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Regard­ing George Floy­d’s mur­der in the Unit­ed States, no one can get away with a sim­ple tear, some moan­ing, three twirls from the pup­pets, and the show is over.

What could have remained a sim­ple news item in the sequence of police vio­lences lead­ing to death has become, through the pow­er of a video image that trav­elled across the world, a racist mur­der filmed live. And this act, of which a num­ber of iden­ti­cal ones nev­er reached beyond the back page in the news, thus made pub­lic, sud­den­ly crys­tal­lized ele­ments that go way beyond a sim­ple call to a moral con­dem­na­tion and the sign­ing of a peti­tion.

Self-right­eous­ness, pref­ere­bly white and right-lean­ing, imme­di­ate­ly orga­nized coun­ter­mea­sures, exhibit­ing the vic­tim’s “police record”. Under this guise, the mat­ter would be a regret­table blun­der or clum­si­ness dur­ing the exer­cise of the “State’s legit­i­mate vio­lence” against a delin­quent, com­mit­ted by an iso­lat­ed police­man who would be sanc­tioned, “of course”… Then, author­i­ties would attempt to estab­lish “pri­or weak­ness­es” in the vic­tim, dur­ing the autop­sy. Any anal­o­gy drawn between these facts and devel­op­ments con­cern­ing per­sons who died in the hands of State police in any oth­er coun­try would, of course, be acci­den­tal… How­ev­er, the words “I can’t breathe” bring to mind so many State mur­ders, com­mit­ted by a civ­il ser­vant act­ing as a go-between, vio­lences that were nev­er acknowl­edged. We are now at the phase of “vio­lences are use­less.” But every­one knows that, these vio­lences led to one more death, car­ried out like a rec­ol­lec­tion of lynch­ing in the col­lec­tive uncon­scious.

Yes, we could express it this way with the added fil­lip of a healthy dose of anger. But what’s the point in stay­ing in the agi­tat­ed foam from the event, between moral reac­tion and dia­tribe. Faced with oth­er “images” that had sat­u­rat­ed screens with­in 24 hours, such as that of the child’s body washed up on a Mediter­ranean beach, I had also grabbed a mike dur­ing a “ral­ly” and “con­demned”… So many more tor­tured migrants’ bod­ies result­ing from Euro­pean deciders’ choic­es have joined that one since. Moral indig­na­tion is sol­u­ble in sea water, and falls apart on social media and in TV stu­dios. It rarely hits the tar­get.

So, one week lat­er, it is with the utmost atten­tion that we must look at the mobi­liza­tion of these thou­sands of peo­ple, become hun­dreds of thou­sands in more than one hun­dred major cities in the Unit­ed States and else­where across the world. And what we see and hear is not only a moral appli­ca­tion of the word “racism” but con­crete ref­er­ences to the man­ner in which is has shaped the his­to­ry of colo­nial and geno­ci­dal States, how it has served as polit­i­cal cau­tion to a num­ber of exac­tions and oppres­sions. And the offi­cial access to pow­er of a Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, ped­dler of the suprema­cist ide­ol­o­gy, use­ful to his pol­i­cy and mean­ing­ful to his white elec­torate, has brought these ques­tions ful­ly into the light. Nation­al­ist retrench­ments, under cov­er of sov­er­eign­ty, at work every­where, and that include in their ide­ol­o­gy an unin­hib­it­ed racism must also raise ques­tions over what is tru­ly going on.

Where­as the most “pro­duc­tive” of the poor social class­es in the Unit­ed States are made up of a major­i­ty of blacks or lati­nos, the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic has bru­tal­ly thrown them into mas­sive unem­ploy­ment. There was no need for the polit­i­cal addi­tion of racist polic­ing cut­ting loose. Here, we can think of a num­ber of sit­u­a­tions and con­texts, in Europe as in Brazil, for exam­ple, offer­ing great sim­i­lar­i­ties.

This addi­tion­al “mur­der of a black man” as it is termed by well-estab­lished gazettes would have been sim­ply one extra death, if rea­sons for the anger and its explo­sion had not be so strong and cur­rent.

Thus, spon­ta­neous­ly, media talk of “a cri­sis unprece­dent­ed since the assas­si­na­tion of Mar­tin Luther King”. This is all that was need­ed to reunite the “black cause” in the face of an Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent mobi­liz­ing the nation­al guard via twit­ter, and call­ing on it to “fire”.

What is remark­able is the spread­ing of reac­tions and mobi­liza­tions to the “white” fringe of the demo­c­ra­t­ic left, trans­formed in Trump’s words into “an anar­chist horde”, and even a “ter­ror­ist” one. Thus are Amer­i­can activists against Trump and anti fas­cists legit­imized by the pop­u­lar mobi­liza­tion. And what is burn­ing, as demon­strat­ed by images dis­trib­uted world wide, also becomes a legit­i­mate expres­sion of this anger, in the name of oppres­sions and accu­mu­lat­ed mur­ders, of pris­ons most­ly filled with per­sons of col­ors, of the 60 years “for noth­ing” since Mar­tin Luther…

There is no way to pre­dict the out­come of the cri­sis cre­at­ed by the live film­ing of George Floy’s death, added to the already deeply divid­ed polit­i­cal con­text in the Unit­ed States and the eco­nom­ic sequels left by the pan­dem­ic. The polit­i­cal sys­tem itself finds itself at fault and even an Oba­ma is unaudi­ble, so tied have the social and the racial ques­tions become, find­ing their roots in the “revis­it­ed” sto­ry of the black cause for a mobi­lized youth with noth­ing left to lose.

One can already say that anger will be heard every­where in the world where sim­i­lar con­texts pre­vail, even if it does not spread. Such con­texts are not lack­ing.

Per­haps, at long last, will the reli­gious ques­tion, mean­ing to say that of Islam, be set aside, at least brought back to its right­ful place when speak­ing about the social con­struc­tion of racism and its his­to­ry in colo­nial and neo-colo­nial nation-States. And here, I am speak­ing about France.

Because if there is a slow poi­son act­ing in France as soon as the need aris­es to look at the con­se­quences of col­o­niza­tion and the social and polit­i­cal con­struc­tion of racism that went with it (and still per­sists in the offi­cial “nation­al” his­to­ry), the ques­tion of reli­gion stands at the fore, always claim­ing to be its main vic­tim, with a polit­i­cal Islam almost appear­ing as an alter­na­tive “nation­al­ism”.

The Kur­dish move­ment was not mis­tak­en in this regard, and react­ed prompt­ly. One could see on social media pho­to mon­tages plac­ing side by side George Floyd, vic­tims of Turk­ish police and the por­trait of the mur­der­ous Amer­i­can police­man. And this was not out of some sim­ple notion of moral “anti-racism”. It is well and tru­ly the polit­i­cal expres­sion of “sub-cit­i­zens” in front of a nation­al con­struc­tion which negates them, a his­to­ry that eras­es them, a police and an army that kills them, impris­ons them. The short-cut is elo­quent. It even rep­re­sents with­in Turci­ty itself, the eco­nom­ic and social role devolv­ing to Kurds in their places of work.

In France, the long strug­gle of the “Adama Tra­oré” col­lec­tive should find itself rein­forced, so that his death be rec­og­nized for what it is, a direct con­se­quence of State police vio­lence… And it is not sur­pris­ing to see Valeurs Actuelles, a French extreme right-wing news­pa­per titling “the extreme left dreams of import­ing the racial riots sur­round­ing George Floyd”. While the same mag­a­zine dreams of “purg­ing the sub­urbs”. But the ongo­ing shock linked to the pan­dem­ic, along with the “sum­mer hol­i­days” will prob­a­bly delay mobi­liza­tions. By then, George Floy­d’s death may be a thing of the past.

I per­sist in say­ing that the time has come to re-vital­ize the “bad word” of “inter­sec­tion­al­ism” and its strug­gles, while set­ting aside big­ot­ted reli­gios­i­ty which obvi­ous­ly has no place in it.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…