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Lives that really matter in the USA
Photo credit: _freakwave_ / pixabay.com
Amid coronavirus outbreak, America has been taken over by the Black Lives Matter movement that opposes violence against blacks. In various cities across the country, some protesters line up and march against police arbitrariness chanting the name of the deceased George Floyd, others trash shops and supermarkets, and overthrow monuments; there are also those who curse the rebels from the stands. Members of the Russian-speaking community of the United States have been both witnesses and hostages of this situation. We asked them to comment on current developments.
“You don’t give a damn about the blacks”
– Here, in America, we have a bit of Battleship Potemkin performed by Eisenstein, a bit of quarantine, a bit of infantile disorder of radicalism in its full range of issues, and a bit of self-indulgence; there are also cosmic rays, magnetic storms and spots on the Sun.
That is a feedback given by one professor and author from the US that I know.
I was looking through on-the-scene photos and videos. A month and a half of lockdown seemed to be less and less significant next to the terrible events happening in the city I had lived in for more than 10 years.
– All those things are sheer politics, - Greg, an art dealer from New York and an acquaintance of mine, told me in a telephone conversation. – Current events are a well-organized campaign. I call those peaceful protesters – “Idiots that have been used”. There are leftists, antifas, anarchists among them, i.e. all the mob that used to rest at the bottom and realized that it was the time to rear their heads. Elections are just 4 months ahead! If such a situation had happened 1 or 2 years ago, no one would have kept it under so close attention.
Greg is a republican, just like majority of successful Russians in the USA. He admits some of Trump’s failures but nevertheless will vote for him as for a stronghold of at least some kind of stability.
– Unemployment, plus staying at home due to the coronavirus, plus mass and social media whipping up tension before the election... And having such a foundation, there comes a trigger - a senseless murder of a black guy by a policeman that was captured on video. And then various forces use protests and riots as they wish and as long as they need it. Acute polarization of society has been taking place, just as it happened before the previous elections, - believes Tatiana L., a popular blogger.
Photo credit: BruceEmmerling / pixabay.com
Disrespect for the black community is just the tip of the iceberg. The actual problem is huge ghettos which even the police try to avoid. People are born, live and die in the ghetto, unable to get out of there. Greg mentioned as an instance that on Memorial Day, a US national holiday to commemorate soldiers who died in all wars, 49 people had been injured and 10 had been killed in one of the most neglected ghettos in Chicago. It happened while white protesters chanted slogans in support of “black lives” in the downtown.
Here is one of the most honest videos uploaded on Facebook in recent days. It shows a black girl shouting to a white female participant of a BLM rally in Chicago:
– Black people kill black people! If you want to help them - go to black neighborhoods, don’t stand here! In fact, you will never go to black neighborhoods, because you do not care! You don’t give a damn about the blacks, stop playing a hypocrite! And no one oppresses me, I'm a free human.
News are getting worse - 104 shot, 14 fatally, over Father’s Day weekend in Chicago. The state of Illinois is considered to be one of the top blue, democratic states of the US. However, instead of supporting the black population, the segregation problem has been constantly aggravated, because they do not provide any real assistance to national minorities - yes, benefits are paid, but there are no any attempts to increase school subsidies or remove children from dysfunctional families - no one wants to get involved into such issues.
“Where is it, the freedom?”
“When smashing monuments, save the pedestals - they always come in handy,” said Stanisław Jerzy Lec, a Polish philosopher and aphorist. And protesters follow his advice. Monuments to Christopher Columbus in Virginia and Minnesota have already been demolished, and the one in Boston - beheaded. The monument at the New York Columbus Circle has been guarded by a police squad day and night. The list of demolished and desecrated monuments is constantly expanding.
Monument to Thomas Jefferson in Portland demolished by activists. Pedestal inscription: SLAVE OWNER. Photo credit: rf-smi.ru
There is the news that a lot of people found to be astonishing: Gone with the Wind (1939), a famous American film, has been removed from the HBO Max streaming service. According to The Wall Street Journal, movie fans might still be able to enjoy the epic film subject to the notice on “controversial topics” in it. What's interesting is that Hattie McDaniel, best known for her role as "Mammy” in Gone with the Wind, was the first African American to win an Oscar.
Color of Change, a radical organization, claims that police series "heroize cops who violate our rights." Meanwhile, police officers are among the most popular characters for public at large. On top of “Cops”, a famous documentary reality show that was recently cancelled, even “Paw Patrol” might face the same outcome any time soon. The animated children's television series tell about brave puppies that help residents of a town. The squad includes Chase, a German shepherd puppy and police dog. He is the very reason the show authors have faced major backlash for promoting "good cops".
– We remember very well that in the USSR days, films with undesirable actors were destroyed; music was banned if it was not the one of the people… Is it really possible that today those things occur again, but on another continent? We moved to a free country, but where is it, the freedom?
My friend’s father who moved to the US back in the 1980s makes a helpless gesture.
Well, here is the music news: renowned Metropolitan Opera announced online that it was going to hire many more African-American musicians. It's no secret that the Met, like any decent performing company, conducts blind auditions only, so dazed musicians began to question how this rule would be consistent with such a statement. There is no recourse but to feel sorry for the theater’s PR agent, because it is really hard to give a sensible answer to that.
A call for defunding the police has turned into unifying slogan for protesters (Defund the Police!) and at the same time a political tool for Donald Trump, who accused his opponents of being soft and promised to send the military to disperse the Republic of CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone) established by protesters in downtown Seattle, as well as other riots.
Pavel, an acquaintance of mine from New Haven (Connecticut), lives in decent area and works for a major IT company. He says:
– I hardly know any people among black Americans. But even I know that police do not favor them, though my experience of interaction with police has been rather limited. That is why I believe their complaints against police are reasonable. Obviously, outrages and theft do not help develop love and trust. But they are interconnected: wealthy and satisfied people are unlikely to go and rob stores. For some reason, “black” areas in America are much poorer, which means education is worse and there is more crime, and the police are more anxious about them.
Despite the fact that many Russian Americans agree that the local police often mistreat African Americans in improperly tough way, and in general the macho image of an American policeman is popular in the USA, the majority disagree with either the downsizing of the police or its weakening. When street riots broke out in New York, private entrepreneurs also got affected by the situation. And then impressively-looking members of Bratva, a Russian-speaking biker club, got out to the streets of Brighton Beach and its neighborhood. Volunteers began patrolling the streets on motorbikes, armed with electric shockers and batons. So far, no criminal cases have been registered in this area.
“We demand police accountability". Photo credit: BruceEmmerling / pixabay.com
The blunt figures
According to a survey conducted by Monmouth University, 76% of Americans (including 71% of white Americans) said that racism and discrimination were “a big problem” in the United States. There is a sharp spike of 26% when compared to results of 2015. During the survey, 57% of Americans said that anger of the protestors was fully justified, and another 21% said it was "somewhat justified."
Meanwhile, Remington statistics show that Trump's measures against protesters are supported by just over half of the population - 52% (and this figure decreases every day), while 31% blame the left-wingers for the riots and 24% blame the protesters themselves. 80% of all respondents trust the police, while 46% of black respondents do not trust law officers.
Segregation in schools
Demands of activists to dismiss journalists and teachers for non-PC conduct have been met much faster than anything else. The other day there was a scandal with Gordon Klein, a professor from UCLA. He mocked one of African-American students who had asked if any leniency was expected during the exam due to the situation in Minneapolis. The teacher asked, “Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we've been having online classes only? Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian? What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half?” The antagonists of healthy humor have already collected almost 20 thousand signatures to put the teacher out of work; luckily, the professor has got a lot more supporters.
Usually, the race issues are kept away from in colleges. A Russian-speaking political expert noted in a personal conversation:
– You cannot talk about it in a decent liberal society, because African Americans are victims in any case. But this is not so, as Barack Obama rightly pointed out.
The situation in schools varies from state to state. Not all public schools give hope for a bright future, and good private schools are hugely expensive.
One artist, an acquaintance of mine, teaches art at a Chicago public school. Anna shared her experience of facing “the System’s racism” in Illinois:
– Education system in the United States is designed in such a way that public schools are mainly funded from property taxes in the respective areas. There are much fewer black property owners, than white ones, because 60 years ago, when ordinary white Americans acquired houses in suburbs, the blacks did not have such an opportunity. Racism was still legitimate back then, and nobody would sell a house to them or give them a bank loan. Now, the law prohibits such conduct. But! 60 years means two or three generations of white families which resold their real estate, exchanged it for the better one, handed it down to their children and grandchildren, etc. Real estate has gone up in price. All this time, black families have lived in rented apartments or houses; they had nothing to hand down to children and grandchildren. And it is much more difficult for their children to buy a house or apartment, since real estate prices keep increasing, but salaries don’t.
Let us get back to our schools. Due to such segregation into rich white and poor black areas, funding of local public schools vary. For instance, New Trier School in Winnetka (16 miles north of downtown Chicago) has two Olympic-sized swimming pools, a concert hall, its own auto mechanic’s workshop, carpentry workshops, a ceramics studio, and so on. But Harlan School at 97 Chicago Street, where I worked, has nothing of mentioned above. New Trier is visited by representatives of the major American colleges; they come there to look for promising students. Harlan is visited by representatives of army; they come and explain the children that the army is their only chance to get education. So rich white guys go to the Ivy League (the union of the most prestigious US universities - Ed.) and get high-paying jobs, while poor blacks, who have poor education, because the school had funding sufficient only for the basic disciplines, go to the army or get low-paid jobs.
Recently, a pilot program has been launched in some areas of New York City, according to which children go to a high school through educational option or a lottery. Thus, each child can be enrolled to a good school regardless the primary school leaving results. But here comes another issue - rights of children of Asian origin. They and their families are disappointed by such one-size-fits-all approach, because they studied with double eagerness in order to get into the best schools of the country. And there you are – an educational option!
Photo credit: BruceEmmerling / pixabay.com
Keep Calm and Carry On
“My father changed the world,” said the late George Floyd’s daughter sitting on shoulders of Stephen Jackson, a former basketball player and her father’s friend who has made this tragedy evolve into a cause celebre. And it is really so. Nevertheless, it is still unclear how exactly the world will change.
British poster Keep Calm and Carry On was produced in 1939. Royal Mail placed it in every post office to raise spirit of workers in difficult times, when they had to walk by ruins to deliver the mail. Let us hope that the Americans, regardless of their nationality, race, culture or religion, will discover their objectives and will do it against all odds.
Editorial opinion may differ from those disclosed in the article.
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