“I can’t breathe”: Riots against racism as new grounds for international solidarity

“I can’t breathe”: the last sentence of the African-American George Floyd, who was stifled by the Minneapolis police, resonates powerfully in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, the global health crisis has highlighted the inequalities in health care systems, especially in the US, where the African-American population is particularly affected. Beyond police violence, it is also these structural inequalities that are being denounced worldwide by demonstrations under the banners of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. The assassination of George Floyd nevertheless points out the transnational and systemic nature of racism. The texts collected here refuse to enclose racism and police violence in the US context and call for the urgency of a sharpened look at the multiple forms of racist oppression in their different contexts throughout the world. In the midst of a global crisis, the riots against racist police violence thus might enable new articulations of international solidarity.


June 1, 2020 – The American Nightmare

Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, explains in his text «The American Nightmare» how the nationwide protests and unrest in the United States are a result of black America’s living nightmare. For the professor and author of the book «How to Be an Antiracist», to be black and conscious of anti-black racism is to stare into the mirror of your own extinction.



June, 6, 2020 – Solidarity Means Dismantling the System Everywhere

The Progressive International envisions the ongoing protests in the US as another step toward a strengthened international solidarity. In the wake of recent uprisings in India, Lebanon or Chile, the “Black Lives Matter” movement appears as another opening to learn from each other’s struggles against racist state violence beyond borders and to join forces for “collective and communal liberation”. Fights against state violence, i.e. against the police, the prison system and the military, are part of the dismantling of the US hegemonic power, thereby pointing to advances toward a “decolonized and multipolar world”.



June 7, 2020 – Who were the n***** of Europe? The 50th anniversary of the “Schwarzenbach Initiative against Foreign Alienation” in Switzerland and the anti-racist protest movement in the USA

On 7 June 1970, the Swiss people rejected the Schwarzenbach initiative (“Schwarzenbach-Initiative gegen Überfremdung”), which aimed at limiting the quota of “foreigners” in Switzerland. This initiative, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary at a time when protests against racist police violence in the United States are resonating around the world, remains crucial for Swiss asylum policy and its society’s relationship with the so-called “foreigners”. This situation provides Kijan Espahangizi the opportunity to review what the concept of “racism” means in Swiss society: rather than using the categories of US-American racism based on the experience of slavery, Espahangizi emphasizes the concept of “foreigner” (“Ausländer”), encouraging a more differentiated understanding of racism in the Swiss political system.



June 9, 2020 – J’etouffe

The Haitian director Raoul Peck, who has lived in France for more than 50 years, reacts to recent episodes of racist police violence in France and places them in the history of modern capitalism and colonisation. Echoing the anger expressed by the riots in the US and protests in France such as “#JusticepourAdama”, his text denounces the denial and tetanisation of French society regarding structural racism, which takes its most brutal shape in police violence and fuels the anger that erupts today in burning streets.



June 16, 2020 – Sur la permanence des mécanismes d’étranglement

For the philosopher and theorist of postcolonialism Achille Mbembe, the death of a black man either by police violence or by the coronavirus are both symptoms of the “pathogenic moment” that humanity is enduring nowadays. Indeed, racism also functions as an ecosystem that “encloses bodies, imaginations and lives”, depriving them of the right to breathe and spreading virally. In this sense, “the universal struggle against racism,” writes Mbembe, “is, more than ever, a constitutive dimension of any struggle for the regeneration of living beings as a whole.”