Ruthless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota has brought back memories of years of systemic racism in America. Death at the hands of policemen is not a surprise to many men, especially who had fought the peak of racism.
John Lewis, a civil rights leader in America again faces facing the fight he has been fighting his whole life.
While the anti-segregation law was already passed in 1956 making segregated seating in buses unlawful, it wasn’t fully enforced around the country. Congress Racial Equality chose John Lewis to be a part of the original 13 Freedom Riders. He was amongst the very first people to fight against racial discrimination. His influence was such that even first African American President of South America, Nelson Mandela too knew of his actions.
In fact in 2013, when Nelson Mandela passed away, John Lewis paid homage to him but sharing their first meet.
“The first time I had a chance to meet him was in South Africa after his release from prison. He gave me this unbelievable hug. I will never forget it. He said, ‘John Lewis, I know all about you. You inspired us.’ I said, ‘No, Mr Mandela, you inspired us.’ I felt unworthy really to be standing at his side. I knew I was in the presence of greatness.”
He has seen transition is racism. From outright hatred to the layered form of racism prevalent now, he has seen it all. John was one of the many black people who paid the price of fighting against injustice in blood and trauma. Throughout the years of the Civil Rights Movement, John stuck to his ideology of non-violence. He contributed to ending segregation in bus seating and other public places including restaurants, parks, grocery shops and schools but chose to be non-violent in his efforts.
Even after years of struggle when laws are conformed to be equal for all races, the coloured population of American is not safe. From sleeping Breonna Taylor to 14-year-old Tamir Rice who was shot for holding a toy gun in a park, endless black people have been killed on futile grounds which can only be explained as racism.
Systemic racism does not only mean getting killed by police. It also is prevalent in simple scenarios like a grocery store where blacks are often questioned whether they can pay for their stuff and made to provide identity proofs. It exists in streets where a black is presumed to be a thug and blatantly avoided. It lies in the stereotype of blacks being drug dealers. The evidence of it lies in the anxiety that most black experience when they are face to face with a slowing police car or cop approaching his car window. It is evident in blacks avoiding going out at night.
The murder of George Floyd is the epitome of racism and discrimination that is prevalent now and John Lewis has seen the transition from one kind of hatred to another.
“My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history. Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colours banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, non-violent fashion, we must do so again. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proved time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”
John Lewis like always urged his countrymen to fight peacefully. He mentioned how different the situation has become and the number of white people out on streets fighting for black lives makes him immensely happy and hopeful.