Once, in an article written for The Independent back in 2012, the now-current Media Editor of the BBC Amol Rajan stated that “sooner or later, every voice is heard and heeded”. His words of sagacity were in reference to The Salisbury Review, a strongly conservative British magazine. Rajan, who in contrast is rather liberal and described the magazine as being “frequently offensive”, also believed that its controversial viewpoint is what made it “all the more reason to read it”, quoting Bertrand Russell’s maxim – “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric”. Because of Rajan adopting such a perspective and even contributing to the outlet he can’t agree with, I have a great amount of time for him. He upholds the beautiful principles of pragmatism and tolerance.
It was somewhat hoped that the current storm the world is enduring thanks to COVID-19 would force us to adopt such values and band together against our mutual enemy. But instead of being in the same ship, most have gone their separate ways and are acting as the buccaneers of virtue through the next big issue. But no matter how much they each try to gain spoils from their crusades against each other, the storm still has to be faced. Like Fletcher Christian, who led the famed mutiny on the Bounty to live a life in the paradises of the South Pacific, each side could come to an undignified and pointless demise if they don’t band together.
One doesn’t have to elaborate on the serious actions and consequences that entail the George Floyd protests – as they have already been succinctly explained. But it cannot be reiterated enough how much influence the narrative fallacy has over individuals, the Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis and across the world being no exception. Only a week ago was there outrage against those who may or may not have broken the lockdown rules set to contain the corona epidemic. Now, some who screamed such disgust are now singing a paean for those who have broken the same rules for the sake of protesting. There is no doubt that there is legitimate reasons as to why people are filled with fury even after Floyd’s deeply upsetting death. However, there is also a cause for concern when such anger transmutes itself into regression that is opposite to the progress it claims to seek, especially when Floyd’s brother called for peace instead of violence.
The Black Lives Matter protesters who call for justice against systemic racism have a just cause, but it is not an exclusive one. Black people still face injustice across the world, with or without the colonial heritage that commentators accuse of being the sinews of racism. One must only turn to other nations such as China, where African migrants have been evicted from their homes due to prejudices aroused by the paranoias of the epidemic. Unlike George Floyd’s murder, this forced exodus has received relatively little cries of outrage by the West. Systemic racism in China is not a phenomenon created by the COVID-19 epidemic either, as campaigners have made several attempts to raise awareness of China’s misdeeds. Even beyond the Middle Kingdom does this overseer mentality possessed by Chinese Government officials make an appearance – the 2009 documentary Empire of Dust delineating this quite well, and the Belt and Road Initiative extending its presence.
One’s bias towards the Chinese Government has certainly been made clear, but there is a reason as to why China has been specifically cited. Unlike the United States and the United Kingdom – the leading harbingers of the West – China is a nation that had to swallow the bitter pill of being once divided amongst the imperial powers and still suffers from this legacy to this very day. Its breaching of the “one country, two systems” policy with Hong Kong is the latest episode of such insecurities being noticed. The Hong Kong protestors, like the BLM movement in Minneapolis, feels oppressed by their government. But one major difference between the two is that one is fighting against a threat to democracy while the other’s struggle is against a perceived form of racism existing within the establishment’s enforcers. But both, despite there being a notable occidental-oriental divide, are within nations that have troubled pasts that are too sour to forget.
George Floyd’s murder, China’s own discrimination of Africans, and its persecution of Uighers within Xinjiang, are testament to the fact that racism is ubiquitous and will exist for as long as we walk this earth. It is a lugubrious fact and only one that can be reduced through cohesion and cooperation as Martin Luther King had once believed in. Weathering through the current storm together is the first step to achieve this goal. Perhaps then will each side of the divide be more content in sailing the same ship between themselves, even when the roughest waves have subsided.
Alex Johnson is a Co-editor of The Jackdaw.