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Sunday, May 31, 2020

White trash, George Floyd and the Malaysian equivalent


“The Internet is on fire because of George Floyd.”
“Everyone is angry. My friend said this has only been happening since Donald Trump became president but slavery started in the 1600's so I guess everyone is uneducated.”
That’s what my teenage daughter wrote to me yesterday. In a WhatsApp message from the next room as it happened.
“Yes, there was slavery, segregation and lynching, that’s all part of the US dynamic between white and black people, but I do feel that Trump has been emboldening white racists threatened by the election of the eloquent (ex-president Barrack) Obama and he is speaking their same hate-filled language,” I replied.
I tried not to watch the video because I knew that once I did, I would never be able to forget it. I tried but ended up watching it by mistake and I knew I would have to write this column.
In case you missed it - George Floyd was murdered in cold blood in broad daylight in Minneapolis, the US. It happened just this past Tuesday, May 25. Floyd got into trouble over a fake US$20 bill. 
He was handcuffed and taken to a police vehicle. Looking at the video, it looks like he tripped and fell on the way, but the police claimed that he struggled.
What is clear is that while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the road, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck, while two of his colleagues had him pinned down by the legs and the back while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the road. A fourth cop – of Chinese descent – stood by.
This went on for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Chauvin’s knee was on the neck of Floyd, slowly suffocating him. On camera. 
Floyd can be heard pleading for his life. “Please, I can’t breathe,” he said over and over again. But the unfeeling racist who killed him doesn’t move. And those were Floyd’s last words.
For the last two minutes and 53 seconds, Floyd was unresponsive. He was pronounced dead soon afterward and Chauvin and his three colleagues were fired. 
As I write, I have just read that Chauvin will be charged with third-degree murder.
You know what you are, Chauvin?
You cowardly, cruel, callous, contemptuous Chauvin-ist?
You are white trash. You are a murderer.
You know it in your heart. And the whole world knows it now. You are most likely descended from people who were poor and ignorant – and let me stress that there is absolutely no crime in that.
But what makes you white trash is your racism. Because of your own insecurities and incompetence, you try and find power by brutalising others. 
You hide behind a badge which makes it all the more shameful because you are supposed to serve the people.
As I write this, the people of Minneapolis are rioting. Unable to contain their anger at the injustice captured on video. 
It’s familiar to me because I was a college student in the US during the Rodney King riots in 1992 when a black man was repeatedly and viciously beaten on camera by white trash cops.
And despite the overwhelming evidence, the cops were freed by an all-white jury. A jury of white trash. The riots followed the unfair verdict. 
And by the way, I can’t condone the riots because I was also horrified by the near-fatal beating of Reginald Denny, an innocent white truck driver.
By the way, do you know what an apologist is? Somebody who tries to find an excuse for Chauvin, saying that maybe Floyd was violent earlier. Except that he wasn’t.
Or someone trying to say that all lives matter, not recognising that the Black Lives Matter movement broke out because so many unarmed black men were being killed, very often by the police.
Just before George Floyd, Americans were treated to the spectacle of a white woman called Amy Cooper who tried to leverage racial power during a minor dispute in NY's Central Park over whether or not a dog should be leashed. 
She called the police to say her life was being threatened by a black man. Thank goodness it was on video.
That there is a huge injustice going on is indisputable. On Feb 23, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by white trash just for jogging in their neighbourhood. It took three months before they were arrested and charged.
I remember Tamar Rice. He was a 12-year-old kid shot dead by cops for playing with a toy gun in a park. That happened in November 2014. Can you imagine?
Black Lives Matter sprung up because of Tamar, because of Akai Gurley, because of Michael Brown, because of Eric Garner and hundreds of others.
Police brutality carried out by the majority against the minority. It’s not exclusively that, by the way. There are exceptions, like white on white police brutality. 
But the former is an undeniable trend, and it should, as a human being, make you angry. Mind you, the murder of George Floyd was captured on video – just think how many others get away with their crimes?
I have chosen to pepper this article with the racist term "white trash". It’s actually not acceptable, but I have used it in this context to specifically target a group of killers. 
And also to highlight that even words are unpleasant and add to the heated atmosphere.
I also have a question for you my dear Malaysian reader – is there is a trend of racism in police brutality here? Is there any mirror of the same phenomenon that you can think of in Malaysia?
I’ll give you some clues - lock-up deaths, majority race, minority race, hypocrisy, privilege, no convictions. 
Figure the rest out for yourself.

MARTIN VENGADESAN is a Malaysiakini team member.

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