The protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd on May 25 in the US “are a challenge and an opportunity for American society,” Professor Arturo Lopez Levy said for whom “the US, in a hypocritical way, proclaimed with the paradigm of citizen equality.”
The US Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, included many concepts and values that underpinned the construction of world power and the so-called American dream.
“All men are equal; who are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, freedom and the search for happiness,” says the historical document, inspiring for endless independence and constitutions.
For Lopez Levy, the fight to make those equality established in the letter become reality, “has been permanent and has historical milestones such as the Civil War, such as the fight for civil rights in the 1960s and with the Obama presidency and its consequences”.
The academic at Holy Names University in Oakland, California, said there was “a great frustration around some paralysis in progress, or comparing expectations to advance with the first African-American president to be Barack Obama.”
For Lopez Levy, racism in the country is systemic, but he clarified that there is a “very important myth about this because the question is not about capitalism, but about the idea of a liberal republic, a state with flaws, but the welfare and liberal democratic”.
Facts, not words
The interviewee shared some of the demonstrations that speak of an entrenched problem. He cited the book “Suspicious Citizen” by various authors from the University of Texas, a study of police interactions with citizens in traffic when the authority understands that it did not respect a rule.
“Out of 20 million entries, it was concluded that, although African Americans were at the time about 20% of North Carolina’s population, they were unemployed twice as many as whites. And once they were unemployed, their Cars were searched based on suspicions of the officer four times more than whites,” he said.
Lopez Levy acknowledged and remarked that there has been “significant progress on the racial issue”, both in civil and economic rights.
He mentioned that, for example, in the city of Atlanta “there is an Afro-descendant capitalist class that is remarkable, and I am talking about the centre of the south where the most important battle of the Civil War took place.”
But he indicated that from “the point of view of political science and analysis” it is necessary to differentiate “between the significant and the representative.”
“George Floyd is more representative of the African-American community today, although the majority of African-Americans have not had a negative interaction as Floyd did (…) but he is more representative than Lebron James, one of the most relevant figures in basketball of history.”
Asked how the speech of the president, Donald Trump, influenced, the professor of Politics and International Relations affirmed that there is a paradox started with the Obama presidency regarding “the expectations of social reconciliation”.
He was referring to the political approach that “we are not red, we are not blue, we are not republicans, we are not democrats, we are not black. Neither whites nor Hispanics are part of a dream, which is the dream of the United States.”
Faced with this, “there was total resistance from a sector that frankly is very difficult not to place it on the racist wing or a conservative sector that learned to use that strategy that in politics is called dog-whistling because he hears a certain whistle that ordinary mortals don’t.”
These groups appeal to codes such as “criticism framed in a language of racism in disguise.”
For the professor, the most emblematic case was the Trump campaign denouncing that Obama was not an American, “saying that he did not have a birth certificate in the United States and that a person like him did not look like the other presidents of the United States.”
The frustrations of unfulfilled expectations were enshrined with Trump’s triumph in November 2016, and his arrival at the White House in January of the following year.
The Charlottesville episodes occurred in August 2017, when a group of white supremacists came out to express their racism in a confrontation with pro-rights groups where one person died.
“Trump enters that ambiguous position in which he does not even handle the crisis well and says that there are reasons on both sides,” which has created a very important level of social mobilization, he said.
Regarding what may happen until November 3 when it is defined if Trump will be reelected, Lopez Levy warned that “the meadow is dry” and that any spark can set him on fire.
“These protests may be running out because there is a feeling of overwhelm. And there is also the pandemic that is playing an important role in the face of the despair of confining economic reality.”
In this regard, Lopez Levy stressed that the pandemic is hitting Afro and Latino minorities hardest, and particularly women, “who are linked to the type of service work that is well hit” by the health crisis.