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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Rotten racism’: newspapers around the world react to George Floyd protests

The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the nationwide protests it triggered, and Donald Trump’s reaction have prompted comment and editorials around the globe.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, columnist Tom Swizer sees an all too familiar pattern.

“The mayhem follows a depressing pattern in American history. The record of state failures to protect blacks and others against police brutality is all too full. Ditto the looting and arson, killings and general eruption of racial violence in many American cities when injustices occur.”

An editorial Le Monde paints a similar picture of structural racism and police brutality by police and others against black Americans.

“George Floyd and Eric Garner are not isolated victims. The list is too long to give here of these black American men of all ages, who are too often victims of encounters with the police that go turn out badly; of the trigger happy in a country where firearms are routinely carried as an accessory, or just plain racism.

“Too many mothers in the African American community must teach their sons from an early adolescence how to behave on the street so as not to arouse suspicion and not to be in turn the target of blunders or mistakes. Too many black joggers in big cities know that covering their heads with the hood of their sweatshirts or ignoring, because they have headphones on their ears, an audible warning to stop running exposes their lives to danger.”

El Periódico in Barcelona also points to a history of endemic racism in the US.

“The truth is that what happened in Minneapolis, recorded on video and viewed worldwide through social networks, is just the latest proof that the racism epidemic is far from being controlled, and that the two Barack Obama administrations did nothing to cauterize any wounds. On the contrary, they fueled the desire for revenge in many communities, with a deeply rooted racist culture, which saw its time come in November 2016 with the victory of a far-right Republican candidate.”

Many commentators are doubtful that Trump as the skills or even political capital to emerge as a healer. In an analysis, Edward Keenan, Washington bureau chief of the Toronto Star, is pessimistic that even if the president did make a speech, as some of his allies have been urging, there is nothing he could say to defuse the situation.

“Even if Trump were inclined to try to heal the nation with some kind of address, as some have called for him to do, it is hard to imagine anything he could say that would de-escalate the situation rather than be read as a provocation by the protesters.

“There is no obvious end point to the unfolding crisis. After months of the coronavirus and days of civil unrest, Americans are bracing themselves for more chaos in the days and weeks ahead.”

The Times of London, in its leader on Monday, draws a similar conclusion pointing to Trump’s incendiary style:

“2020 comes with its own complications, and one of them is in the White House. On Friday, after first having called Floyd’s death ‘shocking’, President Trump took to Twitter to threaten a military response against ‘thugs’ in Minneapolis and quipped: ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ In a remarkable first, the social media network flagged the tweet as ‘glorifying violence’.

“After demonstrations spread to the White House, the president threatened any protester breaching barriers with ‘the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen’ and appeared to be calling for his own supporters to rally to meet them. Politically, identifying enemies puts Mr Trump into his comfort zone. Rather than pouring oil on troubled waters, he has opted for petrol.”

Related: 'Mr President, don't go hide': China goads US over George Floyd protests

Not all commentators, however, have come to the issue entirely lacking an agenda, not least in China, which has been locked in a fractious war of words with Washington over coronavirus and other issues.

The Global Times – under the headline “George Floyd murder exposes rotten racism in the US” – is predictably scathing.

“In a year of elections that are particularly important for Trump, votes from the black community do not matter that much. After all, Trump won just 8% of African American voters four years ago. Black voters are always the base of the Democratic party. So as protests escalate across the country, Trump played the same old political games by shaming Minneapolis’ Democrat mayor and retweeting an account urging Minnesotans to vote Democrats out of office. As the pandemic gets severe, the economic card doesn’t work anymore for Trump. Passing the buck is his trump card.”

South Africa’s Mail and Guardian meanwhile has Ifrah Udgoon, a US Somali immigrant, writing about her fears for her black son.

“Black mothers have much to fear when it comes to their children. American soil is saturated with the blood of black people: slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and the war on drugs, and police brutality have ensured that black people know pain and loss intimately…

“We don’t see just a man in a single moment when we look at George Floyd. We see America’s entire racial history culminating into that one moment.”

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