I can’t breathe
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Meanings are given in BOLD
It is 28 years since four white police officers were acquitted ( free (someone) from a criminal charge by a verdict of not guilty ) of beating Rodney King to death in Los Angeles, triggering race riots ( an outburst of uncontrolled feelings ) in several cities across the United States. In these nearly three decades, the US has changed in many ways, particularly for the outside world. In a post-Cold War world order, it rose as the only global super power.
As a victim of one of the worst acts of terrorism, it fought wars on foreign shores ( support or assist something that would otherwise fail or decline ) to protect itself from those who threatened the “American way of life”, and declared it would reconstruct those countries that bore ( make (a hole) in something with a tool or by digging ) the brunt ( the worst part or chief impact of a specified action ) in its own image, by taking to them its own “democratic values”.
It policed the world, pronouncing judgement on the lack of freedoms in countries it did not see eye to eye with, threatening them with sanctions ( give official permission or approval for (an action) ) or worse. Through it all, however, there was, and there is, much to admire about America, its founding ideals, its freedoms and its wealth. It made new friends, and nations across the world were flattered ( cause (someone) to feel honoured and pleased ) when it bestowed ( confer or present (an honour, right, or gift) ) on them the title of ally ( a state formally cooperating with another for a military or other purpose ).
But as it changed, its deepest internal fault line remained unhealed, and erupted repeatedly — Cincinnati, 2001; Ferguson, 2014; Baltimore, 2015; Charlotte, 2016 and countless times in between.Each racist incident, with its attendant ( a person who is present on a particular occasion ) impunity ( exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action ), was a warning that there would be a George Floyd who would come up against a policeman named Derek Chauvin.
The election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States served both to hide the ugly persistence ( the fact of continuing in an opinion or course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition ) of racism as well as to aggravate ( make (a problem, injury, or offence) worse or more serious ) it to the point where a “white backlash” handed over the keys of the White House to Donald Trump.
Now bidding for a second term, President Trump, whose popularity may be at a low point for his botched ( (of a task) carried out badly or carelessly ) response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has thought nothing of using a white supremacist ( an advocate of the supremacy of a particular group, especially one determined by race or sex ) trope ( a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression) — not the first time he has done this — to portray the violence sweeping through the country as black lawlessness in order to polarise ( divide or cause to divide into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs ) Americans, and play to his own voter base.
The manner in which American racism has endured ( suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently ), subverting ( undermine the power and authority of (an established system or institution) ) the country’s deepest democratic institutions in the process, it may be too optimistic to view the present moment as a turning point. But it is not without a glimmer ( a faint sign of a feeling or quality, especially a desirable one ) of hope.
Not all the anger erupting across American today at the horrific manner in which Floyd died, helplessly pleading to be allowed to breathe, is just black anger. The participation in the protests shows that the wound has cut deeper and wider this time, across racial lines. Perhaps even on Trump’s side of the fence, it may turn out to be the proverbial ( Fame ; Traditional ) straw on the camel’s back that can force America to confront the reality of the distance it has still to cover — to fulfil the possibilities of its own admirable democratic ideals.