#ICantBreathe: Racism; A Festering Wound

by Taofeek Ogunperi

It is one curious case that much of impacts and milestones by the black-skinned human has been doctored out of many pages of history or underreported, it is another disturbing matter that, for ages, blacks are killed by racists who think them dangerous. When Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States of America, it was sensational in that he is an African-American. People across the globe saw an America putting racial prejudice behind and rewriting the horror of the past. Sadly for the USA, as a Yoruba proverb posits, the habit of the pepper cannot desert it. In America, two pandemics prey upon humanity concurrently.

Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer, in a manner so unspeakable one can only cringe, murdered George Floyd, an African-American who had previously worked in a nightclub as he on May 25, 2020. According to Washington Post (May 29, 2020), Derek was previously involved in the fatal shooting of an African-American and had received at least 17 complaints during his nearly two decades with the department. Exposed with a video, his murder of Floyd has sparked protests where more people have been harassed and killed in the country. There have also been condemnations and tributes to Floyd the world over. Despite the outrage, in a country where the President embody all of the human tensions, including racism, one wonders what the fate of the many other George Floyds will be. America has suffered the most in the current pandemic but even if the death cases are in millions, Coronavirus can only be the second threat, for evil hearts pose more threat than any virus.

One could link and compare this murder to many others – from 14-year-old George Stinney, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, his girlfriend and 4-year-old Trayvon Martin. One could survey American literature to encounter this uninspiring part of the country – in Richard Wright’s Native Son’s Bigger Thomas, in the persona of Claude McKay’s If We Must Die. One could read George Schuyler’s Black No More and many texts like it. Or one could take up a copy of the Pulitzer prizewinning collection of poems, The Tradition by Jericho Brown. It is there in many characters, many broken bodies, mutilated bodies, haunted bodies, hunted bodies, the eternal horror of having to live with the guilt of being wrapped in a skin color that could get you killed and most likely will. And to know what exactly is missing, Danusha Lameris’s Small Kindnesses will introduce one to the little things that matter, the missing ingredients of humanity in the racist.

With America’s involvement in the crisis rocking the African Development Bank and its Presidency, this rude shock the country has treated the world to, and the recent alleged bias towards the Madagascar Cure, Black Africa is more sensitive to the skin color than ever before. Here is a boost for Afrocentrism. It is, without mincing words, obvious that beyond pretensions, the racial discrimination that makes the American climate is not subsiding anytime soon. It has been said loud clear, in these cases, that the whites will consider the world a beautiful place if and only if the Africans will stop their quest for the same human dignity that the white man enjoys, only if Africa will remain forever subservient to the West and ready for no exhibition of self-determinism.

More worrisome, however, is the continued influx of Africans in the white man’s land; where they are not welcome. Or, if a white could be so intolerant of his fellow American with a darker skin shade to have wanted them dead, would an African with even a darker shade be any welcome in ‘his neighborhood’? The problem with the black man, sadly, is beyond the skin. Centuries of subjugation and colonization – more damning, the mental colonization – has affected his mentality towards life and himself. The African seeks validity and approval from the white. It is important to note that the wave of racism goes beyond the shores of the West; it resides in African homes, where boys and girls learn to become White Africans, so to say, by whitening their skin tones. This ungrateful treatment of God’s work that is their skin, lies uneasily beneath even the loudest of rants and swiftest reactions to colonial assaults represented by many murders of African-American on the “no freedom” streets of the land of the free.

Racism is one plague that has been with humanity, especially the West, for centuries. Cultures and civilization evolve – shedding away the unpleasant and imbibing the otherwise – but, sadly, the ignoble culture of one human being loathing another on account of difference in skin colors has not changed. This is it: the old world of racial domination and subjugation is still much the same world we are in. The pain it inflicts is as much an historical headache as it is a contemporary angst and a trouble for the future of humanity, unless it is taken away.

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