Leona O'Neill: It's time to end racial hatred by teaching kids to love and respect everyone

As violence erupts in American cities following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, Leona O'Neill marvels at how Donald Trump has helped to normalise racially insensitive behaviour worldwide – and why it's up to parents to undo the damage

Americans protesting the death of George Floyd blocked traffic in Las Vegas last week

Watching America burn and collapse in on itself is such a heartbreaking sight to behold. Violence erupted on the streets of Minneapolis last week following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American who died in police custody as an officer kneeled on his neck.

White police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with his murder in Minneapolis and sacked from his job. Understandable anger over the killing spilled out onto the streets of that city and most cities across America in the days that followed. In a scenario we know all too well here, anger turned to rioting, which turned to looting. Before long, businesses had been burned to the ground, quiet residential streets were ablaze with fire and flashing blue lights, people were injured and killed, hatred and hostility were at the end of every glance and people were fearful in their homes.

This situation did not rise up suddenly overnight. America has had a well documented racial equality problem for a very long time. Decades of oppression do not disappear all by themselves. Anyone who thought race relations had perhaps eased were fooling themselves or chose to ignore the situation because it was not on their doorstep.

America was hurting. Those in power have it in their gift to help heal. They needed a strong, calm leader at their helm to navigate through dark days following George Floyd's killing, to tackle the issue of police brutality, to help change the mindset that is growing like a cancer in their society. Instead, they got a man who poured fuel on the flames and walked away.

America, like the rest of us are facing immense challenges with the coronavirus. And we are all in these modern times facing other viruses – hate, bigotry, anger and violence – which are also trying to take down our communities.

Donald Trump's talk of "Wuhan Flu" has helped normalise racially insensitive language

The far right in all its forms has been rising in number and power for several years now. We cannot allow this to continue. People who remained silent when black or Asian people are verbally abused on the subway in New York or in a housing estate in east Belfast are just as bad as those throwing the insults. People who normalise racial taunts or who do not challenge racist jokes are just as bad as those who throw such offensive material around.

For the past couple of months, Chinese people have been attacked around the world because Donald Trump and his supporters refer to the Coronavirus as the 'Wuhan Flu'. From his wall building to keep Mexicans out of America to his immigration policies, he has a long history of toxic, racist and hateful ideas which spew out of his mouth and reverberate all around the world, bouncing off the walls in our schools and in our communities here. They are picked up by those with far right tendencies who run with them as their own.

Trump has made it perfectly OK to be a racist and to shout about the fact in the street. He wants America to be "great again". We, all of us who want a normal society where everyone feels safe, happy and secure, need racists to be fearful about spouting their hate again.

In just four, years Donald Trump and his ilk have done so much damage to society that it might take a generation to fix. We all need to be raising children who will stand up against this hate, who will shout louder about love and unity than those who want hatred and division to rule. Black people should not be dying on the streets of any city. Asian people should not be told they are not wanted in certain housing estates. No child should be told they are lesser because of the colour of their skin.

Perhaps because we're living through it, we don't realise that we are navigating hugely historical times. Our children are watching this hatefest unfold before them on the TV screens in our living rooms. We need to be outraged. We need them to be outraged. We need this to stop and never ever happen again.

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