Editorial

How Black should I be to matter?

Black Lives Matter!’ This has become a standardized rhetoric of blacks in the West, and of course, sympathizers of the plights of black communities. Irresponsible killings of blacks by law enforcement authorities, economic inequality, and lack of fair opportunities are a few of the irrepressible sufferings experienced by blacks in the West. Plenty are the afflictions of the black community in the west that it almost makes sense to remind anyone that black lives do matter.  However, in reality, some black lives appear to matter more than others, and unfortunately, this is mirrored within the same black community demanding fairness.

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, I developed appreciation for diversity and uniqueness of communities and people. You would be living in frustration if you believed that a nation such as Nigeria, with over 200 different ethnic tribes would not exhume scenes of violent conflict and socio-political strife. I was mentally groomed to appreciate its merits in navigating the rest of the world.

I moved to Canada in 2008 and in my first week in where I now call home, I experienced an event that, unknown to me at the time, would go on to shape my view about the differences in Canada.

“…The reality, in the west, is that there is a common oppressor and until the black and the African-immigrant communities begin to appreciate their differences and negotiate cooperation, some black lives matter more, depending on what community you feel attached to.”

I was in a dorm lounge with my colleagues – black Canadians, and two Pakistanis. The mood was good and we were having a laugh about our individual experiences from our home countries. Although the jokes could be considered racist (especially in today’s sensitive society), we seemed to be oblivious to those sensitivities. For example, a black Canadian colleague would try his best impression of an African accent and ask me, “Where are the blood diamonds?” (I am from Nigeria and we do not have diamonds. We do have a lot of oil though! Fair to call it ‘conflict oil’), or I’d be asked if my father owned hyenas and a golden revolver. Suddenly, the mood became tense.  A Pakistani had taken things ‘too far’ by using the N-word on a black Canadian.

I did not catch on to it. In fact, it would have been possible I heard it but thought nothing of it – after all, I am from Nigeria, where you would be lucky to get some attention using that language.

A heated argument broke out and it escalated into a brawl. Of course, others on the dorm floor got involved and it turned very ugly. I joined in, not because I fully understood the intensity of the instigating word but because I saw the divide and immediately felt I had to pick a side. I teamed up with the blacks.

It has been about eight years since that incident but it remains vivid because it replays itself in different facets of today’s interactions. Now, I ask myself, why was it okay for my black friends to poke fun at my culture, my identity, my being, and also laugh when the Pakistani did it but when they were recipients of the butt of jokes from the Pakistani, it was a no-no?

Three weeks ago, I had shared a post on my Facebook wall calling for support from the black community to help raise awareness about the UN-declared famine and starvation threatening millions of Somalis in Somalia. The post asked why the Black Lives Matter movement was silent on this, considering members of the BLM movement ironically come from the Somali community. According to a comment on that post, “Because the black lives matter is about systemic racism and oppression. The issues are funding in schools, police brutality, inequity in public policy, misapplication [sic] of laws. Absolutely the starvation of 6.2 million Somalis is important, but that’s not the base of their cause.”

Maybe the author of the comment is right. It is possible the plight of Africans (or blacks) on the African continent is not of direct concern to blacks in the west. After all, both communities experience different realities.

However, the reality, in the west, is that there is a common oppressor and until the black and the African-immigrant communities begin to appreciate their differences and negotiate cooperation, some black lives matter more, depending on what community you feel attached to.

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