Let’s not pretend that racism in Europe, especially within European police forces, is not a problem. We have countless examples of violence against minority groups perpetrated by police officers all over Europe, but when we consider the United States we are presented with a nationwide crisis of innocent black men being gunned down and killed by law enforcement. It is not even the case that incidents of police murdering young black men have increased in recent years. In fact the rate has remained as high for decades – all that has changed is that more of these killings are being recorded on mobile devices and brought to the attention of the public at large.
Over the past few years, with the help of social media and the mainstream media, the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States has presented the world with raw footage of police officers employing a rapid shoot to kill policy with little or no provocation, police choking innocent and mentally ill young black men to death in broad daylight, shooting dead black men in wheelchairs, and images of police officers brutally assaulting black teenaged girls for attending a pool party in a “white neighbourhood.” As the video and testimonial evidence mounts, we in Europe are being forced to ask the question: Is the United States a racist police state?
There is little doubt that the United States has become a paranoid society. Fear sells! Since the events of September 2001 corporations and the media have bombarded the American people with a gargantuan fear campaign designed to increase sales in security related products and firearms, manufacture popular consent for higher levels of domestic security including domestic spying and information gathering, and a heightening of aggression in an already aggressive US foreign policy agenda. In such a climate of outright panic and trigger-happiness it is almost predictable that black people – already the subject of police brutality – would become victims of the fever.
Black Lives Matter, as the name of the movement reacting against this American normality, is most interesting because it precisely names the problem. Neither American nor European society truly believes that the lives of black human beings matter. Yes, many of us are fighting against racism, but we all live in and pay taxes to deeply racist national structures and state polities. Europe has closed its doors to the plight of Africa and is quite happy to watch black Africans drown in the Mediterranean, and in the United States the rate at which young black men are being killed by the state – which would be genocide or ethnic cleansing anywhere else – is routinely ignored.