Protesting for George Floyd, Other Nations Confront Their Own Dark Histories
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because Black lives matter around the world.
By Fiona Zublin
When actor John Boyega, who rose to fame in the recent Star Wars films as a stormtrooper who quits the force and joins the resistance, stood in London’s Hyde Park on Wednesday, he shouted the names of the people whom the protesters were remembering: George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin — all Black Americans killed by police officers. And then: Stephen Lawrence, a Black British teenager whose murder in 1993 led to an investigation into racist policing, and Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old Black British man killed by North London police in 2011.
Around the world, protests against racist police brutality in the United States have arisen. But the protests aren’t limited to American cases; they’re also highlighting cases of police brutality in other countries, with protesters demanding new investigations or at least renewed attention to people of color who were killed or mistreated due to systemic racism.
In France, 20,000 people protested last week, some wearing masks that said “I can’t breathe” — Floyd’s last words. They also referred to the 2016 death in French police custody of Adama Traoré, whose last words were also “I can’t breathe.” “Today, when we fight for George Floyd, we fight for Adama Traoré too,” Traoré’s sister Assa told the crowd. Reform will be a challenge in France as elsewhere: French politicians recently introduced a bill to make filming a police officer punishable with fines.
In South Africa, protesters have linked the Floyd case to the death of Collins Khosa, a 40-year-old Black man who was killed on Good Friday by soldiers, allegedly for public drinking despite lockdown rules. His family has since managed to win a court victory holding the officials accountable. An investigation into the case is ongoing.
While the Floyd case has inflicted a blow to the U.S.’ ability to be a world leader when it comes to taking the moral high ground, perhaps its reckoning with racism will make the country a leader in a different way — by sparking anti-racist protesters the world over to demand better from their governments.