Institutionalised whataboutism

Racism in the USA is institutionalized. So why not go to the institutions?

George Floyd was killed by a police officer in the state of Minnesota. The Minneapolis Police Department reports to the Minneapolis City Council. President of the city council is Lisa Bender. Vice president is Andrea Jankins. Majority Speaker is Andrew Johnson. All three individuals are members of the Democratic Farmers and Workers Party of Minnesota (DFL). At the federal level, this party forms a union with the Democrats.

The Minnesota City Council consists of twelve Democrats and one Green. Not a single Republican sits on the city council which reflects a power structure that has been in place for almost half a century.

The representative of the 5th Congressional District of Minnesota, which includes Minneapolis, is Ilhan Omar. She is also a member of the DFL. The Governor of Minnesota and thus the chief executive officer of the state is Tim Walz. He is also a member of the DFL. The two senators from Minnesota are Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith. They are also members of the DFL. Amy Klobuchar even ran as a candidate for the Democratic primaries in 2020.

Senator Amy Klobuchar called for the declaration on „a complete and thorough outside investigation into what occurred, and those involved in this incident must be held accountable.“ However, as a former Hennepin County attorney, she was criticized for declining to press criminal charges against police during her eight years in that office, including against Derek Chauvin, who later kneeled on suspect George Floyd’s neck for minutes. Today she’s busy defending herself:

„I think that was wrong, now. I think it would have been much better if I had taken the responsibility and looked at the cases and made the decision myself. But let me make this clear. We did not blow off these cases,“

The Democratic presidential candidate for the November 2020 Presidential election is Joe Biden. During a debate on June 27, 2019, the district attorney and intra-party rival, Kamela Harris, criticized Biden’s policies „on race“ and said Biden had made „very hurtful“ comments. She recalled his opposition to a policy on school buses that was supposed to improve the lives of black children. She told of the pain a little black girl in the 1970s felt because of his policies, adding, „That little girl in California was me.“

Joe Biden has been in politics for forty-four years. The Speaker in the United States House of Representatives is Nancy Pelosi. She’s also a member of the Democratic Party and has been in politics for thirty-three years. Pelosi and Biden have been in the political institutions of the United States for much longer than the current President, Donald Trump. So, why so much talk about Trump?

Despite all the justified criticism of Donald Trump, it should be noted that he doesn’t have any direct influence over the institutions which bear responsibility in the specific case of George Floyd. At best, he can send the military, an action that Barack Obama also considered when police violence against black citizens occurred under his presidency, for example in the cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

The United States of America certainly has a problem with police brutality. A horrible video on the killing of a twenty-six year old man by a police officer illustrates the extent of the problem. This video (click here) records the killing of Daniel Shaver. Please note that the video ends with the death of a man pleading for his life, and like the footage of George Floyd, is very difficult to bear.

Police brutality reveals itself like the corresponding institutional racism in the USA. Donald Trump has only recently entered these institutions. He therefore bears responsibility, but not him only, and above all, not decisively.

The manic fixation on Donald Trump and the criticism of his current reactions and comments is a mass psychotic whataboutism. From all institutions responsible for the current situation – where poverty among the black population is exploding; where politics has nothing better to offer than symbolic gestures, consoling words and food stamps; where politics won’t allow people who are chained to poverty to free themselves; and where the police are seen and even sometimes are a danger – accusatory fingers point only at Donald Trump. They shout: „Yeah? And, what about Trump?“

Whataboutism, deflecting from responsibility.

All the above mentioned politicians are most likely not racists. Anyway, they say they’re not. Whether Biden or Trump, politicians and people across the political spectrum condemn the killing of George Floyd and also support the right to peaceful protest. They equally profess to work for all Americans, regardless of skin color or gender.

So, why are so many Democrats engaged in a massive whataboutism toward the Republicans? Why do so many politicians see racism and political failures only in their political opponents, even when those opponents are clearly not responsible, as in the case of the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis, where Republicans hold no decisive political office at all?

The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America states

„We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.“

These words were written by men who owned slaves. They oppressed people because of the color of their skin and because of their sex. Yet, they wrote up a constitution against racism and sexism. The Constitution of the United States is the foundation for the abolishment of slavery and the establishment of equality among men and women. However, this took a bloody civil war along with protests and riots.

Interestingly, the majority of the Democratic Party resisted abolition with armed force against the Republicans under Lincoln. Later, they fought politically against the Republicans who aimed to give former slaves the right to vote. Some Democrats even founded a terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan. Other Democrats resisted Republican proposals and efforts with segregation laws, known as Jim Crow laws. Later, the Democrats fought against women’s suffrage. When women were finally allowed to hold political office, the first female Democratic leader was a former slave owner.

It was not until the 1960s that an anti-racist majority also prevailed among the Democrats, so that in the course of many protests and riots, discriminatory laws were repealed. Later, a member of the Democratic Party became the first black President of the United States.

Today it is no longer laws that promote racism, but the actions of people.

People who promote racism, often unconsciously and against their own intentions, are now found among Republicans and Democrats alike. When people are made aware of their racism, they usually get loud. They don’t want to admit acting racist because they don’t want to be racist. Donald Trump should be familiar with this behavior.

Racism is found in all classes, institutions and parties. Those who shout „Stop the thief“ especially loudly, even if the alleged thief wasn’t even near the crime scene, make themselves suspect. So, I ask myself as a German: Why are Germans, in particular, and Europeans, in general, – not to mention the rulers in Iran and Syria – shouting so loudly while pointing their fingers so self-righteously at Donald Trump? When tyrants accuse Trump of racism, my first thought is not to join in with them, but rather to ask why they’re so loud. What’s the distraction about?

So, to all those pointing their fingers at Donald Trump, please take pause and self-reflect on the political actions of your own party, your state, your community, your family, yourself. Even with the best of intentions, certain policies and lack of action may have led to the situation whereby life has become hell for black people exactly in the places where you’ve been politically responsible for decades. Some of those places have surely become „shitholes“.

(Translation: William Wires)

Über tapferimnirgendwo

Als Theatermensch spiele, schreibe und inszeniere ich für diverse freie Theater. Im Jahr 2007 erfand ich die mittlerweile europaweit erfolgreiche Bühnenshow „Kunst gegen Bares“. Als Autor verfasse ich Theaterstücke, Glossen und Artikel. Mit meinen Vorträgen über Heinrich Heine, Hedwig Dohm und dem von mir entwickelten Begriff des „Nathankomplex“ bin ich alljährlich unterwegs. Und Stand Up Comedian bin ich auch. Mein Lebensmotto habe ich von Kermit, dem Frosch: „Nimm, was Du hast und flieg damit!
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