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A global pandemic: Lessons for black-ness

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Protesters hold placards as they march through London towards Parliament Square in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in London on July 5, 2020, in the aftermath of the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody in the US. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

We Africans at home and in the diaspora quite recently had to react with righteous indignation at the effrontery of two French doctors who on TV in France suggested that a possible vaccine for COVID-19 be tested in Africa on Africans. The reaction was immediate; it was strong and unanimous from the world of the black peoples from around the world. The said French doctors recanted immediately and offered their immediate mea culpas. For anyone who pay attention to the myriads of theories flying around the web, there is no denying the fact that there are theories about the French collusion with the Americans and the Bill Gates’ Foundation to carry out vaccinations in Africa, which are dubious and suspect in intentions. Africans around the world have had plenty to say about this matter. Videos upon videos have been made by coalitions, self-acclaimed professionals in the medical field and bloggers creating a ragtag misfit army of resistance. I have seen these outbursts like that of a toothless bulldog, barking all day long while tethered in chains to a post. Like that bulldog, the barking slowly withers into whimpering and then fizzles out as it gives up and lies down accepting its powerlessness to attack even if it wanted to. For a long time, Africans have perfected this art form of immediate reaction on paper, on social media, we whine, whine, and succumb to the inevitable powerlessness and unproductive venture of a lightweight wanting to engage a heavyweight in a boxing title match.

I have seen this circle of risible reactionary tendencies among black people, which, simply losses steam after a short while, and smolders into mere aporetic naiveté. A very short while ago, President Donald Trump, in one of his childlike outbursts made the comment that Haitians and Africans (Nigerians) should crawl back into the irsh**holes. Outrage, a maelstrom haranguing the offender followed. Then it simmered down and we all went back to queuing up at the various American money laundering systems named “American embassy” all over Africa. When Africans were dying in droves in the Sahara desert and on the Atlantic trying to cross over, or when the Arab world started to re-enslave Africans for cheap labor or sex trade, all we did was excoriate the offenders, propound theories about the mistreatment of Africans. Only for our visionless leaders to then cower in the presence of other governments and lead us back into our tethered powerlessness. This also can be said of Africa’s newfound attraction to China’s money and the immediate superiority complex of the Chinese over Africans and the continent as a whole.

Unfortunately, this is not a new story, as African nations over time has been saddled with a good number of absent-minded panhandlers who occupy leadership roles in successive African governments; this is what we have always done in history. When the colonizers came and took over our land, the resistance was childlike. Our so-called victory at independence was no more than a trick where the colonialists entrusted their creation into the hands of their lackeys. God forbid at any time, that a true Pan Africanist were to lead his nation, the same colonial master will systematically eliminate him, always with the help of an African. Black folks will yell blue murder, write incisive commentaries then momentarily lose steam and lapse back into inertia. The ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic has given me anepiphany – a new light by which I can re-negotiate my former claims and understanding of blackness the type that is common specifically to the black continent.

As a matter of historical reality, the black human has suffered more indignities than any other homosapien on the face of the globe not minding the color of their skin. Studies have shown that most Caucasians from the very moments of first coming in contact with the black person, perceived themselves to be of a superior kind. They make the unsubstantiated claim to be a more advanced society due to their technology and sophistication. However, history shows that civilization stems from Africa and many kingdoms already established a far superior form of trade, government and culture while Europe was still floundering, living in stone cottages without electricity or in house convenience. Some scholars argued that the self-introduction, intrusion and usurpation by the Europeans accounts for the stunted growth of African. Whether this is true or not is not the point of my essay. I know that not one African was at the Berlin Conference when Europeans scrambled for and decided on the partitioning of Africa among themselves. The United States refused to participate in the said conference. They simply brought ships and kidnapped at will black men, women and children into slavery, without negotiations, terms of agreement or any known contractual agreement to the possible years of servitude on sugar cane plantations and cotton fields of the ‘brave new world.’

These black bodies abducted from their homelands and brought into a new nation without visa requirements, work permit or green cards became the back bent in labour to birth a new industrial nation. Through years of servitude and oppression, treated less humanely than the ‘gentry’ treated their pets, from one lynching tree to another, some civil rights were achieved; the right to sit on buses, to desegregate schools and public places but not the same right to equal opportunities economically, educationally and worse still in matters of justice. After emasculating the black body and robbing them of basic human dignity, the black male became habitués and most time, permanent residents of the prison system. Most of the remaining black men yet to be a guest of the government in penitentiaries across the nation are jobless and are engaging in addictions that can only lead in either of two directions; an early grave or the HQs of the black American nation – prison! The ties that binds the black person is family and faith, even that surreptitiously has been taken from them. I do not consider myself qualified to tell the story of the “African-American”, but I can tell the story of the Negroid around the world, subjugated, classified as less intelligent, and of a lower class within the human species. The current pandemic especially in the United State, not knowing yet the decimation it may wreak on the face of the black continent, has shown that a new virus is attracted to blackness than to anyone else’s’ color!

In the wisdom of our African progenitors, they warn that if one does not take hold of one’s destiny, others will and determine if you will live free or die in chains. Since no one is inured from the ravaging current global pandemic, and as the world is forced to reevaluate our common humanity on many phases, I have chosen to explore the impact and derivative lessons of this global event and how it has impacted the black race, albeit, those of the African persuasion. The insult and insistence of forced vaccination trials on African ‘guinea pigs’ ought to call any intelligent black mind to an introspection. There is a need to question the insidiousness and constant attempts by the west to pillage, lay to waste and subjugate the human and natural resources of Africa. One easily comes to the simple conclusion, Africa’s continued profligacy in governance and leadership, the mismanagement of the continent’s natural resources is the cause of the pauperization of the continent- this is no news.

To be continued tomorrow

Rev. Fr. Odeyemi is adjunct instructor, Department of Theology, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA.


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