Despite the claims of the USA that it is a just democracy, police officers in that country, many white, systematically abuse and even kill unarmed black men with impunity. What is happening over there is intolerable, and after the recent death/murder of another unarmed Black American, George Floyd, by American police, there have been protests across the USA (United States of America), and in many countries in the world.
The protests in the USA are primarily organized by the group, Black Lives Matter, which formed in the USA in 2013 after a white man, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of the murder of an unarmed Black American youth, Trayvon Martin, whom he shot to death. The group was formed by three black women, and its umbrella extends over groups other than the black males who are the demographic most threatened by rogue white police officers.
In Belize, our leading social activist, Ms. Yaya Marin-Coleman, organized a protest that was to take place on Thursday, June 11, in front of the US Embassy in Belmopan, but it was called off because the authorities, citing the present State of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, did not give her a license. The protest that was planned for Belize, described as “Belize Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protest”, was organized not only to show solidarity with those protesting institutionalized racism in the USA, but also to spot the light on issues affecting the black community here.
The thousands, millions of people across the USA and the world who have marched in the protests come from all walks of life and varied agendas, and the one thing they have in common is that they are fed up with institutionalized racism.
The book on George Floyd was that his past didn’t qualify him for sainthood, but many had good words for him and said he was kind and he was working on making himself a better person. Those facts are not relevant to what happened to him on May 25, when he lost his life while in the custody of police. Police say he resisted arrest, but after they subdued him one officer kneeled on his neck, and although Floyd pleaded for mercy, because he had difficulty breathing, the officer pressed his neck down for more than eight minutes, until he was dead.
The USA, like Belize, was built on slave labor. Millions of Africans were kidnapped in Africa, put in chains, and taken across the Atlantic on months-long trips in the holds of slave ships, and when they arrived in the Americas they and their offspring were forced to labor for the enrichment of the white race.
The wealth of the white race was built on the backs of the black race, but there are many white people who are ignorant, or feign ignorance, about that past, and how they became so privileged. The USA has paid reparations for wrongs they committed to many people, but they have refused to give anything to the black people in their country.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer for the New York Times, in an August 14, 2019 article titled: “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true”, said the contributions of Blacks to the development of the USA go far beyond the labor they provided to pick cotton, a commodity that at the heights of slavery accounted “for half of all American exports and 66 percent of the world’s supply”. Those contributions, she said, go far beyond the labor that built railroads; and go far beyond labor that produced vast profits that “helped the young nation (USA) pay off its war debts and financed some of (their) most prestigious universities…”
She wrote: “…it would be historically inaccurate to reduce the contributions of black people to the vast material wealth created by our bondage. Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom. More than any other group in this country’s history, we have served, generation after generation, in an overlooked but vital role: It is we who have been the perfecters of this democracy.
“…despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves — black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights.”
Police brutality is not a story that’s exclusive to the USA, but in Belize it’s not white police who are beating up on blacks, it is some rogue Belizean police officers beating up on marginalized men, mostly on the south side of Belize City. It is on the matter of economic growth that the black Belizean has a similar story to the American blacks.
There are some black people who have done fantastically well, both in the USA and in Belize, but the masses are at the bottom everywhere you go. In Belize, almost 10 times out of 10 a homeless person is black. Just as in the USA, black men are disproportionately represented in jails in this country.
Unlike the USA, where there has been only the figurehead of a black president, there have been many well-placed black leaders in Belize, but slavery — 300 years of forced labor, emasculation of the black man, rape of the black woman — did a lot of bad things to our minds.
How else can we explain what our leaders did to the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA), a group that includes many men and women from an urban setting who set out to farm on an abandoned parcel of land in the Cayo District?
The group should have received every incentive, every tool, every bit of counseling, every material resource the government could have provided. Instead, the government put roadblocks in their path. Why? Was it so that other black people would see futility in becoming farmers? Did our political leaders not know what they were doing when they stifled BGYEA?
On June 11, we were to gather in front of the US Embassy in Belmopan to show solidarity with those who are protesting against institutionalized racism and the abuse/murder of black men by racist white cops in the USA. We can identify with what is happening up north because we have a common history, and economically, what we are experiencing is not very different from what is happening there. It is an uphill battle, but we must fight on until we break the shackles that hold us down. The struggle must go on.