bull Connor's 1963 threats against peaceful civil rights protesters with snarling dogs, Trump tweeted he would use "vicious dogs" against protesters who tried to breach the fence in front of the White House. "Negro Dogs" were used to catch runaway slaves and escaped prisoners during Jim Crow.

White supremacy is rooted in the belief that black people are inferior to white people. In 1900, Charles Carroll, a polygenist minister in Missouri, wrote a rant opposing miscegenation called "The Negro, a Beast," or, "In the Image of God." In it, he portrays "The Negro, a beast, but created with articulate speech and hands, that he may be of service to his owner -- the White Man."

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)

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