Divisive Racism in US’ Societal Texture: An Appraisal
Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan
After the decisive defeat of Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential election, there is a general feeling of relief in many quarters even in US that the phenomenon causing threatening division in US’ societal texture may come to an end. However, the significant question remains whether that hope will actualise? It is unfortunate that the current indicators reflect much higher chances of this hope not actualising; rather, on the contrary, this societal–divisive phenomenon appears more likely to increase further irrespective of Donald Trump or Joe Biden being the president of US.
As for Donald Trump, he is refusing to concede defeat. He is also claiming to win the election ultimately once his electoral law suits get through. However, chances of that eventuality are remote.
In that context of understanding this societal–divisive phenomenon in US it has to be acknowledged that Donald Trump is not the initiator of this phenomenon, rather this phenomenon is deeply ingrained in US’ society; and that, Donald trump only rode the wave of this pre–existing phenomenon to win presidential election in 2016. This fact has been highlighted in many credible US’ publications also. Brief extracts of two of those are given in succeeding paragraphs.
The journal of Washington D.C. US–based Smithsonian Institution, published on 4 June 2020, has brought to fore (italics added for highlighting): “In a short essay published earlier this week, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch wrote that the recent killing in Minnesota of George Floyd has forced the country to “confront the reality that, despite gains made in the past 50 years, we are still a nation riven by inequality and racial division”. ——- “Racial, economic and educational disparities are deeply entrenched in U.S. institutions. Though the Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal,” American democracy has historically—and often violently—excluded certain groups”. ——- “In addition to enduring centuries of enslavement, exploitation and inequality, African Americans have long been the targets of racially charged physical violence”. ——- “The form of anti–black violence with the most striking parallels to contemporary conversations is police brutality”. (1)
John R Allen, president of Washington D.C. US–based Brookings Institution in his article dated 11 June 2020 has asserted (italics added for highlighting): “Unaddressed systemic racism is, in my mind, the most important issue in the United States today. And it has been so since before the founding of our nation”. ——– “Slavery was America’s “original sin.” It was not solved by the framers of the U.S. Constitution, nor was it resolved by the horrendous conflict that was of the American Civil War”. —— “That is our legacy as Americans, and in many ways, the most hateful remnants of slavery persist in the U.S. today in the form of systemic racism baked into nearly every aspect of our society and who we are as a people”. ——- “The reality of this history has been on stark display in recent weeks. From the terrible killings of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, to the countless, untold acts of racism that take place every day across America”, —–. “Truly, the very nature of our “national soul” is at stake”, —-. (2)
It was this racism, so deeply ingrained in US’ society, which was fueled further by Donald Trump to win his 2016 presidential election; resulting in markedly dangerous intensification of this societal division. Then Donald Trump and his racist/extremist followers further stoked this hateful fire of racism during the 2020 election campaign, resulting in the implosion of US’ societal texture in the form of wide–spread outbreak of racial violence in US.
How bad the situation is now in US internally has been highlighted by EL PAIS – a Madrid (Spain)–based Spanish-language daily newspaper. In its publication of 4th of this month (November 2020) titled “Democracy in Suspense”, it has explained (italics added for highlighting): “At stake in the tense US scrutiny is not only the affirmation of one political project or another, but the unity and stability of American society”. ——–“The scrutiny is likely to become the greatest test in decades for the strength of the US institutional balances – admired since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville – increasingly questioned today”. ——- “But, first and foremost, the union of American society and the stability of its democracy are at stake, which faces the tremendous challenge of an electoral process questioned without any argument or scruples by the leader installed in the White House”. ————-“It is a behavior that does not meet the minimum democratic standards. However, neither these traits, which have been amply displayed over the last four years, nor the appalling management of the pandemic have eroded the enormous traction of his radical project among the US citizenry. Whoever wins, the starting point of the new political stage is once again a fractured country, where the radical predicament has the surrender of half of the voters”. ————Trump has been consciously building this moment of maximum tension over the past few months, repeatedly discrediting the electoral process. The gasoline you now add to that well–prepared fire is enormously dangerous, considering the accumulated tension in American society. A nation divided – to a great extent by the president’s own polarizing action -, which in recent months has witnessed massive protests over the unsustainable situation of police violence against the black population and the discrimination that this violence shows. A society marked by deep inequalities, by the blowing up of bridges of political dialogue and which also suffers a terrible onslaught of the pandemic, largely due to the reckless management of it by the current US Administration. The uncertainty of these hours will obviously not contribute to closing these divisions; it will probably widen them, which raises deep concerns in a heavily armed country”. (3)
As for the severity of damage already done to US’ society, one of the five most read German–language news websites Der SPIEGEL has published its editorial titled “The US After Trump” dated 6th of this month (November 2020). About the enormity of the task of re–uniting the US’ societal segments, it asserts (italics added for highlighting) “Even for someone as reconciliatory as Joe Biden, restoring unity in the United States will be an extraordinarily difficult endeavor. It might even take a miracle”. ——– “That is so, it explains, “As president, Donald Trump damaged democracy in America to an extent that none of his predecessors did”. By now it is an acknowledged fact that Donald trump is leading a huge segment of US’ citizenry in the form of a sort of cult usually referred to as ‘Trumpism’. His followers include Evangelicals (about quarter of US’ population), Christian Zionists, White Supremacists and Far–Right/Right Wing groups, etc. Since these Trumism adherents are quite massive in numbers, are comparatively more vibrant and also prone to become violent, they remain a destructive force. This fact has also been asserted in this editorial, “Indeed Trumpism is likely to remain a destructive force in the US. Trump received more votes in this election than he did in 2016. About half of American electorate supported him; and this despite the fact that more than 234,000 people have died in the coronavirus pandemic, a death toll for which the president bares partial responsibility with the catastrophic crisis management”. Besides that, this editorial also highlighted the fact that the phenomenon of this racial division of US’ society is not a creation of Donald Trump, but a deep–rooted aspect of US’ society. In that it clarified, “Trump, after all, wasn’t the cause of the deep divide running through the country, but a symptom of it”. (4)
To add to the enormity of this dreadfully serious problem is the fact that the para–military Right Wing groups are becoming more violent in US. This fact has been highlighted by Thomas Grumke, Professor of Sociology and Political Science. He had earned his doctorate with his work on right–wing extremism in the US and regularly publishes articles on right–wing radicalism (5). His article has been published on 5 October 2020 by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s (Brussels office) magazine International Politics and Society. The very title of this article clearly highlights this problem, i.e. “The resurgence of the US paramilitary right. Right-wing paramilitary groups have a long tradition in the US. But never has the movement been so visible — and so violent”. In this article Professor Grumke has also quoted, “In June, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) analysed a data set of terrorist attacks in the United States between January 1994 and May 2020. The CSIS concluded that right–wing terrorism, compared to other types of political violence such as radical–left or Islamist–motivated, has increased at a significantly higher rate”. He has also highlighted, “As some commentators point out, President Trump’s rhetoric empowers these paramilitary milieus”. (6)
All these facts published by these credible publications, therefore, clearly reflect the harrowing indications of further increase in violence and chaos in US due to the actions of US’ own home–grown radicals/terrorists whose numbers are also on the increase.