#BlackLivesMatter: How the world sees Eric Garner, Michael Brown cases

December 9, 2014

A police officer holds a shield outside the Berkeley Police Department headquarters in Berkeley

Across the world, people are learning different lessons from #BlackLivesMatter.

In some countries, developments in Ferguson and Staten Island are leading opinion makers to question the United States and what it stands for. Their judgment, in other words, is focused outwards. Elsewhere, the opposite is true, as some use this moment to raise uncomfortable questions about their own imperfect democracies.

We have picked five opinion pieces from around the world that capture some of the diverse reactions that #BlackLivesMatter has elicited.

“Irony of America’s finger-pointing at China,” China Daily

Context: China was recently upbraided by the U.S. State Department for “eroding” its commitment to the “One Country, Two Systems” model in Hong Kong. The United States has frequently called out Beijing for its human rights record..

From the op-ed: “The practice of finger-pointing is always tainted with a touch of irony. When you point the index finger at someone, inevitably you have three fingers pointing right back at yourself.

“So when America’s top diplomat for East Asia Daniel Russel expressed on Wednesday concerns about China’s internal affairs, he was apparently not aware of the bitter irony.

“After examining America’s staggering racial disparity, one cannot help wondering whether the U.S. accusation of the Chinese government this time was another political tactic of shunning criticism at itself. No one would be surprised if the assumption is true.”

Take away: Ferguson and Eric Garner cases reveal U.S. hypocrisy.

Obama sets examples of police state, not democracy,” Hürriyet

Context: Turkey has also been accused of frequent human rights abuses. During the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013, 11 people were killed by clashes with the police. President Tayyip Recep Erdogan defended the police’s actions by suggesting that, had the U.S. police been faced with a similar situation, they would have responded in a similar way.

From the op-ed: “Such examples [Ferguson and Eric Garner cases] damage and devalue the U.S.’s democracy and rule of law recommendations to other countries with democratic problems, which is bad for improving democracy and human rights standards around the world.”

The writer then shows how Erdogan has used the U.S. example to defend police brutality in Istanbul.

“If you dare, try to throw a stone at police in America,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan challenged main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies who criticized police brutality against protesters. “You cannot.”

Take away: Police brutality weakens the U.S. ability to pressure foreign governments on human rights questions. 

“Ferguson in Toulouse: when the license to kill and repression commonplace,” Le Monde

Context: A 21-year-old environmentalist activist in France, Rémi Fraisse, was fatally wounded by a police grenade during a protest in October near Toulouse. His death sparked protests and riots across the country, as protesters demanded an “end to the license to kill.”

This op-ed, which was co-signed by leading intellectuals across the world, sounds an alarm about police brutality and repression. Signatories include Etienne Balibar, Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek and others. They lambast the government for Fraisse’s death, and for restricting anti-police protests.

Speaking about the United States, the authors write “the police and military repression launched against the protests reflects the collapsed illusions about a ‘post-racial democracy.’” They note that things aren’t better in France.

From the op-ed: “But the defense of democratic freedoms, the right to express oneself, protest and condemn police violence are not negotiable. It is intolerable that a protester should be arrested and convicted only because he protests, but it is even more intolerable that this happens without creating mass indignation.

“We who sign this forum are “intellectuals” as the saying goes. But as Sartre at the time of the war of Algeria reminded us, there aren’t intellectuals on one side and the masses on the other. Both are people who want things and fight for them, and they are all equal. Today the situation is serious, the most basic democratic rights are in danger, and the revolt rumbles legitimately.”

Take away: Protests are justified by eroding freedoms, both in France and the United States.

“What the conflicts in Ferguson and Israel have in common,” Haaretz

Context:  Israel has seen a dramatic increase in unrest and violence recently. Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to protest proposed changes to the status quo of the Temple Mount last month. November also saw a bloody attack in a West Jerusalem synagogue, in which four Israelis were killed by two Palestinian men.

From the op-ed: “What does this [Ferguson and Staten Island deaths] have to do with Jews and Palestinians? Actually, quite a bit.

“The challenge is to put aside your fury long enough to investigate the different experiences that might lead an African American in Ferguson to loathe the cops or a Palestinian to loathe Israel. That doesn’t mean justifying violence.”

“Travelling through Ben-Gurion Airport as a Jew is vastly different from travelling through it as a Palestinian, just as getting stopped by the police can be vastly different depending on whether you’re white or black. But very few American Jews, and very few white Americans, have been told, face-to-face, what that alternative experience is like. America’s discourse about race, and the American Jewish community’s discourse about Israel, would be much better if they had.”

Take away: Like white Americans, Israelis should learn about how their life experiences are privileged compared to those who accuse them of discrimination, oppression and worse.

“#DeconstructingFerguson and lessons for black South Africa in black America,” Africaisacountry.com

Context: South Africa struggles with its own unique set of complex race relations. The author of the op-ed, T.O Molefe, points to the fact that “racist attacks [are] on the rise,” “affirmative action is often decried as ‘reverse racism’” and “only 53% of white South Africans believe apartheid was a crime.”

From the op-ed: “I confess envy. The ease, conviction and singleness of purpose with which the young black Americans in the circle [I was in] spoke about their social realities and the imperative for justice made me reflect on similar conversations I’d attempted with young black South Africans and my peers in the middle class.

“While many of those I spoke to are able to break down the social realities of being black in a supposedly post-apartheid South Africa, many more are insular and believe assimilating into structures and practices forged in the country’s colonial history will protect from its inherent anti-black biases.”

“Black America’s already learned, or is at least learning, that this is not true, and is conceptualizing ways to organize against it. Well, most of black American anyway, excepting for people like Pharrell, Bill Cosby and Don Lemon who preach respectability as the savior of blacks.

“Thus, by my assessment, black America presently is in the throes of a conversation that, without a radical intervention, black South Africans will be having in another 20 to 30 years, maybe more.”

Take away: Black South Africans can learn from Black Americans about their open confrontation with  racism.


PHOTO: A police officer holds a shield outside the Berkeley Police Department headquarters as protesters march against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner in Berkeley, California, Dec. 8, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam 


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What you are saying is just not true, black lives are not more important than white lives. Both are important but right now blacks are a detriment to our society. They don’t do anything that American stands for. They are pulling America down. They don’t value work, they don’t value family, they don’t value authority. They don’t understand that you must do what the police say. If you resist arrest you will suffer the consequences. I don’t understand why we are changing our society for these people. Why welfare, why affirmative action, why lower the standards, so thy can feel good at our Countries expense. We cannot bring these people along and expect that this is not bringing the country down. Why is it acceptable for blacks to sing all day long, “fuck the police” and you make a big issue about someone playing Alabama. Blacks are a small minority yet you throw them in our face when someone says they are garbage. I know you are writing these articles and really don’t care about blacks and only really care about circulation and advertising dollars. But you are tearing our Country apart and you will probably lead us to civil war, then what will you have to write about. Your articles just fan the flame, you have to know that.

Posted by sailplane | Report as abusive

What happened to justice? I thought testimony of eye witnesses (you know, the ones who saw Mike Brown stick his hand in the police cruiser and also charge the officer) were supposed to matter? Why, in the Mike Brown case, is race a justification for ignoring this testimony? It should not be!

Lets look at FACTS. Lets take both the race of the officer and the race of the individual out of it. The individual, by numerous accounts, assaulted the officer and reached for his gun. Doing this leaves you with a man assaulting and charging towards an officer, to the point that the officer feared for his life, and had to do what he had to do, which could have been avoided if the individual did not charge the officer. Why then, because Mike Brown was African American, black, or whichever other politically correct term for race is most politically correct, are we ignoring these facts and calling him murdered?

Reuters, I thought you were better than this. I thought you reported on facts. Instead, you’re perpetuating this ignoring-of-facts and making this story out to be murder, when the Grand Jury decided it was self defense, a decision based on all of the evidence at hand.

Posted by jck123 | Report as abusive

Neither the Brown nor the Garner cases were racially based. When will people wise up and stop this false-narrative building. Enough of the misleading work of the media, start focusing on what is really happening. Brown, assaults an officer and gets shot, Garner, perhaps the victim of excessive force by the police, but not racial bias. For heaven’s sake, there was a black police sergeant on scene at the Garner incident, but the media doesn’t mention that.

Posted by MitchS | Report as abusive

I would like the world to know that we celebrate our differnces, as well as our common humanity, in the U.S. While you see youth rioting and destroying property I would say they would do the same thing if their sports team won, or, if their sports team lost. No one has a good handle on youth behavior,except perhaps the professional agitators. So, who are the professional agitators in this case? Bill O’Reilly (from the Fox Network) said they were primarily from organization funde by George Soros. I haven’t seen a follow up article to that claim, but would love to see one.

Posted by hometown | Report as abusive

I’m not trying to find a excuse for what Brown did. But are we not missing the point that he was UNARMED. Seems that in America the police doesn’t need an excuse to shoot to kill armed or not. Too much of that high noon mentality in America. Shoot it out at noon on main street. Reading several news sources from the USA it appears that shooting unarmed people is a regular occurrence. What was that one in Los Angles a while a go that several police shot at a passing car a whole lot of bullets with a mother and kid in it cost the city what 5 million dollars?

Posted by cynical175 | Report as abusive

Bill O’Reilly has absolutely no integrity. He is not a journalist, he is an actor, performing in a propaganda piece funded by Rupert Murdoch and corporate America (Fox News sponsors). Any attempt to “follow up” on a claim of his would be a complete waste of time.

Posted by Calvin2k | Report as abusive

The world sees the anarchists in the USA exactly as that, anarchists. Free Christmas “shopping” as looters and flash mobs isn’t a result of police actions against anarchists. Only the shallow scofflaws and those who make money from supporting professional “victims” claim these actions to be racist.

Posted by SixthRomeo | Report as abusive

To such point as black lives don’t matter in America, it is because blacks AND NO ONE ELSE squander their opportunity to acquire a useful public education, to prepare themselves to be productive citizens, and to live as part of the civil society of America. Few admit to the fact that many, many blacks today do not habitually conduct themselves with civility.

These individuals consciously choose to dress and/or act as thugs, to aggressively intimidate other citizens with acts of carjacking, assault, robbery, and the like. It doesn’t matter that 99% are fundamentally law abiding citizens if the other 1% are the ones that get TV coverage robbing convenience stores, killing themselves in drive-by shootings, selling and doing drugs or disrupting the very educational process in public schools.

Those who choose to dress like these thugs, talk like these thugs and act like these thugs, should not be surprised when they are then treated like a thug. American civil society rejects thuggery, and in such rejection thugs and, in particular, thug lives don’t matter.

In America people are judged not by what they say, but what they do. It is not by accident that so many young blacks are incarcerated, because this is how civil society removes the uncivil from amongst us.

Those who would claim the rights and privileges of honest American citizens has best look and act like honest American citizens. They must accept the civic responsibility to challenge those whose appearance and acts demean black and hispanic citizens. They must conduct their own lives as positive examples to one and all.

Blacks today have a really, really bad image problem. It has always been true that when it comes to a “civil society, one is “either with us or against us”.

The reality of black on black violence and victimization is why young blacks are commonly perceived by other citizens, including other blacks and the police, as a threat to individual and civic peace and order. Only minority communities can demand and effect the change that will allow individual social and economic integration as acceptable and desired members of civil society.

If “…parents…have to worry that their children will be stopped and frisked on the street, or kicked out of school for minor offenses, or harassed while they’re trying to learn…”, they have to look in the mirror and ask themselves WHY this happens and WHO is responsible. People should only become parents who are willing and able to pay all costs of raising those children to be responsible adults. If they expect public programs to pay those expenses and do not raise CIVIL children, the price of such stupidity is what we have today.

There are two choices for an minority community…fix what’s wrong or accept the consequences of continuing to do (or not do) what you’re doing. Choose wisely.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

what a screwed up article.Author needs her caffeine?

Posted by Pulayadi | Report as abusive

the comments overseas share a consistent observation about the inequity of USA society – what differs is how they choose to map it to their own society … just as some comments here choose to deny facts or defend the oppression that is manifest in both Ferguson and New York.

Denial will not make that inequality disappear, however, nor will it dissuade those who are now resisting it. Just as further state (i.e. police) violence will simply prove the point.

Posted by wilhelm | Report as abusive

White children learn early on the policeman is your friend. He keeps us safe It is their truth but the truth is often skewed as simplistic as the vintage schoolbook illustrations I grew up with The all American white schoolbooks of my own 1960s childhood serve as nothing less than a primer on white privilege. If racial identity shapes the way people are treated by police it also shapes the way we are likely to view them. Take a look http://wp.me/p2qifI-2yI

Posted by retroarama | Report as abusive

There is no single, “collective world view” on ANYTHING as the headline suggests. Like a camera, what we each “see” depends on the lens we choose and the clarity of both that lens and anything else such as glare, dust, water, a scratch or even a finger that gets between film and subject. What we see through the lens of our eyes is filtered (heavily influenced) by our individual upbringing and experience.

Minorities such as blacks and Hispanics whose “communities” consciously reject the manners and values of American society in favor of obviously flawed alternatives generally associated with thuggery cannot credibly then object when they are, as a whole, treated differently than other citizens. It is they and they alone who must reject the image their “worst 1%” supply the media day after day and night after night of carjackings, drug use and violence, random drive by shootings and other behavior the most unintelligent person absolutely knows American society cannot tolerate and survive.

It is the responsibility of “the world” and individuals to see and perceive the truth no matter how obscured or elusive that truth may be. Everything else is chaff and not wheat to nourish the open mind.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

The nation which tortures, and kills more people in wars than anyone since WW2 and has more prisoners than any other is in fact the most loving and considerate of Christian nations.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

Any analysis or comparison of police forces should focus on the fundamental difference in the US and many of the other nations. Most countries have a National Police force – like China, India, Turkey, Mexico, Italy. The advantages are that these forces are highly structured and processes can be implemented nation wide. In addition all of these forces can call in the cavalry, specialists, etc. The US by contrast has no national police and even the state police is usually weak (limited to serious crimes and highways). The US has 10,000’s of county and city police forces that work within different legal structures. Therefore there is no way the US police can be “bad”. There are good and bad. The Ferguson Police force obviously has problems and the killing there was a symptom. The New York Police force on the whole is integrated into neighborhoods but its such a large force that cops do wrong – but they are generally outliers. In the US its not police – its the general population that feels that African Americans might be a greater threat in a situation versus a white person. If its in the general population then of course it carry’s into a police force and gets multiplied when a police forces racial makeup is different than citizens. The point is – this is not an issue with US police forces – its an issue with society.

Posted by John2244 | Report as abusive

Neither case is a teaching example for anything other than how to NOT deal with police when you are breaking the law. Garner did not die from a choke hold. He died because he had trouble breathing all the time and was weak. Did the police escalate too quickly? YES. Do they do that only with minorities? NO. Should they have allowed him up to recover? YES. Do police treat all white people with care and courtesy? NO. Does every white person in court get justice? CERTAINLY NOT!

Too many in the US black community view confrontations with police and other authorities as a chance to sue. It is a financial tactic akin to buying a lottery ticket. Garner’s family will cash in on this. That may have been his motivation, although he probably did not plan on dying.

Posted by neelsn | Report as abusive

They look at us and all they see is the color of our skin, they don’t see what’s on the inside, they don’t listen to us or our voice they just judge us. They wear a badge so they think the have the authority to kill and treat us any kind of way, the saying” treat others how you want to b e treated” still applies. They can go straight home to their families and not care about how the loved one of those killed feel. Some do, do there job right but they don’t do enough to stop it. well WE DO MATTER!

Posted by teoni24 | Report as abusive