The image of George Floyd’s brutal killing not only shook the United States but also the world. The treatment of African-Americans by police officers and US society in general has long been a source of international condemnation. In the last few decades the United States has desperately been trying to reassure the world that the ugly realities of racism are being addressed, but the world sees through these claims. The reality of the facts on the ground for African-Americans in the United States points to a huge amount of hypocrisy in the rhetoric surrounding Joe Biden’s recent “Summit for Democracy,” which was used to pile condemnation on different countries throughout the world.
Police Repression & Inequality of Opportunity
In 2014 Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation, and Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing both called out the USA for the fact that access to running water had been cut off at an ‘unprecedented scale’ among ‘the most vulnerable and poorest’ residents of the overwhelmingly African American city of Detroit.
From 2014 to 2019, the majority African-American city of Flint, Michigan had contaminated water. Corruption and lack of concern from government officials resulted in 6,000 to 12,000 children drinking water contaminated with lead.
Michelle Alexander composed best-selling book entitled “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness” exposing the ugly reality of prisons for profit and the criminalization of African-Americans as a mechanism for money. The USA maintains the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world. In 2016, 1 in 38 Americans were under some form of correctional control. In low-income communities, children attend low quality schools and face an atmosphere called the “school to prison pipeline.”
The obvious inequality and overall lack of quality in the US educational system has been highlighted in the work of award-winning scholars such as Jonathon Kozol. Texts such as “Death and Early Age” and “The Shame of a Nation” reveal the conditions within the schools low-income and African-American children attend, and how they set the children up for a life of hardship and lack of opportunity.
Department Stores in New York City faced the 2013 “shop and frisk” scandal, when police maintained the practice of arresting African-American shoppers simply for buying expensive products. Because the customers were African American, the police assumed the credit cards to be fraudulent and cuffed them immediately after making their legal purchases.
In 2021, the New York Civil Liberties Union exposed the nefarious practices of the New York City Police Departments Vice Squad. The police division was known for a record of routine wrongful arrests of people in minority communities accused of engaging in prostitution, in addition to using threats of arrest to obtain sexual favors. In one case an undercover police officer knocked on the door of a single mother with children requesting sex. After being told “no” 12 different times, the police burst in and arrested the woman anyway causing her to lose custody of her children for 2 months.
US Political Elite Linked To Racial Injustice
Many attempts by US leaders to gloss over and clean up the image of US society in recent years do not reflect the actual conditions on the ground. Inequality, police brutality, lack of opportunity and low quality conditions of life continue to affect many African Americans. Many top US officials have been heavily involved in creating many of the problems they now claim to be correcting. US President Joe Biden was famous for his “crime bill” that he worked hard to pass in 1994. This law significantly contributed to the problem of mass incarceration now be widely condemned.
Kamala Harris rose up the ranks of US politics as a criminal prosecutor in California. Writing for reason.com, C.J. Ciaramella exposed how Kamala Harris was very much the “law and order” candidate when running the criminal justice system of California, and she has tried to conceal this now. He writes: “Harris avoids addressing why her office did things like defend egregious prosecutorial misconduct, fight exonerations, oppose civil asset forfeiture reforms, or appeal the removal of the entire Orange County district attorney's office from a high-profile death penalty case after a bombshell report revealed an unconstitutional jailhouse snitch program.” Harris is video recorded gleefully bragging about locking up the parents of low-income children who are truant from school.
Many expected that the elections of Barack Obama, an African-American President, would lead to less racial tension in the United States, but the opposite occurred. Under Obama’s presidency in 2014 the city of Ferguson, Missouri became the sight of rioting for months in response to the police killing of Michael Brown. In 2015, the city of Baltimore went up in flames in response to police brutality and the national guard was sent in.
The episode of rioting in the summer of 2020 following the killing of George Floyd was met with conciliatory words from US officials, but the angers and underlying injustices persist.
International Support for Black Liberation
Some of the greatest boosts to the struggle against racial injustice in the United States have come from countries the United States declares to be “undemocratic.” The Soviet Union publicized the mutilated body of 14 year old Emmet Till after he was brutally lynched in 1954 for whistling at a white woman, embarrassing the United States before the world. The Soviet Union brought William L. Patterson’s document “We Charge Genocide” to the United Nations, exposing the horrors of racism in 1951 on behalf of the Civil Rights Congress.
When Robert F. Williams, a leader of the African-American community of Monroe, North Carolina, was charged with murder for defending himself from Ku Klux Klansmen, he fled to Cuba. From Cuba he broadcast “Radio Free Dixie” into the US south urging African-Americans to fight for their rights.
William L. Patterson was also welcomed to China by Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party. On August 8th, 1963 Mao Zedong wrote: “An American Negro leader now taking refuge in Cuba, Mr. Robert Williams, the former President of the Monroe, North Carolina, Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, has twice this year asked me for a statement in support of the American Negroes’ struggle against racial discrimination. On behalf of the Chinese people, I wish to take this opportunity to express our resolute support for the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination and for freedom and equal rights.”
Mao’s statement went on: “I call on the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie and other enlightened persons of all colors in the world, whether white, black, yellow or brown, to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practiced by U.S. imperialism and support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles who oppress the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists headed by the United Slates, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are oppressing, committing aggression against and menacing the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world.”
When Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, Mao Zedong once again made a public statement, saying: “Some days ago, Martin Luther King, the Afro-American clergyman, was suddenly assassinated by the U.S. imperialists. Martin Luther King was an exponent of nonviolence. Nevertheless, the U.S. imperialists did not on that account show any tolerance toward him, but used counter-revolutionary violence and killed him in cold blood. This has taught the broad masses of the Black people in the United States a profound lesson. It has touched off a new storm in their struggle against violent repression sweeping well over a hundred cities in the United States, a storm such as has never taken place before in the history of that country. It shows that an extremely powerful revolutionary force is latent in the more than twenty million Black Americans.”
The Black Panther Party, which fought for the rights of African-Americans across the country, studied Mao Zedong’s writings as required reading and regularly pointed toward China as an example of a country that had achieved national liberation.
At the same time that Black activists in the United States were imprisoned, spied on, and in some cases assassinated by the US government as part of the FBI COINTELPRO program, the very countries the US government labels as “undemocratic” were loudly offering support for their struggle against oppression.
All of this gives important context to the bombastic tone of Biden’s “summit for democracy” and the image it presents of the United States in relation to other countries.
Caleb Maupin is a widely acclaimed speaker, writer, journalist, and political analyst. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East and in Latin America. He was involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement from its early planning stages, and has been involved many struggles for social justice. He is an outspoken advocate of international friendship and cooperation, as well as 21st Century Socialism. He doesn’t shy away from the word “Communism” when explaining his political views, and advocates that the USA move toward some form of “socialism with American characteristics” rooted in the democratic and egalitarian traditions often found in American history. He argues that the present crisis can only be abetted with an “American Rebirth” in which the radicalism and community-centered values of the country are re-established and strengthened.