Why the World Must Learn to Say #BlackLivesMatter
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is utterly disgusted by the continued maiming of unarmed and defenceless black men and women in the hands of racist white police in the United States. The brutal and merciless killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police serves as a reminder of the daily levels of open, naked but sometimes sublime racism that black people are subjected to all over the world, from Minnesota to Marikana and everywhere in between.
SAFTU stand in solidarity with the family of George Floyd and with the masses occupying the streets in the US and other parts of the world. This is by no means an isolated tragedy. See the list of black people killed by the police over years. https://newsone.com/playlist/black-men-boy-who-were-killed-by-police/item/19
Racism, xenophobia, narrow nationalism, fascism, regionalism, sexism and tribalism are direct products of poverty and inequalities that continue to grow under today’s global capitalism. They are all on the rise.
There are approximately 315 000 black residents of the city of Minneapolis, making up 8.7% of its total population. (Nationwide, Black Americans account for 12.7% of the population.) The black people have not benefited from the recent economic growth in their region.
Many scholars have analysed the recent trends which shows that the coronavirus disproportionately kills the black minority in the US because of the underlying socioeconomic conditions they face. They are, like our proletariat, the stepsons and daughters of a capitalist economy mainly dominated by the 1% of mainly white males. See this analysis of how COVID-10 will affect black America and Black America in particular: https://www.brookings.edu/research/who-are-the-workers-already-impacted-by-the-covid-19-recession/
Nationwide, the net worth of Black Americans is staggeringly low compared to white Americans. The median wealth for a white family was $171,000 in 2016, according to the Federal Reserve Board (the U.S. central bank). That number was $17,600 and $20,700 for Black and Latino or Hispanic families, respectively.
In South Africa, the black-led government has, over the past 26 years, mirrored the oppressive U.S. in terms of the humiliation, suffering and discrimination against the black majority on behalf of the still white minority in charge of the economic levers.
South Africa has had a fair share of killings of black people by the black state. We recall our own list of shame over just the past decade. Three dozen Marikana mine workers were killed in 2012 for demanding a living wage; Andries Tatane of Ficksburg was killed a year before in a service delivery protest, as were four residents of Mothotlung just west of Pretoria, killed in 2014 making demands simply for water (demands still not satisfied going into the lockdown). And last month, Collins Khosa of Alexandra was beaten to death by of the South African National Defence Force in his own backyard. Last week, the SANDF declared itself innocent of any wrongdoing.
Saying “Black Lives Matter!” is not just about opposing police brutality though. It is also about the structure of society: the political and economic systems that devalue black lives, black land, black culture, and blackness. If we are to truly recognise that black lives matter, then we must work to fix and if necessary overturn those systems.