RACISM must be treated as a crime against humanity, says Vernon Mwaanga.
The veteran politician said it was a historical fact that slavery was abolished a few centuries ago but racism was not.
“We experienced in our own country during colonial rule, when race meant almost everything. The struggle of African Americans is about equal rights and equal treatment before the law as well as justice for the victims of racial discrimination,” he said in a statement.
“The struggle of African Americans, who now number just over 40 million has been going on for a very long time. This struggle has been well organised in the past under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Stokely Carmichael, Rap Brown and many others. Racial discrimination against black people, particularly in the Southern States of America, I was a victim of it in 1962 when I first went to America on a Youth Leadership Programme, organised by the African-American Institute.”
Mwaanga said Black Americans have been involved in demonstrations for equality for centuries, right from the time they were taken there from Africa to work as slaves on white plantations.
He said their progress had been painfully slow and unsatisfactory.
Mwaanga recalled the famous story of the brave African-American woman, Rosa Parks of Alabama.
“She had sat in the middle of a public bus and was ordered by white passengers to vacate her seat and sit at the back of the bus contending ‘because that is our seat’. She rightly refused to move to the back of the bus. She made it clear that she was as good as anybody else. This incident led to the now famous Alabama Bus boycott,” he said.
He said the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police has led to some of the biggest public demonstrations ever seen in America since the 60s.
Mwaanga said there had been huge demonstrations all over the United States of America and in Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Australia and around the world in support of “Black Lives Matter” movement.
“What is vastly different this time is the large number of white people taking part in these demonstrations, which have been going on for close to two weeks. Initially, the police had said that George Floyd was resisting arrest, but in this day and age of technology and video cameras, there was visual evidence from many angles that the initial police statement was a lie. The police later tamely amended [their] statement,” he said.
“There are countless occasions when police have been caught lying through their teeth and this seems to happen with sickening frequency, not just in America but around the world. A policeman is clearly seen from various camera angles kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, while he is heard crying out to his mother, ‘I can’t breathe’. The other police officers present at the scene of the crime were nonchalantly unconcerned. They were behaving as if nothing was happening,” he said.
He said police ugly brutality against people of colour in America was well documented.
Mwaanga said the system had in built mechanisms to shield policemen from being held accountable.
“How many more deaths and funerals of black people are we going to witness before we see meaningful change, which must include equal job opportunities for all Americans? How much more blood, sweat and tears are we going witness before we see meaningful change?” he asked.
“The duty of any President is to care for all the people and to unite the people, particularly during difficult times. Unfortunately, each time President Donald Trump opens his mouth, be it in connection with the ongoing civil rights demonstrations or the Coronavirus pandemic, the people get more divided. In a democratic country like America, the right to demonstrate is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the American Constitution. Mindset change is urgently required at local, state and national levels to lay down new guidelines for police officers.”
Mwaanga said police kneeling on necks of suspects must be outlawed.
He said countries like China which was targeted by the American government for its handling of the Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators must be having the last laugh.
“Racism must be treated as a crime against humanity. Every responsible citizen of the world has an unfailing duty to work for the total elimination of racialism in all its manifestations so that we can make our one world, a better place for all. The police are servants of the people and must serve the people and I mean all the people equally. Yes, ‘Black Lives Matter’. In the final analysis ‘All Lives Matter’,” said Mwaanga.