I would’ve loved to write my first article about all the light- hearted, funny situations I find myself in, as a young Nigerian living in America. But it is important to be honest with you all and myself. With the current state of things in Yankee, I would be remiss not to speak on what is truly unsettling; being killed, for being black in America.
The events of the past few weeks in America have sparked national outrage regarding the unjust treatment of blacks living in America. White police are so conditioned to be ‘afraid’ of black men during their encounters with them, that they are quick to use deadly force, even when it is not necessary. They murder innocent men, without any hesitation, knowing that their police badge will protect them. There is no doubt that these black men were vilified and killed solely based on what they looked like.
As much as we want to point the finger at police for this injustice, I think some of us unconsciously share the same prejudices. When is the last time you used the term ‘akata’? While you may not have meant it in a derogatory way, it does carry a negative connotation. When someone says that word, most people think of a black man or woman with dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings, and saggy pants. You may also think that an average ‘akata’ is uneducated, sells or uses drugs, is sexually promiscuous, or violent in nature.
While hosting visitors from parts of Africa, I can’t help but notice the fear they have when they are around black Americans. They will walk faster, cross the street, hold their purse tighter, thinking that they are in danger. These negative feelings in us only perpetuate the stereotype that all blacks are bad people, who we should be afraid of.
Ironically, when the average white American looks at us, they think we are black American also; therefore, Africans living in the United States are subjected to the same racial biases and injustices as black Americans.
For instance, Matthew Ajibade, a 21-year- old student in Georgia was killed a year ago while in police custody. He was having a bipolar episode when instead of taking him to the hospital, police officers arrested him, beat him, and used a Taser on him multiple times, after he was already constrained in a chair. Despite his screaming and pleading, he was murdered in his cell. The coroner concluded that Matthew died from blunt force trauma from the beatings. The officers were acquitted. I can say with confidence that if Matthew were white, he would be alive today.
Its time we as Africans realize that racial injustice is our problem too. One cannot just turn a hypocritical blind eye, as if it does not affect us. Change begins with us: the way we think, speak, and act towards each other. We are called to come together and be advocates, to feel the pain of black Americans, and to stand as one against police brutality and inequality. We must unite within ourselves if we hope to be agents of change in this world.
Written by Milayo Olufemi