All men are created equal, but are not treated equal.

The killing of George Floyd has reinvigorated the debate on racism and civil rights. That some men will continue to suffer at the hands of racist narcissists has resurfaced as an inevitable fact of life.

But one thing is clear. America is still reeling under the effects of its colonial past.

When the blacks were bought and sold in the infamous slave markets and treated worse than animals, they had no rights, no privileges, no entitlements. They were despised and degraded – only considered fit enough to toil on their (white) master’s land, work on plantations, undertake labour-intensive tasks and perform all sorts of physical chores. In return, they could expect nothing. The slightest mistake could invite the harshest punishment.

The slave had no right to education. Even marriages among slaves were considered invalid. Thus, slave families could be forcefully separated with husband and wife, parents and children being sold off to different masters. Rape was common. And living conditions for slaves, especially those who worked on large plantations, were deplorable.

And though slavery was abolished during the civil war, a large number of white Americans could not reconcile themselves with this reality. They could never accept the freedom of the blacks. In their hearts and minds, many white Americans continued to desire a reversion to the era when slavery was legal. Thus, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery only on paper, but not in practice as the blacks continued to suffer from the social barriers erected to keep them in a state of perpetual servitude.

Because the system never accepted them. They could not get enrolled in a good school. Nor could they get a good job. All avenues leading to a life full of prosperity were restricted to the whites and denied to the blacks. Some of the blacks who made it to the top did not do so without a fight and bitter struggle.

White supremacists made every attempt to marginalise the black community. Racial segregation was officially practiced. And extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) tortured and murdered the blacks.

Lynching of African Americans by white mobs, especially in the American south, became frequent. By some estimates, almost 5000 blacks were killed by lynch mobs between 1880 and 1968. White racists could act with impunity against the blacks. Black life hardly mattered to these American whites.

The blacks relied on protests and rights movements to overcome these injustices. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is particularly well known in American history. For almost two decades, the blacks joined hands with non-racist white Americans to wage a struggle against racial discrimination. While there have been numerous success stories, the journey is still far from over-a bitter fact highlighted by Floyd’s killing.

The killing of George Floyd is evidence of America’s disgraceful colonial legacy. It suggests that like many of their ancestors, several Americans even today can’t bear with free, emancipated blacks. These Americans suffer from a colonial mindset that fosters hatred and contempt for the black race. For them, equality with the African Americans is unacceptable.

These racist Americans will deny freedom and equal rights to the African Americans. They will find ways to persecute the blacks and deprive them of equal opportunities to grow and prosper. And they will not rest until they can “purify” America of blacks or revert to the same colonial past when the whites were undisputed masters over black slaves.

These racial fundamentalists must be resisted and thwarted in their attempt to establish white supremacy. Discrimination of any kind must be denounced. A world of equal opportunities for growth and prosperity for all races is the only way forward. The alternative is social unrest, already being witnessed in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing.

With his last words, “I can’t breathe”, George Floyd has in fact breathed a new life into the anti-racism movement not only in the United States but the world over. In several countries, protesters are marching across streets, demanding an end to racism. It is imperative that the protests triggered by Floyd’s murder are translated into actions that help bring an end to racism once and for all. Civilised people across the world hold the antidote to America’s racist poison – a relic of the past that must be buried forever.

The blacks have achieved many milestones on their journey towards an anti-racist America, rather an anti-racist world. But there is still distance to cover. Along the way, they’ll need the support – moral and material – of civilized, non-racist and non-black comrades.

Let’s not forget all men are created equal. We ought to ensure that they are also treated equal.

Moneeb Ahmad Barlas

The writer is a civil servant. He can be reached at moneeb.barlas@gmail.com