The Black Lives Matter movement, and the response to it, have begun to shift certain cultures in the world toward more social justice, although, sadly, the brutality directed at peaceful protestors has shown quite the opposite of upholding civil rights.
Positive peace can only exist where social justice applies equally to all racial, ethnic and cultural groups; indeed, to all individuals in a society.
Many of the social and cultural underpinnings of the pre-Covid19 world have been ripped up by the “lockdowns”, “social distancing”, and restrictions that have been put in place by governments to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The effect of this is that there exists at this point a new kind of cultural, and political plasticity, where things that were thought of as solid and sacred before Covid19, are now no longer solid and sacred.
The death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer, occurring as the world struggles to deal with the Pandemic, has been the catalyst for significant decisions and actions that seem to be moving at least the U.S. in the direction of greater social justice.
It is tragic that it took his dying to prompt cultures, especially in the West, to look at how they have continued for generations to sanctify those historical individuals involved in promoting slavery, and have continued to support institutions, such as the police, where racism has found fertile ground to thrive.
That statues of slave traders, and slave holders have come down, since the death of George Floyd, and that the flag of the Confederacy has been banned by NASCAR, and eliminated from Mississippi’s state flag, are partly due to the movement George Floyd’s death gave rise to. But it is also due to the new fluidity of culture, and the throwing out, or suspension, of the old rules, that has arisen in the middle of the pandemic. The recent decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the rights of the DACA recipients or Dreamers is a welcome breath of fresh air in a world that had been becoming hyper-nationalistic.
Peace often does not come from an absence of violence. On a grand scale, the massive death and destruction of World War II, gave rise to a new kind of peace, built ironically on the existence of mutually assured annihilation between East and West.
There have been countless deaths like the “I cannot breathe” killing of George Floyd. But perhaps this catalyst, this tragic death, might usher in a new epoch of greater social justice in certain parts of the world. I hasten to add that in some countries, like Brazil, Russia and China, there is a conspicuous lack of social justice, and in the U.S. there remain massive institutional and political barriers to civil rights applying equally to all citizens.
The top-to-bottom reform of police departments, and of racist sentencing practices would help usher us into this new epoch, as well as establishing ways, through education especially, for poverty to cease to be handed down through the generations like a yoke of oppression. The city of Camden in New Jersey did totally reform its police department, letting go all the police officers in 2013 who presided over a sky-high murder rate, and a new police department, controlled by the County, came into being. It was not an immediate fix, and teething problems had to be corrected. But it is a great example of how police reform can be made to work to make a community safer and more peaceful. Here is an article that describes the process:
Perhaps what we are seeing in the US, and in some other countries, are the green shoots of a more peaceful and equitable world – green shoots we need to nurture to become the oaks and sequoias of the future.