RACISM- The Coloured Blindfold of Justice
On the chilly evening of December 1, 1955, on a busy street in the capital of Alabama, a 42-year-old seamstress boarded a segregated city bus to return home after a long day of work, taking a seat near the middle, just behind the front “white” section.
Segregation was written into law; the front of a Montgomery bus was reserved for white citizens, and the seats behind them for black citizens. Nonetheless, at one point on the route, a white man had no seat because all the seats in the designated “white” section were taken.
So the driver told the riders in the four seats of the first row of the “colored” section to stand, in effect adding another row to the “white” section. The three others obeyed. The woman did not. Eventually, two police officers approached the stopped bus, assessed the situation and placed the woman in custody.
This was the story of Rosa Parks, the woman who was known as the “mother of the civil rights movement” in the USA. She had challenged white supremacy and became the famous catalyst for the Montgomery bus boycott. The Civil Rights Movement in the USA was led by Martin Luther King Jr, to fight against racially discriminatory laws and practices.
The practice of racial discrimination, segregation and mass brutality has been carried out throughout history. The Atlantic slave trade, the Holocaust by the Nazi forces, the Armenian and Serbian genocide, colonization of the Americas, Africa as well as Asia and most importantly the Apartheid regime of South Africa are some of the instances. Leaders like Nelson Mandela and M.K.Gandhi had fought against the inhuman racial laws in South Africa that touched every aspect of social life, including a prohibition of marriage between non-whites and whites, territorial segregation and allowing for “white-only’ jobs. Slavery became a science in the colonial era in which millions of people were killed or enslaved because of their race and color. Often the ships carried hundreds of slaves, who were chained tightly to plank beds.
The racial worldview is the ideology that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities, that there is a casual link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality and other cultural behavioral features, and that some races are innately superior to others.
It is manifested in a lack of opportunity; in economic inequality; in the absence of healthcare; in a biased criminal justice system and mass incarceration; in schools that scream for care; in a denial of truth; and more.
The virus of racism may exist in the hearts and minds of millions around the world but when racism is acted upon, especially by a group of people, things don’t just become dangerous, they become deadly. Under no regime but racism could kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds on the neck of a man who had already been handcuffed – and who was pleading for breath as bystanders screamed that he was dying – be considered a fitting police response to the suspected use of a counterfeit $20 bill. All over the country, large numbers of people from all walks of life joined the peaceful protests against racist police violence saying “BLACK LIVES MATTER”, offering welcomed solidarity in recognition of the searing frustration and anger of Black people who have seen too many friends and family die senselessly.
National as well as international legislations have tried to put an end to the racially discriminatory practices. Article 1 of the 1945 UN Charter includes “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race” as UN purpose. In 2001, the European Union explicitly banned racism, along with many other forms of social discrimination, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In the USA the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed in response to the tireless efforts of the Black activists. In India anti discriminatory laws include Article 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of Constitution of India and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989.
But are these mere words written on the law books able to prevent the atrocities?
For that we may need ANOTHER REVOLUTION.