The Guardian
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Between black and white


mcspadden mcculloch

ALTHOUGH the long anti-racism protests that raged in the United States of America recently might seem to have abated, they have unearthed deep-seated racial animosity that interrogates all that the American dream stands for. To the global black community, old scars of yesteryear’s atrocities against the African-American community have resurfaced as fresh wounds, thereby imposing on Nigeria (the world’s most populous black nation) a burden of being the black man’s rallying platform. 

    In the last few weeks, the world has been reacting to isolated killings of the Michael Browns, the Eric Garners, and others, but has seldom thought deeply about how disturbing the systemic racism is that underlies the social justice machinery of the fabled God’s Own Country, and how it hits hard on the black community. Racism is not restricted to black-white discrimination alone, though. The influx of Latin Americans into the U.S. is expanding the latitude of racial discrimination. Although unreported by mainstream media, race relations between blacks and Latinos have also festered for decades.

   Today’s America, as New York mayor Bill DeBlasio, himself married to a black woman, thus, a father of a black son, knows too well, is a parenting challenge for bi-racial families. In a country where the police have become an effective instrument of domestic terror, blacks and bi-racial people still need to grapple with the fact of  whether or not they enjoy the same sense of inclusiveness in the over-all American social system. Speaking on the ABC News Programme, This Week, DeBlasio courted indignation from the police when he declared: “We have to retrain police force in how to work with communities differently. We have to work on things like body cameras that would provide different level of transparency and accountability. This is something systemic. And we bluntly have to talk about the historic racial dynamics that underlie this.”

   That one is white, black, yellow or brown does not make one less of a human being. Man’s intrinsic worth as being endowed with reason and freedom is not fundamentally devalued by being classified under one race or another, except a warped sense of ontology does so. And it is this dubious elevation of artificial boundaries to an immutable truth that the American dream proposed to negate, when the founding fathers of that nation evolved a land of the free. 

   By its constitution, the United States of America is a bastion of freedom, where the infinite refinement of reason continually entrenches common humanity through justice and equality. However, it is unfortunate and rather ominous that this symbol of human commonness is now pandering to the social cankerworm its founding fathers swore to eliminate. It is also hypocritical that the same prejudice, which the American government and people denounce with the lives of its young citizens in fighting Islamic terrorism, has become the unwritten code of its social justice system. This is disturbing and condemnable.

   Whatever the boundaries created around humanity’s existential space and the constructs spelt out to represent them, the human community is fundamentally one. No group of people become gods by virtue of the nomenclature ascribed to their being. If race is a description of our facticity, that is, an existential situation we cannot change, it is by that fact a pointer to the diversity that makes our world beautiful. The United States of America, by its motto, E Pluribus Unum, (Out of many one) gives credence to this diversity by transcending narrow mundanities and stereotyping which racism promotes. 

   Theorists and scholars, in defence of the human diversity which America represents, have ruled out any meaningfulness in the idea of race. The absurdity of race is also unveiled in the social experiences of bi-racial and multi-racial persons such as renowned former Harvard scholar and British-born American of Ghanaian descent, Kwame Antony Appiah, who dubbed the concept of race as an illusion, for the simple reason that there is no universal or objective principle by which race can be expressed.

   While not denying the social expediency of race, the authorities must ensure that the rule of law is preserved as immigrants flock into the U.S. America must not only be known to be a land of the free, it must be seen to be so. Besides preserving the rule of law, it must also properly educate its people in tandem with its national philosophy. In this regard, its people should bear in mind that despite the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court prescription in the Brown v Board of Education ruling and the 1964 Civil Rights Acts, which banned segregation and affirmed the right to quality education for all children, a U.S. government report released in March 2014, stated that blacks and non-white students in public schools get more punishment and less access to quality teachers than their white counterparts. If the dream of its founding fathers is to be sustained, the American people must purge themselves of the ethnic prejudices and biases of their pre-American roots.

   What business has this admonition to Nigeria? This ugly event playing out in the U.S. is illustrative of the burden Nigeria carries as the Big Brother of the global black community. Blacks, the world over, look up to Nigeria as their symbolic home. As many of them experience a new wave of racism in a land that reminds them of the unfortunate past of their forebears, they can only wish that things are looking up in this symbolic home. But alas, the story is the same, if not worse. If in today’s world a community of black people kill themselves and wipe out clans, and women and children are needlessly sacrificed for the beliefs of imposed foreign religions, why should oppressed blacks look up to Nigeria for any succour? The nation, under whom the whole black community could find a rallying shade, has lost its own moral compass. 

   Nigeria must not be aloof to the happenings in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world with a strong presence of black people. Nigeria must, therefore, arise to put its house in order because the black man’s burden becomes Nigeria’s burden.

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