You may have seen the widespread outrage over the recent killings of two black men – Alton Sterling and Philando Castile – by police in the US. You may have wondered why black people were getting so worked up about it, especially black people outside of the US. It’s not their country; it’s not their problem. Right?

Wrong.

I’m very opinionated, but for the most part, I’m pretty laidback. I currently live in London and I had a lot of thoughts about the recent mayoral election. Did I vote? No. My participation in politics tends to be limited to the big things – voting in general elections and the recent EU referendum. Local council seats? Nah. Protests? Hell nah.

Yet, there I was hauling my non-morning person ass out of bed bright and early on a Sunday morning to do just that. Protest. As a Nigerian living in the UK, you might be wondering “What’s her own?”. Well, it is our own.

You might see yourself as a Nigerian with absolutely nothing in common with an African American. Your culture is different, your experiences are different and maybe you can’t relate with them at all. You might be right. But if you happened to be on an American street, and a friendly neighbourhood officer decided to “randomly” stop and search you, he’s not going to care about your accent, or the fact that you don’t like soul food.

Being stopped by a police officer for speeding could mean the difference between never seeing your loved ones again, or continuing with the rest of your life – simply because of your skin. We should all be incensed that someone can be killed just for looking like us. We have a common problem – diaspora or not – and we need to start acting like it.

Beyond the specific issue of police brutality in the US, this problem matters to us all as black people because it is a symptom of a larger force that holds us all back, directly or indirectly. Racism might not exist to you as a Nigerian, and white supremacy might be even further from your reality than that. But the white supremacy that has many African countries trapped in endemic economic inferiority is the same force which killed Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown and the numerous other human beings turned hashtags who have been slaughtered by those tasked with protecting them.

This same white supremacy allows them to collude with thieves, then turn around and call us “fantastically corrupt”. This same white supremacy makes it possible for them to undercut our international competitiveness through harshly protectionist policies, while aggressively pushing for our markets to remain open, yet somehow maintain the moral high ground through development aid. This same white supremacy encourages them to meddle in and criticise the affairs of developing countries, when they are often major culprits in creating that very instability in the first place.

So I went to a #BlackLivesMatter protest in London even though the events that sparked it happened all the way across the Atlantic. I went because these murders were horrific, but beyond these specific acts of violence, I went because we need to stand against the system that makes such crimes possible. Till this day, whiteness continues to hold us hostage – through the oppressive financial arrangements that often strangle our continent’s development and direct oppression of people who look like us on a day-to-day basis.

None of this absolves us of our responsibility to govern ourselves well. None of this suggests only black lives matter. Yes, all lives matter, but for some reason only one group needs to reiterate it. I wonder why.

Making a decision to not be a bystander was a personal choice. For me, it was about race. For you, it might be something else. Whatever you care about, you cannot continue to watch it deteriorate while offering an “eyah” from time to time. Say something. Do something. It matters.

Responses

  1. Larz
    This is such a big deal. Super paranoid about travelling to the US so I dont end up “accidentally” shot. This is ridiculous! It annoys me that some high profile people in the US esp politicians are calling the movement racists. How many more sad cases do we need to experience before something is done about this institutional racism?

    About people, taking a very passive stance on something they claim to care about such as the eeya syndrome. I have absolutely no respect for them. After the recent referendum, a few people claim to be remainers admitted they did not vote because they didnt think it was neccessary to or becuz they couldnt be bothered to. For me, that is lower than ppl voting leave because of immigrants

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    1. Andronicus
      I never accept it whenever a white person calls a black person racist.
      They invented racism.

      Most of them do not understand that Slavery/Segregation is like a mighty Tsunami in history.
      With tidal waves and giant ripples that have been moving over the years in form of the problems black people are facing now (racism, police brutality, suspicion, stereotyping, ghettos, black crime rates etc). That slavery ended many years ago and Civil Rights came to be in the mid 60s do not mean the ripples have finally stopped. It is very complex and the roots run deep.

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  2. Andronicus
    Funmi I agree with your article everything. But for a different reason.

    I have stopped worrying myself about what goes on in US or the ‘western abroad’.
    Why? Cos they don’t give a s***t about us.
    Even the black people whom we are supposed to relate to.

    During the horrible crash of 2011/2012? which claimed precious lives including a Uni classmate of mine;
    Guess what I saw in the media: ‘This is what happens when monkeys fly planes’…and other painful comments.
    Fast forward to Ebola, and they started mocking Africa again. Nothing good comes from there, barricade the continent. etc.
    Where was the empathy? The West only took major action when the virus hit their shores (Kudos to Doctors without borders and medic personnel who helped during the pandemic).

    I keep wondering, where is the empathy?
    We cried with them during the 9/11
    We rejoiced too when Obama won the elections.
    We stood with Boston and always identify with any crisis that happens in the West.

    But when it comes to Africa, we don’t get the same treatment. They look down on us and say, ‘it is normal there’.
    Most times we get ignored unless it affects their nationals or investments, or unless they give us attention for political benefits.
    So I gave up on the West. Let them solve their American problems while we solve our African problems. I am done ‘being them’.
    There’s a long history of Africans being used for Western courses and then dumped after its over.

    There are 54 countries in Africa, all blessed naturally and with brains.
    Technology from East Africa, Oil and Food from West Africa & North Africa.
    Diamonds, Gold…just to name a few.
    Why can’t we trade among ourselves and shun the West?
    Manufacture locally and sell cheap. Provide food to starving countries in exchange for other goods.
    If Francophone Africa can stop depending on France for Aid.
    If Nigeria can stop begging for Aid around the world.

    I agree Black Lives Matter. I feel for them but in the end, we have our Nigerian lives to worry more about here.

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  3. Snow
    There is always gonna be a devil’s advocate. I’m curious to see who that is.

    As for every single issue developing today, i’m almost at that stage where i show strong apathy towards it. The deaths dont move me, the bombings, corruption, and so many evil going on. There is only so much a mind can take before it becomes numb to the world.
    Honestly, i’m just eagerly waiting for Jesus to come or the next extinction level event

    whether North Korea will launch a nuke in South Korea, then U.S will become involved, and then Russia will oppose U.S just for the sake of it, then Israel supports U.S and then the Arab League opposes Israel because Mortal enemies, then the EU will divide because Germany will be a wildcard, and then Britian will support U.S and France will oppose Britian and the Spain and Austria and the likes will become involved. THAT’s THE DREAM

    Whoever is incharge of the reset button cor earth should fucking press it. We humans have outdone ourselves.

    As for the racism and hate and white supremacy, i think it all boils down to respect. The white’s dont respect us enough and honestly, i feel we dont even respect ourselves enough. I have nothing with a man hating and despising me, but that man isn’t gonna wanna fuck with me if i put some respect into him.

    The blacks are not the only race who have suffered throughout history, but thousands of years later, it feels like we are bottom of the food chain. It makes me wonder what we didnt do right go reclaim ourselves after everything. That is why a cop can shoot a black unarmed man and not fear the consequences, because there will be none, no conviction, no firing, nothing. Just a slap on the wrist and a paid leave

    I recently read somewhere the system was going after the person (obviously a black) who recorded the Eric Garner video for something something. That has to be one of my top ten WTF moments.

    The disrespect is just too much it breaks my heart. And it’s not the shootings that vexes me, it’s the fact that there are and will not be any consequences. If these cops knew that every cause has an effect, i dont think they would be so trigger happy. They are almost safe in the belief that Nothing dey Happen.

    It shames me to admit (or does it) that i smiled a little at the recent cop killings (dallas and recently, cleveland). Terrible event but this is just cause and effect, This isn’t just a protest, This is war. If the system cant respect you and protect you, you have to make them. And sometimes that means doing what you gotta do.

    These cops took an oath to protect and serve its people yet they shoot them like it’s hunting season,

    Whatever the white does to a black, it’s because they dont respect us to even worry about consequences.

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  4. igee
    Thank you Funmi for this article! I do not understand when I see Nigerians in Nigeria commenting on #blacklivesmatter saying it’s none of our biz. For goodness sakes u r black, one day u’ll want to go abroad for hols/school/conference and wat if by some tragic twist of fate ur shot to death or arrested and somehow die in holding, won’t u become a hash tag too? Unfortunately white supremacy is in Naija too,the treatment they get when they come here u can’t even dream of dat when u go abroad unless ur a top govt official. I’ve said it b4 naija’s prob is ethnicity(which is worse in my opinion). But for the fact we are all from diff roots doesn’t change the melanin in ur skin so therefore stand up for what is right since we can’t do that (successfully) here.
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  5. Exclusive
    While I would agree that we as humans have definitely outdone ourselves, I think there’s still a chance, no matter how slim, at redemption.

    There’s so much anger and hate, the air practically reeks of it. While racism in different forms have existed for a long time, people have in recent times become bolder at committing crimes with impunity. We have become so stuck up on our ‘differences’ that we forget the basic human thread that joins us all together.

    There’s discrimination along religious lines, tribal lines, the colour of your skin and what have you. When it doesn’t directly or indirectly affect us, we turn our backs, pretend we don’t see and say, “it’s not my fight.” But it is, all of our fights. Because until we stand up together to fight against indiscrimination of any form, irrespective of whether we’re affected or not, the cycle will keep right on.

    Today, it is someone you have nothing in common with. Tomorrow, maybe it’s someone who holds a place in your heart.

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      1. Od
        Really? What exactly is the point of this post that you allege that I missed? That American “racist” problems should matter to me in Nigeria? Doesn’t that assume that there are real racist problems in America? Am I missing something else or did you just want me to spell it out for everyone?
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    1. Funmi Ogunlusi Post author
      I have to confess I didn’t click on your link but if I’m not misreading this picture, doesn’t it prove racial bias? If black people are 13% of the population, yet 31% of victims, 39% of those not attacking anyone when killed by police and 42% of those killed by other means than shooting, doesn’t that imply a disproportionate incidence of violence among this particular group? Compare that to white people being 63% of the population but making up a lower proportion of these recorded killings.

      If your point is that more white people die than blacks, then it’s irrelevant because there are more whites than blacks in the US period. The point is that the amount of violence black people face is clearly disproportionate to their actual population and there is a clear bias in how they are treated by the US law enforcement and criminal justice systems compared to white people.

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      1. Od
        That is the wrong way to interpret the data, Funmi.

        It wasn’t 31% of all black people that got killed by the police. It was 31% of all victims of police killings that were black. That means that for every 100 people killed by the police, 31 were black, not that for every 100 black people, 31 were killed by the police.

        The same applies to attacking and non-attacking victims. This is not a comparison of victim per general population but of race per victim. In other words, the police have killed more whites than blacks in all their homicides. That immediately renders the basis of the #BlackLivesMatter movement invalid. This is not necessarily a racial issue. Race might play a part on an individual level, but on a community level it is really a case of bad policing judging by that data.

        You should have read that link. It expands on the question of organizational or systemic racism. It provides insight into the issue in a very interesting way. The photo I attached did not come from that link. The information there is different.

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        1. Funmi Ogunlusi Post author
          I wasn’t saying 31% of black people were killed by the police. I can see that the picture is reflecting that 31% of victims of police brutality are black.

          My point was as a proportion of the total US population, black people only make up 13% yet they somehow make up 31% of people killed by police.

          We use population data to judge whether something is above or below average all the time. E.g. That argument that (low) x% of the population controls (disproportionately larger) y% of wealth.

          The police brutality argument is that people of colour are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. It’s the same with US prison figures which show that black people make up a far larger percentage of the prison population than they do of the wider US population.

          For you to say BLM is invalid when a relatively small section of the population is taking on such a vastly different proportion of violent deaths is beyond me.

          Again, this can’t be about sheer numbers because there are way more white people than black people in the first place. It’s about why, comparatively, there is such a sharp skew when black people are involved.

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          1. Od
            I really should apologize for that response. It was not well thought out. Your pardon.

            I see your point and I admit that it is a good question to ask. The numbers are truly disproportionate. But when you take into account the information in the other link, a case may be made to prove that this is less about racial discrimination than it is about bad policing.

            However, the information in your own links are significant. I admit that I have often heard Americans speak in a derogatory manner about other ethnicities including the black, Hispanic, Jewish and Asian groups. But the question I am interested in is if there is still institutional racism. Is this the character of the institutions or just very repulsive deviations from the mean?

            If it is not institutionalized, then #BlackLivesMatter is really making a bad thing worse. If it is, then there is a reason to seek redress for racism.

            Now, how I look at it is this: black people are angry. I’m not speaking from stats now or any other academic study. I’m speaking from myself and my experiences. I’ve had close relatives in America since I was born. My parents grew into adulthood during the colonial period. Slavery was not long dead for us in our hometown in my father’s childhood. Our hometown was on the trading route for slaves and it was a vital part of our history. We understood that certain behaviors and events could make an Igbo person a slave but we didn’t understand being subjected to the pale men with guns to go across the water to work on plantations too far away from our people to be able to escape slavery like we may have been able to if we were conquered slaves back in our home lands.

            Then the pale men turned out to be cruel as well. Slavery always aims at dehumanizing fellow humans, to keep them docile and unchallenging. But it was one thing to have a fellow Igbo man who beat you in battle taking control of your life to do with as he pleased and another thing to be the “plaything” of some pale man with dogs and guns. The frustration of being locked into such a system could engender generational anger and hate.

            Now, I’m supposing a lot but I doubt that I would be very wrong if studies were done to see if I am right.

            If I am right, then blacks would still be very angry and they would be quite violent and sociopathic in their behaviors. Remember when the Italian mafia was all the rage? Today, the two that steal the show are the black gangs and the Latin gangs. Both are very vicious and very violent. It seems to be much less about making money and finding a place in society than about punishing society somehow.

            These things lead up to the possibility that it may be black anger that drives up the number of black victims directly or indirectly. Note that the Italians are no longer the butt of many jokes in America nor are the Jews, despite any residual ill feelings anywhere. The two groups have integrated into the American population. But not the blacks or the Hispanics. The Hispanics themselves appear to be doing the same as those two groups even but unless I am dealing with an unconscious bias, I don’t feel certain that the blacks are doing the same. They don’t seem particularly inclined to pull their weight in the society. They appear to want to just punish America for the slavery and dehumanization.

            In my understanding, the best and most effective way to force people to respect and acknowledge you is to be the thing that they insist you cannot be. That is precisely what all groups who have been burdened with some form of ostracism have done. The Jews have gone from being the scum of the earth to being the “cabal that rules America”. The Italians? Who talks about them anymore? The Asians? Who ridicules the geniuses now? The Hispanics? Check out how many Latin names you find in institutions, the media, politics and academia. Even Indians that I forgot to mention are not ignored. But not blacks.

            In that link I shared (and about which I admit to having reservations because I haven’t done an in-depth study of it), it is suggested that blacks are the most violent of all groups toward every group including themselves. That does tally with the general ideas that come out of hip hop poetry and stories about the icons of the black community.

            I am inclined to think that the black community will benefit much more from focusing on their own education and deliberate, community-wide pursuit of acclaim in relevant parts of the economy including academia, industry and politics. They should reduce their focus on money that propels them into drugs, crime and entertainment. It is not impossible to build a strong academic presence even without any input or even resistance from the state. If black people were not messing up their own schools and scaring their own young children from walking the distance to school every morning, there would be significant change in their status in America.

            This is why I don’t quite believe in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I think it is a lazy and likely far more dangerous response to the much deeper problems of the black community than anything else they could have come up with.

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      2. Andronicus
        Tired of reading those statistics. I don’t even know where they come from. DoJ? Yeah right.
        The same institutions that black people claim are institutionally racist?
        Is there a transparent process for compiling these statistics?
        I also read that a lot of these statistics flying around conveniently are a few years behind.
        To me, they just heap the blame for rising crime on the usual minority scapegoat: Black people.

        The commenter saying we should care because we may travel abroad someday.
        Then don’t travel to US. The world is so much bigger than the US. Europe is a lot more fun and romantic.

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        1. Od
          What’s the alternative, Andronicus? Should we ignore the stats unless they indicate that the loudest people are the right people? Wouldn’t we be just as biased then as we accuse the sources of these stats to be?
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    2. Optimus Prime
      Od, don’t be too religious about statistics. It can be manipulated to prove anything you want to pass across.

      Statistics are like bikinis – what they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is very vital.

      Posted from TNC Mobile

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      1. Od
        Yeah, there are always limitations on this sort of thing, Optimus Prime. Statistics deal more with generalizations and tendencies in a population than with the details on the individual level so, of course, they carry a risk. Lots of things are hidden within the folds but when you want to penetrate through the fog, it is not impossible to devise methods to account for deviations and whatnot. The actual problem that I have with stats is the fact that I’m often too busy to investigate the reliability of the studies themselves, that is, to prove that the studies were unaffected by vested interests and that the methods followed were logical. Otherwise, they are okay to work with.
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  6. makachuks
    My 2 Kobo on this:

    I always without a doubt view any and every new movement with suspicion.
    Black lives matter has failed my review on so many levels. I will offer my opinion below.
    Disclaimer: This is just my view.
    Blacks in America glorify violence in their subculture . In their music videos, movies, and their relationships with each other (http://www.worldstarhiphop.com/videos/)
    You are not black enough if you talk proper, dress well, do not exhibit “the usual hood behaviour”. Now granted these are stereotypes, but how wrong are they?
    An officer whether black or white is affected by these stereotypes too and will act accordingly.
    In how many of the police brutality videos were the “victims” cooperating willingly with the police. I do not justify police brutality of any sort. But I am sure, if a white suspect acted that way, it might elicit similar reactions.
    So many highly placed black individuals have come out in defence of the police and asked their fellow blacks to cooperate with the police when asked.
    Is it too much to ask to keep your hands on the steering wheels. What is the point in all this ‘grahgrah’ with police.

    As a movement BLM has no achievable objectives. So many people however have hidden under their hood to cause mayhem and loot businesses. It is high time they are shut down before they cause further rift in race relations in the U.S. (Not that it keeps me awake at night).

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