Land of the unfree: On U.S. unrest
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If ever there were a doubt that racism in the U.S. had outlived ( live through (an experience)) eight years under former President Barack Obama, the events of this week, including protests following the death of an African-American, George Floyd, in police action in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have set them to rest. Even as rallies ( come together again in order to continue fighting after a defeat or dispersion) and police crackdowns ( a series of severe measures to restrict undesirable or illegal people or behaviour) engulfed ( sweep over (something) so as to surround or cover it completely) a wide swathe ( a broad strip or area of something) of American metros, President Donald Trump inserted himself into the controversy and triggered a broader debate on censorship of posts by social media platforms.
On Friday, Twitter masked and attached a caution note to a tweet by Mr. Trump for “glorifying violence”. In that tweet he had labelled protesters calling for action against police for Floyd’s death “THUGS”, adding “when the looting ( steal goods from (a place), typically during a war or riot) starts, the shooting starts”, a reference to a threat by a police chief, who in 1967 declared “war” and vowed violent revenge on African-Americans in Miami Beach. As outrage spread across social media, Mr. Trump appeared to dial down his rhetoric ( the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques) subsequently, tweeting, “It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement.”
This is hardly the first time that the U.S. President has fanned ( cause (a belief or emotion) to become stronger or more widespread) the flames of hatred. He has said, among other things, that Mexicans were rapists and drug dealers, and in early 2017 he banned visitors from certain Muslim-majority countries.It is almost inevitable ( certain to happen; unavoidable) that racial tensions will bubble to the surface in an election year and explode when incendiary ( (of a device or attack) designed to cause fires) remarks are made by leaders.
Amid such a toxic public discourse, fuelled ( cause (a fire) to burn more intensely) by a Republican Commander-in-Chief, hope for a more reasonable, tolerant and bipartisan ( of or involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other’s policies) approach rests on the shoulders of Joe Biden, the presumptive (of the nature of a presumption; presumed in the absence of further information) Democratic Party nominee. Should Mr. Biden select an African-American or a minority community leader as his running mate, the base of potential voters could broaden and help improve the Democrats’ odds of taking back the White House.
The potential candidates for this role include California Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Maxine Waters, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, not to mention former First Lady Michelle Obama. However, the mere tokenism ( the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce) of including persons of colour as a vice-presidential candidate or in a potential Biden cabinet of 2021 will not suffice to heal the painful fractures in American society, riven by hateful rhetoric on race.
The balm must include far-reaching legislative reform on the use of excessive force by police against minorities, punishment for all hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and inhumane treatment of migrants at the border. Unless such an agenda, focused on the complete reform of government institutions toward supporting a pluralist ethos ( the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations), is adopted by the next occupant ( a person who resides or is present in a house, vehicle, seat, etc., at a given time) of the White House, the American dream will remain a mirage ( an unrealistic hope or wish that cannot be achieved) for many.