THE horrors currently haunting the USA over the death of George Floyd are not new. They’re old, as old as the slave trade, and before. As old as the imported attitudes of some of the original settlers, and how they viewed the “painted savages”; how they believed in their God-given right to appropriate the lands they had “discovered”, and move on if not exterminate those “painted savages”.

Racism can be and is experienced by the individual but ultimately by families, groups, communities. It becomes institutionalised and blights society, impacting on both victims and perpetrators. It’s about historical colonisation, exploitation. It’s about class, it’s about assumed hierarchies of entitlement; it’s about inherited poverty, from one generation to the next. It’s about the expectations of “failure”, the presumption of “lacking ambition”. It’s about unrecognised privilege. The privilege of not being the “others” – those experiencing racism, those denied access to societal equality, within the law, and the other benefits of the nation.

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I find it astonishing that when the Arab Spring began, it was applauded as the weak, downtrodden minorities standing up, finally rebelling against their rulers and undemocratic despots. This is neither the time nor the place to consider those events, but perhaps oil and the opening up of illegal gun-running prior to supplying new rulers in re-organised states must have focussed large.

The geo-politics played out in the Middle East arena went far beyond country boundaries. But in the USA after 300 years-plus, when black Americans, along with people of colour from other communities protest, take to the streets, they are called terrorists by sections of their own fellow Americans.

There doesn’t appear to be any recognition of those centuries of inequalities, of institutionalised racism that is the established virus within their society. Their president talked of looting and shooting before hiding away in a basement. What leadership when leadership is required? It would seem that solidarity speaks louder than Trump, with many instances of police officers, black and white, taking a knee as they line up opposite the crowds. “Taking the knee”, the pose made famous by Colin Kaepernick, a football player kneeling in 2016, his protest against the killings of black people then. Not the first to protest in those days, just one in a long line of protesters remembering the George Floyds from over the centuries.

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Killing and murdering of civilians by the paid employees of the state, forcing protesters off the streets, mass arrests including innocent bystanders, the media forced to acknowledge scenes of brutality now that social media can do it for them – these are not the expected actions when living in a democracy. But they are the lived experiences of many for

all to see. When you live the discrimination, the prejudices, the racism, the flouting of power; when you see the benefits accrued by the elite and denied you, when you know the rules and laws for you to follow but not those governing you, what do you have left? Your vote.

But in between voting there has to be organising, planning, meetings (actual and virtual), establishing support and solidarity, parades, marches, challenging what has become the “norm”. The latest deadly virus may be curtailing much activity, here in Scotland, the USA and across the world, but it will not do so forever.

So, why not ask the same question as Michelle Obama: Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be? I know what I want for Scotland and the society and future we mould. I know what I’ m choosing.

Selma Rahman