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Because he immediately stressed the Antifa faction. But it's just too early for that. The problem with this is that it circumvents the real problem. The name of George Floyd, whose death sparked the protests, is now just a footnote and the problems with police work are no longer mentioned. That is Donald Trump's calculation. Against the backdrop of a pandemic that will cost hundreds of thousands of lives, he is thinking about how he can score. He focuses on the regular voters. If this continues, this strategy will lead to even more violence and resentment among the population. I see the great danger there.
There were also riots in New York. picture: www.imago-images.de / joel marklund
The eight-minute video of George Floyd's death is actually clear evidence of police violence. And yet the debate about racism and police violence threatens to be supplanted again by the debate about violence during the protests. Are you surprised?
It's not surprising at all. This type of police violence, which has existed for centuries, is not surprising, nor is the response to the protests surprising. If you compare that to the 1960s or 1990s, there is always an attempt by conservative commentators to put the blame on the African Americans and to say that these are all extremists who actually want to destroy the US. Because then you no longer have to talk about the actual problems.
Whether the protests after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014 or of Freddie Gray in 2015: nothing really changed after that. Are the prospects better now?
Certainly the protests are now more widespread and definitely more visible. At the same time, I believe that not much will change, like in recent years. The changes would have to be so profound that no one would be willing to do it.
What changes would that have to be?
For example when training police officers. It's much shorter in the US than in Germany. There is not so much emphasis on anti-racism training here either. The interpretation of the possibilities to use lethal force is conveyed very differently in the USA than in European countries. The training would need to be changed, but that will be handled at the state level. Therefore, there could only be a patchwork of different rules at first.
Then it is also a matter of enforcing at the local level that police officers adhere to the rules. But that doesn't happen. Not even in Minneapolis. The policeman now charged in the George Floyd case had dozens of complaints, but no penalties were ever received. Even if there were a bill that would ban the stranglehold, for example, it will not bring about any real change. Just like the body cams have not brought about any fundamental change, because the police simply turn them off. At the same time, there is a certain willingness on the part of Democrats and Republicans alike to hold new hearings on police violence. But in the past things have mostly fizzled out.
If Joe Biden wins the election it could make a difference. Then things could be set in motion. But you have to remember: Barack Obama became President, both houses of Congress were in democratic hands and yet nothing fundamental could be done. At the same time, of course, it makes a difference when a president emphasizes that he sympathizes with victims of police violence, also because he is black himself. It is worrying that we now have a president who will side with racists.
My assessment is: Nothing fundamental will change now either. But that doesn't mean that there can't be changes in certain states such as Minnesota. Whether that will help African Americans in the long term is another matter.
What things would have to change in the US in order to fundamentally improve the situation of African Americans?
One thing is police violence and police training. In principle, however, it would also be about coming to terms with the legacy of slavery. That African Americans get opportunities that they still don't have. You have to see that racism is a systemic problem, so that all areas of public life and politics are affected.
It will take decades or centuries for the structures to change. Some of the racists who advocated segregation in the 1960s are still alive. In this respect, the question is whether a rethinking can happen in people's minds in several generations. But because we notice new racist incidents every day, I would be skeptical here that progress will be made quickly here.
And Trump also fuels the division in society and uses racism. As are the Republicans.
The Republicans are continuing the strategy Trump devised for his election campaign. This strategy focuses on white Americans who don't like black people because they believe that these minorities are being given something. Get the benefits while white Americans think they're the only ones who work hard. White Americans feel disadvantaged and believe they have an advocate in Trump. Who is not perceived, like Obama, to take care of minority concerns.
I could imagine that against the backdrop of the pandemic and protests, this strategy will not be enough in November. But a lot can happen in the Trump era, often in a matter of days. Still, I believe the combination of the pandemic and protests against police violence made his re-election more difficult.
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