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OPINION | Black lives matter only for Americans & not necessarily for Africans

04 January 2021 - 09:00 By Masego Seemela
Slogans of solidarity during the #EndSARS protest in Cape Town.
Slogans of solidarity during the #EndSARS protest in Cape Town.
Image: Esa Alexander

2020 has been one eventful year, and one of the topics that has been dominating the headlines all over the world is the Black Lives Matter movement which many can attest gained popularity in the US but not so much in Africa.

It's like when it comes to Africans, the whole world develops hearing problems.

In October, “Africa is bleeding” were the three words cried out by many Africans, however, not necessarily by Americans! All we wanted was the world to just stop and see what's happening to the most richly-resourced yet poorest continent.

As in the old days of slavery, Africans are still enslaved, tortured, raped and murdered in ways that should have the world coming to a standstill as it did for George Floyd or Breonna Taylor.

In May this year, many parts of the world, including Africa, mobilised protests against the horrific nature of George Floyd's senseless killing at the hands of a white policeman. Not only did we [Africans] march, but we also flooded social media with messages of support showing how we were standing in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters.

Even though we are oceans apart, we made it clear how outraged and appalled we were about the police brutality of black people in the States.

Now fast forward to October, the coin has flipped, things are bad in Africa. From human trafficking, femicide attacks to senseless killings by the police, almost every country on the continent is experiencing some sort of brutality but are we even trending there by American black Twitter? 

Why not? Maybe Africa is not bleeding enough for the world to take to the streets and protest against the senseless sh*t that's happening in “the motherland”.

On October 20, Nigerian soldiers opened fire on protesters demonstrating against police brutality in the Lekki district of the commercial capital Lagos.

This after thousands of Nigerians had been demonstrating nationwide every day for nearly two weeks against a police unit, the special anti-robbery squad (SARS), that rights groups had for years accused of extortion, harassment, torture and murder.

The unit was disbanded on October 11 but the protests persisted, with demonstrators calling for a raft of law-enforcement reforms. Viral videos of the senseless shootings left African black Twitter enraged, with hashtags #EndSARS and #LekkiMassacre dominating the trends list. Mzansi celebs such as Cassper, AKA, Boity, Pearl Thusi, Nasty C and Moozlie sent their love and support to protesters in Nigeria.  

Things are not only bad in Nigeria, Congo is also now enduring a “silent holocaust” where many Congolese people are being brutally killed.

Here in SA, we've been fighting against the abuse and killing of women and children through the #AmINext movement but that doesn't seem to be grabbing any consistent international attention.

These are just a drop in the ocean of the number of fatal issues faced by other countries in Africa. I repeat, Africa is bleeding, can't you see? 

For hundreds of years, Africans have been suffering and it's so disheartening that even in a year such as this, we still continue to suffer and die.

Yeah, sure Beyoncé, Rihanna, Gabrielle Union and many other global celebrities used their platforms to bring awareness of what's happening in Africa but, sadly, that's not enough.

We want and expect more from our fellow African American and European brothers and sisters. But maybe I'm expecting too much from them. Maybe we [Africans] are “overzealous” and must also just blue tick cries from our fellow Africans in foreign lands.

A friend of mine made some sense when I was busy gathering my thoughts about this piece. He said, “As Africans, we need to practise restraint sometimes ... let's be honest they [African Americans, and so on] never asked us to join their protests. So why are we expecting so much from them?” 

If someone had told me this was how the year 2020 would pan out, coronavirus, bloodshed, you name it ... I'd definitely side-eye them and keep it moving because, gosh, it's like we're acting out roles in a movie. Surely this is not real life?!