Ungrateful: The Silence of Some African Immigrants in the face of U.S Police Lynching

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Scholar and activist Yoknyam Dabale deplores "divide and rule". Photo: By author.
 
On May 25th, 2020 George Floyd, an African American man, was suffocated to death in Minneapolis by Derek Chauvin, a White American police officer. Not long before that Breonna Taylor was killed by police while she was sleeping in her bed and Ahmaud Arbery chased down in a van and killed with a shotgun.
 
Many others have met their untimely death because of police lynching of Black people. This reckless killing is not isolated, White Americans have used violence to terrorize enslaved Africans who landed on the country’s shores since at least 1619. The enslaved Africans--who were mostly from Central and West Africa--their descendants, African Americans have gone through a series of revolts, protests in order to gain some type of “freedom.” As Black people  jumped over one hurdle, another was created. In the U.S. usually Black death is treated with little to no empathy by most White Americans. Nagode wa Allah (thanks to God) for social media; it has exposed the sickness of police brutality on Black bodies.
 
Traumatized and concerned citizen, Darnella Frazier, used her platform to share the video she recorded of Floyd's last moments on earth, as he begged for mercy, “I can’t breathe.” This video that Frazier shared with the world went viral, as a result, there was a tsunami of protest from Ireland, Kenya, France, Japan, Ghana, Australia, Nigeria, U.K, Afghanistan, Germany, and elsewhere, in solidarity to Floyd's family, African Americans and Black people. People all over the world are raising their fist shouting "Black Lives Matter," (BLM).
 
On the other hand, many African immigrants are missing in action. This is not suggesting that some of us are not out there fighting for justice, we are. For example, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Opal Tometi, is African, a second generation American. There are African immigrants who are engaged in local activism, including Nigerian-American activist, 19-year-old Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau. She'd been reported missing for about a week until her body was found Monday. She is a victim of a possible homicide.
 
That said, as an African woman who has schooled and done advocacy work for over a decade in the U.S I found the silence of many African immigrants not necessarily uncommon. A number of African immigrants in the U.S internalized the widely disseminated racist ideas about African Americans and in some cases serve as buffers for White supremacy. We are portrayed as "hardworking" and "well behaved" people, unlike the stereotypical representations of African Americans as “lazy,” “loud,” and “rude.” This White acceptance makes us feel superior and some of us look down on African Americans whose struggles  ironically contributed to our independence on the continent of Africa and cleared the path for us in the U.S.
 
The silence of some African immigrants in the U.S has several implications. As the Yotti/Bali proverb of Northern Nigeria teaches us, “if your neighbor’s beard is on fire, spray water on yours.” African immigrants, we are setting ourselves for failure. Many of us are having children in the U.S, eventually, they too would become African-Americanized no matter how hard we try to keep them away from those akatas or "wild" African Americans. We can encourage our children to only associate with and marry White people, have biracial children, attend Harvard and Stanford all we want but because the illogical logic of racism is based on skin color, they too would become vulnerable to the racist institution. 
For example, In 2018 Selorm Ohene a Harvard student had a violent confrontation with the police and at Yale University, Lolade Siyonbola was harassed by police because her White female schoolmate accused her of trespassing.
 
African immigrants isolating ourselves and believing the racist lie that we are "better" than people who are constantly fighting for equality and whose ancestors shed their blood to open doors of opportunities for us is dangerous. It is also a gesture of ungratefulness, which traditionally is un-African. African philosophy teaches us to Sankofa, look back before moving forward. We are to look back to show appreciation to our ancestors and to learn from the best of their knowledge so that we can advance our community. African immigrants, we cannot continue ignoring the plight, contributions of African Americans and expect a favorable future.Our children are learning and would end up desecrating our struggles as well.
 
Yoknyam Dabale is a PhD student at Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies in southern California. Originally from Northern Nigeria, she is a scholar-activist, public speaker, consultant and Pan-Africanist. Her research interests focus on religion, race, gender, post-colonialism and environmentalism. 
 
To contact her, email: [email protected]

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