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June 5, 2020

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The suffocation of the American dream

“I can’t breathe,” black man George Floyd struggled to repeat as Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on his neck last week in the city of Minneapolis. Eight minutes and 46 seconds later, Floyd died. A day later, protests against racism and police brutality erupted, spreading rapidly across the US in six days.

Racism has been a chronic problem in the United States, with a history almost as old as the country itself. Floyd’s death serves as a new, chilling reminder that racial discrimination seems to be showing no signs of improvement among the American population.

In a report entitled “Race in America 2019,” released in April by the Pew Center, 58 percent of Americans surveyed in 2019 say race relations in the United States are bad, and of those, few see them improving. Some 56 percent think the current administration has made race relations worse.

The ravaging novel coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, has served to highlight the long tradition of racial inequality in the United States, after recent data compiled by the non-partisan APM Research Lab revealed that African Americans are suffering a disproportionate share of the negative health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

With a death toll of more than 20,000, African Americans are dying at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, the data showed.

Hollow promise

What’s more, Washington’s promise of equality and justice for all in the country has remained hollow at best. For many black and other minority groups, the American dream of equal opportunity and upward social mobility irrespective of race is slipping away.

Take the job markets for example. Even before the pandemic hit the United States, the unemployment rate among African Americans was almost twice the national rate. As of now, the coronavirus outbreak has been distributing economic pain even more unevenly. With the national unemployment rate rising to 14.7 percent in April, black and Hispanic unemployment rates have jumped to 16.7 percent and 18.9 percent respectively, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in early May.

However, those problems themselves are not the most terrible part of a deeply divided America — Washington’s continued failure to come up with any serious answers is. And the current White House administration has made matters worse. Amid the ongoing anti-racism protests in the country, decision-makers in Washington, instead of trying to sooth the pain and anger of the public, have been fanning the flames, calling protesters “THUGS,” and threatening them with “the most vicious dogs and most ominous weapons.”

Many in the United States love to describe their country as a nation of immigrants. It once truly was. But now, with one I-can’t-breathe case after another, the day when the American dream that used to celebrate ethnic diversity and equal opportunity will finally be choked to death seems not far away.

The author is a Xinhua writer.


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