In the days following the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, there was a great deal of head-scratching as people tried to understand the reasons behind Donald Trump’s surprise victory. One political analyst said that longstanding frustrations with what some people, particularly in rural and middle America, viewed as a corrupt political and economic system had finally boiled over. In her words, anger had driven those people to “throw a brick through the window” by voting for Trump. In essence, they were trying to blow up that crooked system.
The pros and cons of globalization have been widely discussed by economists, social scientists, and politicians. There are those who argue that the negative impacts of free trade and globalization on the lives of some low- and middle-income Americans have not been adequately recognized, and that not enough serious efforts have been made by policymakers to mitigate those effects. Following Trump’s election, and the rise of other populist leaders around the world, expert opinions have now largely converged on the fact that more needs to be done to help those whose lives have been made worse by globalization.
During the post-election analysis, some black commentators said that Trump’s white supporters who voted for him out of frustration with the system had gotten a taste of what black Americans have felt throughout their existence. Institutionalized racism and redlining, according to those pundits, have deprived a majority of blacks the opportunities to enjoy their fair share of the American economic pie.
Some voters threw a metaphorical brick through the window in 2016. When the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before games in protest against racial injustices, he was, perhaps, throwing his own brick. Kaepernick was widely criticized for his action, including by President Trump, and has since been unable to find a team to sign him.
In the violent protests in Minneapolis and other cities around the country following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer, several private businesses and properties have been destroyed. This has worsened the dire economic situation that those business owners were already facing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. While the overwhelming majority of protesters have been peaceful, there have unfortunately been some who, due to pent-up anger, have felt that the only way for society to pay attention to their grievances is for them to throw bricks.
There should be no excuse for looting and destruction of property. Mostly, the businesses that were destroyed belonged to innocent people who had nothing to do with the actions that triggered the protests. But, it is also the case that American society has for far too long tolerated cover-ups by law enforcement agencies of egregious behavior and criminal activity targeted at blacks, resulting in the deep-seated anger that we are witnessing in the streets currently.
In their initial report on George Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis police department seemingly tried to hide the officer’s responsibility in the killing. The report said that Mr. Floyd appeared to be suffering medical distress after he was handcuffed, omitting the fact that the officer had pressed his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. In the recent Ahmaud Arbery case in Georgia, the police there also gave a false account of events, reporting that Mr. Arbery was the aggressor (rather, he was confronted by the men while he was out jogging), and that the man who shot him to death had acted in self-defense.
Without video evidence in both cases, it is entirely possible that the rest of the country would never have known what actually happened. As a black male, it haunts me to think that there are many more George Floyds, Ahmaud Arberys, and others who have been murdered in such gruesome fashion without their killers ever facing justice. That in turn seems to have encouraged the kind of impunity with which some policemen like George Floyd’s killer victimize people of color.
It should be clear by now to all Americans that regardless of our racial identities, political persuasions, religious or other affiliations, we all pay dearly for our collective indifference to the grievances of others. Until we begin to demand fair treatment for all, we will most likely continue to have bricks coming through the window at us.