Social Justice: from “Black Lives Matter” Movement to Xenophobia

By Alina Abramenko (Russia)
Published on September 28th, 2020

Our original sin is that human society as a whole has always considered one race superior to another and elaborated the fear from foreigners - anyone who is an outsider whether in a community or a country. Yes, this is about racism and xenophobia which are acts leading to an unjust society where the progress of the world is constrained. This is what is happening in the world right now: nations have been staying in the political darkness for too long being tightened by social stereotypes, however, currently we are going through changes.

Racism as well as xenophobia are “contagious killers” which breach human rights. They violate everything we stand for and everything we do. Those phenomena distinguish even though they are addressing a common inevitable consequence such as racial, ethnic and identical physical discrimination. All human beings are equally entitled to human rights without any form of discrimination. These rights are inalienable and universal as they are expressed and should be guaranteed by governments and general principles of international law. This principle of universality was first emphasized in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948, and it has been incorporated in international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. To illustrate, the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights noted that it is the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.

Despite the theoretical basis, human rights are argued due to the challenging concept of cultural relativism. The conflict between the universal human rights doctrine and cultural relativism came about during the establishment of the Universal human rights doctrine in 1948. Can universal human rights exist in a multicultural world? While different countries have the right to demand their rights in various ways, there are fundamental doctrines that should be made universal and we cannot neglect them. Without a doubt, cultures, beliefs and traditions vary and there should be a freedom to practice them. However, such practices as discrimination, xenophobia, sexism, slavery and racism, among other human rights violations must be held up to universal standards.

With that said, if we take all this into consideration, it is torturing to observe how, for instance, racism thrives on the idea of superiority denying the universality of basic human rights. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965) identifies racial discrimination as: “...any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Everyone is aware of these terms and regulations and a lot of governments and international organizations have been promoting the campaigns against racism. However, practically we were offered false hope of being treated equally but we were not. This poses a risk and hindrance towards peace, security, democracy and liberty.

The Constitution of the United States promises its people justice and unity. In addition, international human rights law gives us a freedom of expression. We have a choice. However, this choice was eliminated. We did not notice how we became a part of domestic terrorism happening today in the United States where human rights protection and fundamental freedoms were omitted. The society was fed up with discriminatory actions towards minorities. Tragic events were occurring for years when thousands of kids and adults were shot outside, women were abused, civilians were treated unequally by the police representatives unreasonably. Unfortunately, that was neglected not only by governments and authorities but also by us. For years we have been dealing with systemic racism and undemocratic tendencies until we reached an edge of this abyss, and turned it into a pandemic of racial inequality and dicrimination. The overlap of continued police violence with the broader authoritarian creep explains these unusual mass protests movements.

It took us long to recognize that police brutality is an instrument of authoritarian repression. The boiling point became the death of George Floyd that finally voiced against injustice and police violence which black people and people of African-American descent have been faced with every day in many regions of the world. It is “a historic step” in the combat against racism because it united the society to finally wake up and never accept the politics of conflict, cynicism and division but the politics of inclusion. This is historical to observe the support of justice for people who passed away due to the reckless behaviour of authorities and governments which haunt their nations day by day. George Floyd’s protests are not just anti-racist, but they are anti-authoritarian which make them unprecented, compared to those ones led by the MLK movement. Martin Luther King Jr. fought to raise the public consciousness of racism, to end racial discrimination and segregation in the United States. At present, hundreds of protesters are extremely dissatisfied with the state of democracy. President of the United States, Donald Trump, deployed troops to suppress civilian protesters – something that’s almost never done in the United States. His undemocratic tendencies explain some of the energy driving these young, multiracial crowds on American streets today.

Today, we see the rise of movements, Black lives matter is one of them and may be the largest movement in U.S. history. Unfortunately, racism exists and we need to come together and work for the common good by maintaining distances between us. According to University of Maryland researcher Dana Fisher, 45% of white protesters surveyed said Trump motivated them to march, compared to 32% of black people. Millions of Americans have realized the need in fighting for their lives, and for their democracy. It went global and united nations against an abuse of power as we combat it in the United States and everywhere calling for a deescalation of tensions. Despite everything that the world has thrown at us - from a pandemic, aggression, inequality, discrimination to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd - the society cannot break and fold the system, we cannot practice mental wellness if all we get is racism, descrimination and trauma. Human beings standing in solidarity the struggle for truth, humanity and justice should prevail.

Xenophobia, by contrast, describes attitudes, prejudices and behavior that reject and exclude persons, based on the perception that they are outsiders or foreigners to the community, society or national identity. Today, it does have a human nature, especially when it comes to people blaming and vilifying each other for the spread of the virus, COVID-2019. However, in the darkest times of the pandemic, instead of strengthening our unity, we, humans, lost our sympathy in favor of the virus of hate. We witness the rise of xenophobia whereas solidary is decreasing.

To be precise, COVID-2019 crises unleashed xenophobia as people of Asian and European descent have been stigmatized for spreading the coronavirus. This stigma keeps alienating individuals, their communities and countries. It is devastating to watch how stereotypes, stigmas, social media are destroying so many lives and transforming societies around the world. The tide of xenophobia and racial hatred has invented “entrepreneurs of intolerance” intoxicating democracy which has already been imperfect. Xenophobic attacks erode the respect for the dignity of minority groups developing intolerance focused on interactiuve, cultural and economic factors. In other words, democracy becomes incomplete if it is based on racism and prejudice. There is a substantial evidence of xenophobic violence which breaches democratic tendencies: Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. Since late 2016 anglophone regions have been covered with protests because of cultural marginalization by the central government. It led to malnutrition, lack of information related to COVID-2019, erosion of the West Cameroon cultural identity and failure in creating national unity.

Without a doubt, humanity undergoes unprecedented events which it was not ready for at all. Thus, they require definitive actions and coordination in order to advance the protection of human rights in the face of xenophobic hostility, discrimination and violations of justice and mutual trust. It is torturing to observe the lack of justice occurring today all over the globe. As human beings, we must take an initiative to become advocates for those people who did not have a chance to be heard. We are responsible for shaping a future where no child is held back or left behind, no women are abused, no Africans, Asians or Muslims are discriminated against. As a community, we cannot neglect those who suffered because of populist governments’ reckless actions and ignorance. This trend might be controlled with deliberative democracy. This is the best answer to the challenge as it aims to promote not only democratic majority rule, but also deliberation. Populism is a problem for democracy, because of its anti-pluralistic nature. The idea of democracy is based on processes that give space to the will of the majority without marginalising minorities. This means citizen input should be robustly inclusive, reflective and well-informed. Otherwise, the attack on pluralism and democracy will continue blooming and causing crises, protests and pandemics.

It is time to rise. We are here because of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, their families, countless victims who were ignored or killed unreasonably, majorities of Africans and Asians who were discriminated, refugees and immigrants who were left behind during the pandemic when they needed our help the most. We are here for justice. We are here to unite people against all sorts of hostility and pressure and spread love.

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