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Coming to Terms with our Difficult Pasts
A man surveys the scene in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 28 after violent protests over the death there earlier in the week of George Floyd. (Lorie Shaull/Wikimedia Commons)

Coming to Terms with our Difficult Pasts

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, June 19

As the wave of anger sparked by the death of George Floyd in America begins to wane around the world, now is a good time to take a step back and examine what these global protests managed to achieve. Unfortunately, I fear they caused more harm than good. Instead of fostering greater empathy, they exacerbated the dividing lines that exist among us. I say this for two main reasons. First, Floyd’s death was hijacked by populists as an excuse to bash Western democracy. Instead of criticizing the actions that led to his unfortunate death, or focusing on the use of force by police officers, leaders of the protest movement called to bring down “American imperialism.” The United States, alongside other Western democracies, was accused of representing “racist values.” Second, protest leaders around the world suggested that Floyd was killed specifically because he was black. In doing so, they completely overlooked the fact that the arrest technique used against Floyd is also used by dozens of other police forces around the world, including in countries that are predominantly white. They also ignore the fact that many non-black Americans have lost their lives in the same unfortunate way. Once again, instead of focusing on the actual incident and the wrongdoing of the police officers involved, the Black Lives Matter movement chose to vilify all police officers around the world. Surely, American society, like other societies, is not void of racism. Slavery, too, was not unique to America. It was an integral part of human existence for many centuries, and still exists in some societies. This might be a shameful truth, but it’s still the truth. Instead of delegitimizing entire political systems and institutions, public anger should be directed against unpacking these difficult historical realities that have shaped our world. Only then will we be able to come to terms with the inequalities that have shaped human existence since the dawn of time and begin building more just societies. – Amir Taheri (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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