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George Floyd death: Bruce Lee’s humanitarian message rings out loud

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Be Water, a documentary that will be broadcast on Sunday, explores the racial discrimination Bruce Lee suffered throughout his career, Stephen Tan Ban Cheng writes. 

Nearly 46 years after his untimely demise on 20 July 1973, at the age of 32, kung fu icon Bruce Lee (1940-1973) is back again. 

This time, his humanitarian message against racial discrimination shines brightly after the riots in American cities erupted.

The popular eruption against racism followed the disproportionate force used in the police treatment of African-American George Floyd, 46, on 25 May in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street in what was widely seen later as unalloyed racism. Floyd was an unarmed man and suspected of using a counterfeit bill. He was choked to death by a white police officer.

At the memorial service for Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 4 June, participants stood in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honour his memory. Eight minutes and 46 seconds is the length of time Chauvin, the Minneapolis ex-police officer charged with killing Floyd, had his knee on Floyd’s neck.

This police use of disproportionate force against an unarmed man “suspected” of using “bogus money” resurrected the omnipresent but subdued racial tension in several American cities, starkly giving the lie to the American ideal of freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Be Water, a film about to be released on kung fu icon Bruce Lee, born on 27 November 1940, will send out a message of him being discriminated against by Hollywood elites in the 1970s, nearly 50 years ago.

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What is significant about African-American Floyd being choked to death by a white police officer with support from the three other white officers on duty is that it robs the present efforts of US President Donald Trump to intervene in Hong Kong affairs of all sincerity.

During a powerful eulogy at the memorial service, civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network, said that for over 400 years, black people have been marginalised because America “kept your knee on our neck”.

“The reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck,” Sharpton said. “What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life. It is time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks.”

Sharpton denounced racism and called for accountability in the criminal justice system.

The cop’s knee on Floyd’s neck incident highlights the institutionalised racism in the United States whose leader is now trying to preach human rights in Hong Kong. “That hallowed aspiration is now a hollow message, whatever other items he has on his agenda involving Greater China,” said a political watcher. 

“It certainly robs America of the high moral ground; it certainly robs America of being the democratic trailblazer of the world.”

The way life was taken from Floyd ignited riots in at least seven cities across America, including the vicinity of the White House in Washington DC. The other cities were Seattle, Atlanta, San Jose, New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans. Overseas, riots erupted in Paris.

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Be Water, which will be broadcast on Sunday, explores the racial discrimination Bruce Lee suffered throughout his career.

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