The writer is a lawyer and founder of Aam Aadmi Party Pakistan.
In a perfect real life reenactment of the last scene of Crash, a beautiful Academy Award winning movie, in which a white cop Hansen, wrongly fearing for his own life, shoots to kill a black youngster Peter on a street, Ferguson, a locality in Missouri State of the US, was put on fire a few days back. Michael Brown, an 18 years old black boy received multiple shots in his failed attempt to escape death by a white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. Unarmed Brown with no criminal history was allegedly shot dead while his hands were up. Unfortunate death of Brown turned Ferguson into a hotspot of race-related violent eruptions and stirred the human conscience into a debate on racial question again, both nationally and internationally. “Hands up, don’t shoot”, “Black lives also matter” started echoing during the protests that were brought under control with great efforts after a week of social unrest recording some incidents of looting and arson. Even night curfews had to be resorted to control the situation. Not only this, the protests did not remain confined to Ferguson and spread like a wild fire to other places including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Indianapolis etc.
Brown’s death and its aftermath points to the deeper friction between two racial communities living side by side but completely segregated from each other. In 2009, the arrest of a black Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates had grabbed the media attention the world over highlighting the deeply embedded suspicion-based attitude of white policemen towards black populace of the US. Police behavior, which largely consists of the whites, is just a manifestation of the overall prejudice and discrimination that the society hosts against the marginalized and under-privileged black population.
Transatlantic slave trade in the US and apartheid in South Africa are marked as sore spots of the modern-day white history, the legacy of which is still inflicting those societies. Sporadic outbursts of white-versus-black fault line are not likely to recede unless concerted efforts are made at all levels from political to social, from economic to anthropological. The question, however, remains to be answered; what’s being done and is it enough?
The sad killing of Brown is a grim reminder of racial stereotypes, which continue to haunt American society in post slavery era, that have not diminished even when the US is headed by a half-black president.
The racial aspect of police behavior is not limited to the US only. In UK, recent reports have suggested that likelihood of arrest of non-white ethnic groups is higher than the whites. Similarly, after 9/11 Muslim communities are also exposed to more risks in western societies so far as police behavior is considered; even the most peaceful and well-assimilated Scandinavian societies are witnessing such trends. In these countries as well, police prejudice against particular communities is an outcome of the suspicions that the societies as a whole inhibit against them.
In India too, the untouchables have been meted out similar or even worse discrimination for millennia now. The twentieth century massive campaigns against the racial-cum-occupational discrimination still have much to be achieved. History of untouchability can also be traced back to the distant past when racial segregation of the conquered peoples played a definite role, partly sanctioned by scriptures later on. Even today many children of the lesser gods in India face the worst form of deprivation, victimization and marginalization. It’s a pity that according to official statistics, hundreds of thousands of manual scavengers exist even to this day; whose lives can best be described as sub-human.
In our own society, regardless of the haughty claims by some self styled egalitarian enthusiasts, lives of Christian community, our own variant of untouchables, remain miserably prejudiced, discriminated and segregated.
Unfortunate part of the saga of racial discrimination in our part of the world is that some communities are suffering this unholy fate without any national or international debate, without any national or international media spotlight on them. Pakistan’s Christians are just a case in point.
Ferguson crash should not become just an unfortunate lone incident, soon-to-be-forgotten, rather it should serve as a reminder of unfinished task for humanity. Human conscience has to commit itself with more vigor and zeal to do away with the scourge that the racial discrimination is, from the face of earth.
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