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The killing of George Floyd has led to racial reckonings far beyond the U.S. In France, protesters point to incidents of police violence against black people and complain the government hasn’t done enough to address systemic racism. Activists in the United Kingdom say their national history is “whitewashed.” And in Berlin, Black Lives Matter is calling for reparations. Nick Schifrin reports.
The killing of George Floyd has led to reckonings not only here in the United States, but in many countries around the world.
Nick Schifrin is back with that.
From Madrid to Tokyo, from Sydney to Seoul, George Floyd's death has sparked a worldwide reckoning.
I think it's important that we're doing this even in Korea, because, you know, racism is a global issue. It's not just an American issue.
In the birthplace of the Enlightenment, French demonstrators chant "No justice, no peace." They say, France also struggles with police misconduct and discrimination.
Three days after a Minnesota police officer killed Floyd, a French police officer kept his knee on a black suspect. But that treatment often happens off-camera. These protesters chant Adama Traore, a young black Frenchmen asphyxiated in police custody in 2016. No officers were charged.
And he's not the only one. You have several young French blacks or Arabs who died in the hands of the police. And I think that George Floyd's death echoed the very local situation.
Rokhaya Diallo is a filmmaker and journalist who's helped lead French protests. This week, the interior minister banned police from using choke holds and promised to suspend racist officers. But activists say multiple French governments haven't done enough.
It has been pointed out several times that there was a problem with police brutality, with racial profiling in France, and that nothing has been done by any government. It's a display of systemic racism.
Diallo regularly appears on TV to argue France struggles with systemic racism. She's been called divisive.
Because I am the only person of color around the table. And ever since I tried to tackle race, I'm assaulted by the others around the table.
Do you think you're controversial?
I don't think so. I think that race is controversial in France because it really questions the structures of power, because we live in that fallacy of universalism of a country that would be colorblind.
And I think it's comfortable to live in that dream, but it's not possible for people who experience race every day just to forget it.
European activists have worked to ensure colonial pasts aren't forgotten either.
In Brussels, demonstrators chanted "murderer" on top of King Leopold II. And in Antwerp, officials removed a Leopold statue, 125 years after he oversaw Belgium's brutal colonial expansion in the Congo that historians say killed 10 million.
In Bristol, England, protesters tore down Edward Colston, a 17th century merchant, and threw him into the same waters that ships he oversaw set sail filled with slaves.
And in London, Winston Churchill, who helped win World War II, but also argued white people were superior, got tagged racist. British activists say the country's history is often whitewashed and police treat black Brits unequally.
We have got people that say, oh, you know, all lives matter. We know. But, right now, it's that's being killed.
Pauline Stepney is a protest organizer in Bedford, outside of London.
Black Lives Matter is not a trend, because I am black always.
Last weekend, activists released this video of Stepney at a socially distanced protest. Activists cite the case of Sean Rigg, who died in 2008 after being held down by officers for eight minutes. No officers were charged in his or other deaths by police.
When you see the injustice of people not being convicted for killing a child, for killing somebody that was walking away, for killing somebody, when you see that, that is systemic.
London's mayor is pressuring police to change some tactics. But activists say the problems run deeper, including the denying of Caribbean immigrants' rights because of institutional racism.
Once you're dehumanized, once you're seen as not having any feelings, being told we have to work as hard — twice as hard. We want know equal access to jobs, want equal access to — in education. We want our children to stop being discriminated by teachers.
For artist Diana Arce, who's lived in Germany for 16 years, Floyd's death gave old causes new momentum.
We have never had these kinds of a turnout. And my fear is among these white activists who go to this is that they, too, still don't understand that the problem is also at home.
If you are not fighting against it when there's not a video, then you are part of the problem.
She says Germany has its own institutional racism, and it's time for the government to atone.
There needs to be reparations in the form of structural funding in all areas for black communities, so that we can lead the work in all areas of civil society.
No society is free of discrimination. Inequity is not new.
But Floyd's death provides a catalyst for minority communities, and their allies, to fight for change. And it allows a father in France, the son of U.S. civil rights leader once known as Stokely Carmichael, to teach a lesson to his own child that's universal.
There are some people who might think less of us because we're black, but we know that's not true, right? We know that we're just as smart, just as intelligent, and you're just as beautiful as anyone.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
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Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
Layla Quran is a general assignment producer for PBS NewsHour. She was previously a foreign affairs reporter and producer.
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