A Few Thoughts On George Floyd, Racism, and Everything Else
Whenever something like this happens, we Americans as a country (and eventually the world), go through a shock phase. We cry, we donate, we post, and we demand action. The last time I remember such a shocking event was on Sept 11, 2001 when I was in my AP Government class of 60 people and heard my fellow classmates debate about the problems and solutions triggered by that event. I recall most of my classmates contributing to the conversation were white, and that makes sense given I went to a school that was mostly white. However, there were a few other non-whites in my class who remained mostly silent. I remember my teacher (who was white) kept looking at me for reactions because he knew I was Muslim, but being 16 I was not mentally mature to reconcile all of it. He knew what this event would mean for me before I realized it. To escape from all the hysteria, I buried myself in the things I enjoy to this day, such as coding, video games, and videography. I remember my dad saying, it’s not just enough to say you’re not a terrorist, but you have to actively condemn it. I did, and so did many American Muslims around the country. To be clear, this wasn’t hard for me because the ideology behind it was always disgusting, wrong, and never sat well in my heart. So if racism is too, we must condemn it where we see it.
Since then, the feeling of fighting a mental battle of “am I being looked at as a brown guy” or “am I being seen as a potential threat” or “am I being unnecessarily paranoid” was always in the back of my mind. I wasn’t a fan of identity politics because it kept selling itself to me as “look at this person as a victim because of X”. I want to be seen as the normal flawed individual I am, without having to fight against the biases or presumptions that might exist. I can imagine a supporter of identity politics saying that is the very reason why it exists. Regardless, getting rid of biases is not going to be easy, but I am writing this to say why it’s important for all of us.
For a moment, take a step back from the news and all the world’s events. Why is it that you do what you do? I would hope that it is because you feel a sense of purpose. If it’s just for dollars, then you probably aren’t enjoying it very much. Most of us know that people who find fulfillment in their work are generally happier than those who don’t. The general pattern seems to indicate we find joy in things that we feel advance human civilization, whether we know it or not. Artists may think their painting is just a way of passing time, but they are contributing their mind to paper the way I am with this post. We sing in the shower and buy clothes that express who we are. We are sending signals to a void every minute. We like to share and absorb knowledge like wildfire, as evidenced by the ADD nature of the internet. We think we want privacy, yet we are voluntarily giving it away.
The pattern through human history shows we try to improve on the means in how we communicate. We went from speaking languages and art, to writing, and millennia later, pressing keys. During the era of Covid, video conferencing has replaced normal social interactions. And in just this decade, we have advanced in not just virtual reality but augmented reality. These contributions have come from every corner of the globe, if not from the countries themselves but at least people from there. Through the computer in our pocket, we can trigger three of our five senses on demand! There will come a day where you can hug your mom or dad without being present, and maybe see or replicate virtually the loved ones that have passed away. I know it sounds like a Black Mirror episode now, but if I went back 30 years ago and told my former self about the smartphone it would have seemed like a dream. I remember growing up driving through the New Jersey turnpike, and my dad would revel at how the early engineers were able to forecast the growth and expansion of the highway. I watched through the decades as it did just that.
Part of being an adult comes a realization that you have to see where things are going. The truth is, we are becoming more connected from a conscious level. That’s why George Floyd’s death mattered. Actually, if you want to be honest, it’s not about his death but how and why he died. I won’t pretend to be disingenuous; I cannot cry over a man I never knew. However, continued videos of police brutality towards the protesters only reinforced that how and why feeling.
This innate feeling where we don’t want to see another person nonsensically die, and why we value human life must have a reason. Not just because you think it could happen to you, but more because that person might have something to contribute. And therein lies the bias. When we see another human being as a low-life, lazy, and “just wants free stuff”, it is because we have created a mental image of them generated by our own programming. We might imagine them laughing at us because we feel we had to work for something they didn’t. We also know we are all thieves, we are just conditioned to do it in different ways. I know too many well-off people that download illegally online. Despite violating the law, they don’t care because they are apathetic to the person they are stealing from and the consequences are virtually non-existent. Now add Wall Street to the picture and you see my point.
But for a second, let’s get rid of that bias. Can we guarantee to ourselves, that another person cannot contribute to our civilization? Yet, to this day, that is how black people are seen here and elsewhere. The progressives have made enormous strides to fight this image, and that can be seen from the myriad of African American scientists, researchers, doctors, cosmologists, astronauts, etc that have emerged since civil rights legislations were passed in this country. The pattern continues to suggest time and time again that we are all equal, and that we just created mental distinctions in race to view each other differently. Black people have always known this, which in a way presents an irony in racism itself — whites and many non-blacks think “my race makes me superior to you,” even though this line of thinking is a human creation that is holding our advancement as a species back.
This notion of advancement as a species is important. Imagine how you see the world today and compare it to how humans saw things just 50 years ago. Most, if not all, did not leave their home cities, let alone countries or continents. Communication and travel was slow, difficult, and expensive. Today it’s just a tweet or an airplane ticket, the price of which doesn’t even take a week or month to earn! This suggests a pattern in our species — we want to connect more. Social media addiction is another piece of evidence. We continuously feel this sense of creating connections, whether it be the person next door or to people across continents. Yet, we constantly fight this internal politics of “othering.” The internet allowed the creation of many international and interracial organizations and groups, most of which were founded on shared experiences and interests. What we are really doing is reading from or writing to that “collective” human hard drive.
I see our species as basically a multiplication of our individual attributes. We read the news, books, and articles for our own personal education, but we often forget there’s a macro picture here as well. Our human civilization on earth is like a toddler. Instead of learning how to walk and what not to touch, we are constantly looking for meaning. This is why religions have been so easy and prevalent. We jump on the group think bandwagon because we feel someone has done the work for us. I see each of our consciousness as nodes in a human version of the cloud. We scaled from books to newspapers, TV, and finally the internet.
I want to know what comes next, and it’s incredibly frustrating to drag societies that created manmade barriers from telling that next chapter.