Grandstand. Since the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the names of the victims of racial crimes have become familiar: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark, Atatiana Jefferson, Breana Taylor form the litany of current protests. That of George Floyd has taken on a martyr dimension. For an America which too often refuses to see, this time it was impossible for it to look away. The visual shock forced a collective reaction of indignation, even in the most conservative ranks. It also comes at a time of very strong political and social tension in the United States. 2020 is not only a presidential year, involving the re-election of the most divisive president in modern American history, but the country is plunged into an unprecedented economic and health crisis, which disproportionately affects black Americans and other minorities. .
But there is something else at play behind the large-scale mobilization, throughout the territory, of a diverse, organized and determined youth, demanding justice for George Floyd. Behind also the massive support of the electorate for the demonstrators (64% according to Reuters / Ipsos), and this despite the violence and looting. In reality, the moment is marked by the widely shared conviction that the cause is just and that the fight must be fought. A phenomenon often camouflaged by the populist nationalism of Trump’s America, American society is being struck by a new wind of progressivism, which brings questions of equity and justice to the heart of public concerns.
The youth of Lafayette Square in Washington do not challenge containment and the curfew only to impose a snub on Donald Trump. Of course, the demonstrators criticize him for his political use of racism and white supremacism, his racist abuses and his competition between communities. But, make no mistake, the fight predates his presidency and will continue even if he leaves office. It was during the summer of 2014, during the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, under the presidency of Barack Obama, that the Black Lives Matter movement, born of the hashtag of the same name, was structured.
It’s a new kind of movement, a horizontal gathering of activists, organized through social media, that says it’s not “Grandpa’s civil rights movement”. In contrast to their elders who led the struggle of the 1960s, their claims are deliberately intersectional and systemic. The new activists are concerned about black lives but also about cross-discrimination affecting women, the poor, the disabled or the queers. They demand the dismantling of a system of oppression that the election of the first black American president did not bring down. They denounce the massive imprisonment in the United States, which particularly affects visible minorities. One in three black men knows about prison in their lifetime, perpetuating a segregationist system for Professor Michelle Alexander. They also lead memorial battles, pushing for the unbolting of Confederate statues or the creation of the first memorial to victims of lynching, in Montgomery, Alabama. Many go so far as to demand, like the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, the payment of reparations for the descendants of slaves.
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