Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

George Floyd: honouring his legacy one month on

It is no exaggeration to say that Floyd's killing has changed the face of his country

Today marks one month since George Floyd, an unarmed black man in the US state of Minnesota, was choked to death by a police officer in broad daylight, in the sight of three other officers. The video footage of his last moments, in which he is seen gasping for air and pleading for his life, has sent shockwaves across America and the world.

Floyd’s senseless death at the hands of public servants has become a symbol of the plight of African Americans, who have long suffered from discrimination in many corners of US society. For thirty days now, anti-racism protesters and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have taken to the streets to demand justice for Floyd and the equality afforded to them under American laws.

Their cry has resonated across the world, and shed light on the discrimination and hardships faced by black people and other minorities in many parts of the world. Throughout Europe, thousands of people have gathered to denounce racism against ethnic minorities.

Floyd’s tragic death has also sparked a conversation about racism in the Middle East creating space for black Arabs to give voice to their own experiences. These pages have covered the black Iraqis’ struggle for equal rights and given a platform to black Arab women to discuss challenges they regularly face.

Arab artists, authors and activists, of course, have not waited for the recent events in the US to address racism and shed light on similar issues in the region. Last year, Omani writer Jokha Alharthi won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her novel Celestial Bodies, in which she discusses the legacy of slavery in the region. Discussions like these must be had, and the voices of black Arabs, who have long been underrepresented in the region’s public discourse, should be amplified.

It is imperative for the US to uphold at home the ideals that it has long promoted elsewhere. The influence of American culture and values around the world cannot be overstated. The US has been an ally to Arab nations and others in the Middle East for decades, promoting a message of freedom, tolerance and equality in the Arab world and beyond. Those principles have inspired many of the region’s greatest peacemakers, artists and intellectuals.

It is imperative for the US to uphold at home the ideals that it has long promoted elsewhere

They have also drawn many immigrants and students from our region to American shores, granted them economic opportunity and fostered their talents. Like other minorities in the US, Arab Americans have not had an easy journey – particularly in the last two decades. But they have thrived nonetheless, and their success has solidified the bonds between the US and the Middle East.

It is no exaggeration to say that George Floyd has changed the face of his country. Thirty days after his killing, the police officer who choked him to death awaits trial. Statues glorifying racist historical figures have been brought down and Americans are having conversations about the path forward. The outcome of these debates is for Americans to decide, but resolving them will only strengthen America – and with it, the rest of the world.

Updated: June 25, 2020 10:21 AM

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