Thursday, June 11, 2020
Editors' Note: In our ongoing series on the impact of George Floyd's death, we post a perspective from Europe.
By guest blogger, Michael McEachrane
Visiting Researcher at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
I love you all. I could never have imagined that protests against systemic racism of this magnitude would erupt during my lifetime and not only in the US, but here in Europe and across the world. Last time, just a few years ago, bigots and confused individuals wanted to dismiss #BlackLivesMatter with propositions that “all lives matter”—as if morally, politically and legally that was not precisely the point. However, this time it is different. I see young Black people taking the lead as they should, but also that the crowds of protesters seem very mixed, include many white protesters and now in every corner of the world. As if to say that these issues should concern us all and are about what kind of societies and world we want to see. “No justice, no peace!” Indeed, indeed. I’m delighted that hundreds of thousands of you are recognizing that systemic racism is real, has a long history (toppling the statue of “slave trader” Edward Colston in Bristol and throwing it in the river was a clear statement of this) and that our societies are in grave need of transformation if they are to be based on principles of human dignity, equality and non-discrimination.
However, dear protesters, I also have one concern with these mass protests. And it is not the display of police brutality, even against peaceful protests. Nor the occasional looting of even small businesses. My greatest concern is that these massive pandemic defying and awe inspiring displays of solidarity for racial and social justice, eventually will blow over without a trace and merely leave a sweet (maybe even, with the passing of time, bitter-sweet) memory of unrealized potential.
Dear protesters, I’m praying that policy- and law-makers across the world will heed your urgent calls for reform. However, judging from the many past protests in developed countries in recent decades that have come and gone without a trace of substantial change, I’m not hopeful. I do not mean to put down what you are doing or to burden you in any way, still, the crux of the matter is that it seems to be mostly up to you protesters and activists to find creative ways of translating your protesting into policy-making, reform and institutional transformation. At the end of the day, without such translation, your massive protests in all their grandeur, expressiveness and beauty of spirit, may amount to little if anything at all.
Dear protesters, as much as I love you and what you’re doing, this worries me.
A related concern is that these protests will end up merely being an insignificant ripple on the surface of a sea of historically amassed racial injustices and inequities within societies in the “New World” across the Americas, throughout the developed world, including Europe, New Zeeland and Australia as well as between developed and developing countries in the organization of the global economy, who produces what, how, for who’s consumption and profit and to whose environmental costs, who-owes-who-what-and-why, the lack of democracy at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, World bank and International Monetary Fund, who has the greatest freedom of movement in the world and who the least, who has the most access to resources, human rights, freedom from want, education, health care and so on.
Dear protesters, I’m hoping that as many of us as possible will find it in us to take your calls as a wakeup-call for the extensive work that needs to be done to create social and international orders that truly “leaves no one behind” and are guided by a sustained, thorough, meticulous care for the dignity of the human person without distinction or discrimination.