In 2003 I was one young person that had a passion for many professions: from Journalism to Engineering, Fine Arts to Architecture. On one of those career-wish nights, I glued my eyes to the TV screen, cheering our own Ibiba DonPedro to clinch the CNN African Journalist of the Year Award.
She won as I hoped, but another journalist, whose name I did not know, won my heart. That evening, his simple presentation struck my mind, and resonates these many years. It was a clip from his radio show. The Internet makes me believe that he is a Ugandan, a presenter on Radio Simba called Eric Kakore. Let us leave him alone for now.
I have heard this much talk about how black lives should matter, but it took a lot of discipline to restrain myself from adding my voice to it. I remained a spectator through the violent protests, the online arguments and even the silent protests by some athletes recently.
I feel really sad about the extrajudicial killings in the United States, it does not matter to me if the victims are civilians or law-enforcement officers, or if the murderers are policemen or a man who has vowed to kill white policemen.
The United States has grappled with a race problem for a long time, and having a black president will not make it disappear in a second. The law on arms ownership in that country is not helping matters; when everyone on the streets could carry a gun, then every dispute will likely be settled with a gunshot.
When I read books and watch movies about the extent of the race problem in the recent past, it shocks me, and I realize that laws could only suppress the hatred of racists and not stop it. In reality, racism is not white, if I hate someone from another race even for hating me, then, I am equally a racist. Do I think that black lives really matter? No.
If you expected me to base my arguments on centuries of suppression of the black race, then you will be disappointed, because I am not taking this discussion beyond me and you.
Let us go back to the Ugandan journalist and what he said. His country was fighting insurgency, the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) were battling hard to rid the country of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). On his show, Mr. Kakore said something like this:
“TODAY I HEARD IN THE NEWS THAT 15 LRA REBELS WERE KILLED, AND ONLY ONE UPDF SOLDIER. WHY DID THEY SAY ‘ONLY ONE’? IS HE NOT ALSO A HUMAN BEING?”
This was a simple question that revealed the incomparable value of a life, even one life matters.
Sadly, life has been in recession. I am not referring to the soaring prices of goods and services that makes life difficult, but in just these years of my conscious existence, I have seen a nosedive on the value of life. In an ironic quest to put a high prize on the value of lives, legal systems in the world have become so adjusted that an obsessed Norwegian will spend 21 years in a comfortable prison for murdering 77 people. It means that he will spend one year in prison for every four persons whose lives he took. Human lives today are less valuable than ideologies, vengeful feelings or thrills, human lives do not seem to matter anymore.
If the value of human life has so plummeted, then black lives will be the worst hit. The value of a black life in this country has been less than political ambition, the ransom of a white man and recently, the value of one cow. At the same time, we criticize a nation that the unjust death of one black man will make everyone talk and condemn such acts in the strongest of terms. The death of one man will make the president and all politicians unite in reaffirming the supposed value of life. At the same time, in our own country, power-hungry officers will kill, ritualistic killings will take place, terrorists will strike and we will keep a blind eye because the stories are not glossy. Are the victims not also humans? Are they not blacks? And we will sit on our comfortable sofas and retweet trending news items as if we really care.
I find it difficult to believe that we responded so resoundingly to the picture of the Syrian boy who was taken to the hospital, blood-covered, but we are not even aware of the plight of the children in the North East of this country, whose features only match that painted by my mum, images captured in her young mind during the civil war. We close our eyes to the pot-bellied children with big heads and ribs that could be counted, or is it because the news of them is devoid of the glamour we desire? Do we realize that a quarter of a million of these children are severely malnourished and a fifth stand the risk of dying? All these are in just a few states of the North East worst hit by the insurgency.
We deceive ourselves and deny that we are at war. If we look at the statistics, we will see that Nigeria is third on the list of countries with major wars, third highest in casualties. But does a bomb blast in Bama draw as much attention to us as an attack in Munich? Maybe not on the BBC or CNN but what about our media and our minds. Do these lives not matter also?
When we react differently to news of death and abuse; when we campaign for those unjustly slain in another country while turning a blind eye to similar situations back home, we show that these lives does not matter to us. Life does not have a colour, so black lives don’t matter, all lives do!
(by Effiong Samuel and published on thesheet.ng in 2016)
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