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Chinese have long supported African American's struggle for equality

By Chen Weihua | | Updated: 2016-07-11 05:50

Washington DC teems with historical sites of African Americans struggle for equality, whether it's the Frederick Douglass House, the U Street or the relatively new Martin Luther King Jr Memorial designed by Chinese artist Lei Yixin.

These sites seem more relevant in the past week as cities across the US saw waves of protests against police brutality after the killings of two African-American men by police. The protests continued over the weekend in cities — from Washington, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas and Miami to Nashville, Indianapolis and St Paul, resulting in scores of arrests.

In the Saturday night protest in Washington, a group marched peacefully through the downtown, chanting, "We young. We strong. We marching all night on," CNN reported.

The protests this time were triggered by videos showing fatal police encounters with two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, respectively in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and suburban Minneapolis. Protests also came after an African-American sniper killed five white police officers and wounded seven others in Dallas on Thursday.

I witnessed such angry protests in Washington in 2014 after the deadly shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, in Ferguson, Missouri, in August of that year by a white police officer, and the death in July that year of another black man, Eric Garner, in Staten Island, New York, after a police officer put him in chokehold for 15 to 19 seconds while arresting him.

On Feb 22, 2012, US President Barack Obama helped break ground the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall. But when he cuts the ribbon at the scheduled opening on Sept 24 of this year, Obama and all Americans will be bitterly reminded that African Americans' struggle for equality is far from accomplished despite the fact that Obama has become the first black president in US history and served for almost eight years.

Police brutality and racial tensions were listed as two key concerns in the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2015 report released by China's State Council's Information Office in April of this year. The report is usually released each year after the US State Department announces its reports on the human rights situation in every other country in the world except the US.

The Chinese have supported African Americans' struggle for equality at least as early as the 1960s under Chairman Mao Zedong. On Aug 8, 1963, Mao issued a declaration in support of African Americans' just struggle against racial discrimination. On Apr 16, 1968, 12 days after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, Mao wrote a second declaration in support of African Americans' struggle. A cpecial stamp was also issued on May 31 that year for Mao's statement.

In May, 1959, Mao met with visiting African-American civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois. On China's National Day celebration on Oct 1, 1966, Robert Williams, another civil rights leader and a revolutionary, was invited to speak at Tiananmen Rostrum, with Mao standing at his side. In 1971, then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai met in Beijing with Huey Newton, leader of the Black Panther Party.

"This is the era of Mao Zedong, the era of world revolution and the Afro-American's struggle for liberation is a part of an invincible world-wide movement. Chairman Mao was the first world leader to elevate our people's struggle to the fold of the world revolution," Williams said in 1967, as quoted in the article Black Like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution by Robin DG Kelley and Betsy Esch in 1999.

In the article, the authors described how Mao's theory inspired African-American leaders in the 1960s and '70s, resulting in the many Maoist organizations.

"Here Maoists have much in common with some very old black biblical traditions. After all, if little David can take Goliath with just a slingshot, certainly a 'single spark can start a prairie fire'," the authors concluded, quoting Mao.

Unfortunately, many of the facts cited in Mao's 1963 and 1968 statements are still true to a large extent, such as in wages, wealth distribution, education and incarceration rates. While racial segregation is illegal today, a large part of the US neighborhoods and schools still look segregated.

A Pew Center survey released on June 27 showed that blacks and whites are worlds apart on views of race and inequality.

The poll found an overwhelming 88 percent of blacks saying the US needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, and 43 percent doubt that such changes will ever occur. Meanwhile, only 53 percent of whites say the country still has work to do for blacks to achieve equal rights with whites.

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