Remember the 2005 Bihar Vidhan Sabha election that brought Nitish Kumar to power. That election was fought on the plank of ‘Law-and-Order’ against a protracted 15-year long ‘Jungle Raj’ under the Lalu-Rabri dispensation. People didn’t care as much about the economy and healthcare in the state of Bihar.
In a curious parallel, the US president, Donald Trump, has pushed ‘Law-and-Order’ as the main agenda for his re-election that seeks to throw such issues as the economy and the covid-19 pandemic by the wayside.
Donald Trump, a Republican, has seized the opportunity offered by the three months of intermittent looting and rioting on the streets of a number of cities run by the Democrats.
Triggered by the strangulation of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, the race riots set off from that city in the month of May, spread to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Chicago, and wound up in Kenosha, Wisconsin just last month. More of it may occur between now and 3 Nov 2020, the election day and beyond.
This series of looting, arson and rioting have been perpetrated by the violent elements who mingled into a big tent ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement supporting the Democrats. The BLM doesn’t expressly advocate violence or vandalism but tolerates it. Donald Trump calls them anarchists, Socialists or radical Left aided by Antifa, a radical extremist Leftist movement that believes in a violent dismantling of the Conservative-Republican capitalist establishment.
Interestingly, there are extremist violent groups on the side of the Republicans too. Along with many White supremacist outfits, there’s a group called QAnon that believes in conspiracy theory and could be the equivalent of Antifa on the Right.
The BLM is a movement that, among other things, raises the issue of ‘systemic racism’ in America, aims at erasing all the traces of black slavery by pulling down statues and monuments. It casts practically all the police departments in a ‘white racist’ mould whenever a black is shot at by the police officers. Its demands include defunding the police departments and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Whereas it can’t be denied that systemic racism does exist in the US, tarring all the police departments and personnel with a white racist brush will be irresponsible, erratic and unfair.
Almost all police departments pay special attention to a racial and gender mix in their hirings. Except for a few rotten apples here and there, the police officers play by the rules and conduct professionally. For any reason, from domestic violence, medical emergencies to the incidence of fire, accident or theft, the Americans call 911 and the police are the first ones to arrive at the scene. The chiefs of many leading city police departments have been black, Latino and women.
A word on the police shootings and the black community.
In almost all the stories of police shootings at the black, brown or white Americans, it's generally observed that the targeted subjects have had some kind of run in with the law enforcement. Either the police are in hot pursuit chasing them or, they don’t follow the command given to them or they appear threateningly in the way of the armed police officers on duty.
If only the subjects targeted by the police are quick enough to raise their hands, surrender their weapons/drugs, if they are in possession of any, and submit themselves to the arrest, a majority of police shootings could be avoided.
As a preliminary lesson in civics, the citizens ought to know that, when asked, they have to bow before a law-enforcing agent, the police, simply because that personnel, in the discharge of his official duties, represents the authority of the State. Any illegitimate arrest later on could be contested in a court of law and rendered null and void. If this process is followed, no lives will be lost.
Unfortunately, what happens in most of the cases instead of surrendering to the police or cooperating with them, the subjects try to resist, sometimes applying their full force, or give an appearance of doing harm to the police.
The police, often in their moments of misjudgment or in a state of panic, pull the trigger.
In view of this crisis, the majority of responsible American citizens -- including the black celebrities and black police officers -- counsel their fellow citizens or their children to be absolutely cooperative with the police in the event of being stopped and searched.
A number of African Americans have testified that they didn't have any problem with the police and that the police (mostly white) had treated them with respect whenever they were pulled over or frisked. That was largely because they were polite and cooperated with the police, also because they had nothing to hide.
The black Americans have a serious complaint that they were the easy targets of suspicion by the police and, therefore, they were always subjected to harassment through interrogation and search.
The answer to this question unfortunately is contained in the claim based on statistics that the incidence of criminality among the blacks is way higher than in the Latino, white or Asian Americans. The blacks constitute only around 13 percent of the population, but their share in crime or homicide, in certain areas, exceeds 50 percent.
This is a truth politicians or civic leaders don't wish to say to the black community out of political correctness. The black community doesn't want to hear that too. The politicians among the blacks and the Democrats wish to perpetuate the story of racial discrimination to keep their constituencies hostage as a vote bank.
Here, it’s very similar to the minority Muslim politics in India where the Congress party leaders and the Islamists seek to control their Muslim constituencies by constantly telling them that they were the victims of discrimination. They do talk about the riots and violence, but seldom go deep into the socio-economic questions of how to make their base emerge as a strong productive citizenry.
Whereas these problems will continue in the post-Trump era as well, it will be clear in November who the American voters had listened to.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.