By Aasawari Shenolikar :
Y our heart goes out to the five youngsters, who had dreams in their eyes, who wanted to study, to play and get scholarships so that they could pursue a degree in college. But one fine day, everything shattered when these five teens from Harlem became trapped in a nightmare when they were falsely accused of a brutal attack in New York’ Central Park. The reason why they became easy targets - they were all Black. Despite their denials, despite the evidence being only circumstantial, the boys failed to get justice and were put behind bars. Their fears, their plight, their pathos is brought to the viewers in a poignant series When They See Us that won rave reviews and garnered many prestigious awards. Persecution of the Blacks is an issue that still dogs the country that takes great pride in calling itself a superpower and harps on being the Land of Opportunity.
There is no doubt that USA has, in its social order and culture, integrated people from all corners of the world, and these very people have helped play a great role in ensuring that the country continues to retain its ‘Superpower’ status. Yet, time and again, we hear of racial discrimination against people who are not white, the latest being the case of George Floyd who was brutally done to death by Derek Chauvin a white policeman, who since then has been suspended and charges have been filed against him. It was an inhuman act, ruthless and cold-blooded, an act that infuriated people - black and white and brown and the streets in major cities all over the US of A saw rallies where only one sentence took precedence - ‘Black Lives Matter’. That said it all.
Silence is stronger than words and the silent protests should have continued. This had already caught the attention of the world and spontaneous turnouts in many corners of the world greatly supported the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. And then pandemonium broke loose. A few simply found this occasion to let themselves go. And we were subjected to sickening scenes of vandalism - shopping streets were the main targets, followed by other public places and even personal properties. Scenes of people looting shops, scenes of people physically attacking the police and other public servants on the streets - these scenes of criminality undid all that the silent protests had aimed to achieve. And who was at the forefront of the vandalism - the Black people.
The video garbs show Black people in hordes, smashing windows, looting stores, burning cars and garbage bins, throwing petrol bombs, chucking bottles filled with urine at the police personnel. Let’s not just condemn the Black people - theWhites were also spotted taking advantage and running away with whatever they could find in the innumerable stores whose doors and walls were smashed so that the pilferers could fill their coffers with the loot. Case in point here is does the act of vandalism justify the cause? The brownie points that the silent protesters gathered were all undone by the criminal acts initiated by a few and taken up by thousand others, majority of whom would have no inkling as to the wrong that had happened to George Floyd. Do these plunderers not realise that they are digging their own graves, that they are cutting off their own noses to spite their faces? We all know how the American citizens rate education - even though schooling is free, not many even bother to attend High School, let alone Graduate.
Their social structure is based on living one day at a time, and that one day they want to enjoy to the fullest.With menial jobs available in plenty and payment billed in hours, majority are happy with what they get at the end of the week - sufficient to party and make merry. Stores around the USA are manned by Black people.That is their bread and butter, their livelihood. But these very people, when they vandalise the stores, do not think twice about where their next paycheck will come from. They are, at that moment, ecstatic picking up a 72-inch TV and hauling it home - so what if the living room is not big enough for that big a TV! Do these very people who shout themselves hoarse about racism, with their criminal acts, give a thought about the disruptions they are causing in the society and the harm to the economy, not to mention the trouble being caused to the common peace-loving citizens, and bringing to halt the working and functioning of entire cities?When people want equal opportunity, and the country gives it to you, you need to grab it with both hands and make the most of it. World over protests erupt at regular intervals - based on caste, creed, religion, colours, for there are umpteen times when we feel powerless to prevent injustice, but let these protests not take the form of hooliganism that destroys the very core of humanity and humane behaviour.
Agreed that Donald Trump’s handling of the situation, in a manner not befitting the President, might have been the trigger for the riots that have been compared with what happened when activist Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968. There are scores of testimonials suddenly surfacing, written by people of different colour on how they have faced and had to deal with racial discrimination. But like Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘An eye for an eye will make the whole world go blind’! Rioting and vandalism should not be the language of ‘The Unheard’.
And just as When They See Us exposes the failure of the American justice system, and depicts very poignantly the dignified manner in which the coloured mothers raise their children in a society that looks down upon them, all those who want to resort to violence at every given opportunity of‘racial discrimination’ must, if peace and justice has to prevail, pay heed to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “I plan to stand by nonviolence, because I have found it to be a philosophy of life that regulates not only my dealings in the struggle for racial justice, but also my dealings with people, and with my own self.” Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and these very people who vandalise are going against the very tenets of justice - asking truth to prevail for their own brethren. Black is indeed beautiful - let not anyone mar it with such vengeful and dastardly acts. Black lives matter - but definitely not at the sustenance and survival of many others.