There’s an old Zulu song particularly associated with the apartheid movement that I used to hear a lot when I was younger. At that age, I never really understood the context, just the raw motion it took to to sing it.
Safa saphel’ isizwe esimyama – (the black nation is dying).
The black community have been dying a slow, painful and repetitive death for generations, at the hands of white supremacist and the capitalist systems who aid in perpetuating their ideology.
Black suffering has been a normalised part of our narrative for centuries, only that it has been downplayed to make it more justifiable to white audiences. For instance, there are various films published in post slavery America depicting the lynchings and killings of black Americans in a glorified way. We see it now in BAFTA award winning motion pictures, continually reinforcing the most inhumane and inaccurate representations of our people, but should a black man try to take back the narrative, and tell his story it’s dismissed as an attempt to incite violence.
The aftermath of this never ending black genocide: citing long-term injustice, cruelty, and violence against blacks by Whites, have been damaging. Solely looking at the mental and emotional effects, the psyche of the black man is a somewhat fragile if not broken thing. Which has aided in the destruction of our community as a whole.
As a people we are anxious, constantly living in fear of the unknown crimes committed by the colour of our skin. The US have shown time and time again that there is little room for people of colour within their institutions. Mundane daily activities such as jogging (Ahmaud Arberry) or walking home with a pack of skittles (Trayvon Martin) cannot be done without fear of harm or death. In the UK, unjustified interactions with police are a common occurrence amongst BAME individuals. Officers are four times more likely to use force against black people than they are white.
As a people we are traumatised. When you experience a stressful or traumatic experiences it’s often difficult to dis- associate from them without adequate treatment or therapy. Instead your mind begins to fixate on the past, leaving you mentally stuck on that experience. Centuries of slavery, lynchings, rapes- consistent and unprecedented attacks on the black community have had a similar effect. For example, black men are 17 times more likely to suffer from serious mental health conditions than other races.
We are constantly in a state of mourning. At present, adjusting to the gruelling effects of the Corona virus, which people of colour have a higher chance of suffering and dying from. To the murders of innocent black men and women, it is heart breaking to think that the passing of Ahmaud Arberry and George Floyd are mere 2 months apart.
As a people we are angry. It’s tiring and frustrating to constantly hear about the aimless killings and mistreatment of black people all over the globe. Recently, in China we saw African nationals being treated like animals due to misinformation on the spread of Covid-19. Even within our own continent the foundations of white supremacy run rampant. For example, South Africa a fully liberated country, home to white settlers that make up 9% of its population but still ownership over 72% of the country’s land. This clear fiscal advantage means that the concentration of power actually lies with this minority group. To the extent of being able to effect racist policies such as deeming natural hair in schools to be unruly or untidy. In an African country.
It feels somewhat expected, that blacks must suffer or endure maltreatment at the hands of countless racist regimes. Although the UK takes a more covet approach to racism, we know that the black elephant in the room is alive and kicking. We witnessed it during the Windrush scandal that saw Jamaican born individuals, brought to the UK as children being wrongfully deported. To this day, we’re still questioning whether a white British community would have fallen victim to the burning of the Grenfell tower?
The cry for black lives matter is being heard all over, we stand united asking for justice for George Floyd. But let’s not forget about the bigger picture, only systematic changes will prevent injustices of this extent from taking place. Use your voice, take up space and press for change in the places that matter.