The Silence in the African Community on the Deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile is not just Troubling, it’s Plain Ridiculous

I remember, way back when I was young and silly, telling my mom that I intended to marry a black man who was brought up with in the Diaspora. Her response then was that I had to go back home to find a husband. Implicit in her statement is the idea that “home” is superior, and everything existing outside the context of home has been stained by whiteness.

No offense to my beautiful and well-meaning mama, but that idea is ridiculous for reasons I find irrelevant to this post and reasons I really don’t care to delve into anyway. I had thought, for the longest time, that only mama adhered to such beliefs. After all why, oh why, would black people be preoccupied with proving their superiority to one another?

But unfortunately,we’ve all internalized white supremacist violence, in one way or another. For example, my high school was compartmentalized—the Italians, the Latinxs, and the Middle Easterners stuck together; then kids from the West Indies and Jamaica had their own group which, with underlying xenophobia, excluded African immigrant children. The former implicitly disassociated themselves from the latter under what I can only imagine is the misconception of their inherent superiority as those closest to whiteness.

Then I travelled to Nigeria. And of course, that same narrative of black superiority to other blacks is even more touted here. On top of that, respectability politics is a popular ideology in this part of the world. If I had one naira for every time I’ve heard someone suggest uninformed bullshit about the plight of African Americans, I’d have money spurting out of my nose.

Make no mistake—this is the result of insidious white supremacy. It’s the symptom of an incurable disease. Instead of recognizing our universal condition as oppressed people, black Africans and black diasporic Africans preoccupy themselves with ways in which they can publicly disassociate from one another.

This is why I am not entirely surprised by the scathing silence amongst Africans, specifically those in the motherland, on the murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. The cricket’s scream pierces through all the silence, a silence that is increasingly louder and overbearing to listen to. A silence that suggests that this violence is only happening over there, that here in Africa we’re divorced from the realities of white supremacy, that we have more worries requiring our immediate attention down here.

Sure, we have quite our handful of problems, but these problems—or rather the violence in Nigeria, the violence my husband and his friends have come to know intimately while growing up here—is a highly complex and nuanced reaction to colonialism and largely a symptom of white supremacy. It is inherently linked to the situation in America. Take for example the epidemic of violent university gangs (or confrar, as they are colloquially known) in Nigeria. This epidemic, which was born out of a powerful resistance against white supremacy, manifested into black on black violence, or in this context, Nigerian on Nigerian violence. Redirected aggression/anger has also historically replayed itself in the African American community: a good example of this can be seen in the birth of the Los Angeles gang the Crips or, as the organization was initially known, the Community Resources for Independent People. The Crips was founded by a high school student in response to increasing police violence. Today, they are one of the most violent gangs in America, killing mostly other black people.

We can’t deny the complicity of colonialism and white supremacy in the on-going violence in black societies.

We can’t de-contextualize the current situation in post-colonial Africa, and that context is white universality, or white supremacist imperialism, or better yet white violence. It’s the exact violence black folks in the Diaspora engage with on a daily basis. White violence as quotidian.

I truly understand that the silence may in fact be a method of self-care. I can’t take that away from people. Constantly addressing systemic violence is actually quite disempowering. For this reason, this post is directly targeted at the African who either feels disengaged from what’s happening in America or who militantly espouses respectability politics, under the misguided and willfully ignorant belief of their superiority to their African American counterparts.

Maybe this silence is rooted in guilt of Africa’s culpability in the African American struggle. Maybe it’s rooted in internalized hate and the resulting desire to prove one’s humanity to whiteness. I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a hierarchy of white supremacy which thrives on black victimhood. And with the reality of that undeniable truth, ignoring or being silent in the face of the human rights atrocity in America is just plain ridiculous.

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