A wave of unrest over alleged police brutality and racism is rocking the United States, and curfews and national guard deployments have done little so far to quell the protests.
Public outrage over the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in Minneapolis after a police officer was filmed with his knee on the 46-year-old”s neck for more than eight minutes, has now spread well beyond the United States.
Police officer Derek Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder, but demonstrators are demanding broader reform.
The governor of Minnesota, the state where Floyd died, said the community is “hurting beyond words”. He also called for calm, saying the days of rioting are diverting attention from the crucial issue of ridding the state of social injustice.
President Trump’s national security adviser, however, has dismissed claims of systemic racism within the police force, blaming instead “a few bad apples” tainting the image of US law enforcement.
“I think 99.9 per cent of our law enforcement officers are great Americans,” Robert O’Brien told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
“There are some bad cops that are racist cops, and there are cops that maybe don’t have the right training, and some that are just bad cops and they need to be rooted out,” he said.
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a lawyer and political activist, says the problem is much more widespread than authorities would like to admit.
“The thing with systemic racism is that it’s so entrenched in society, it is geared up to the detriment of black people, to the dehumanisation of black people, to the criminalisation of the black identity,” she told Euronews in a live TV interview.
“It’s utter nonsense for them to refer to it as a few bad eggs and that there’s no systemic racism.”
Mos-Shogbamimu, a dual-qualified New York attorney and solicitor of England, says systemic racism is also a problem in the UK: “Be it overt or covert, it exists on both sides of the pond.”
“When you have political parties that run on the fields of far-right rhetoric, then you know we’re in trouble,” she argued.
“In the United Kingdom we have a prime minister that refers to black people are piccaninnies with watermelon smiles, that’s the problem. If we excuse such behaviour, excuse such language, (…) then we are saying that it’s okay.”
Before he became prime minister last year, Johnson defended his infamous description of black people in Africa – made in a column published in the Daily Telegraph in 2002 – as satire “wrenched out of context”.
Mos-Shogbamimu argues, however, that public figures too often get away with comments that should be labelled as racist and not be tolerated, and that white people ought to systematically speak out when they feel a boundary has been crossed.
“The only way it can change is for institutions, for governments, for white folks to take responsibility,” she said.
“We have to help to bring about this change, we have to start speaking out. When we see overt and covert racism, we have to use our white privilege and call it out when we see we need to stop being oblivious. We need to stop making excuses.”
You can watch excerpts from the interview in the video player above.