“Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.” Frantz Fanon
“Are we there yet” is the familiar and frequent cry of our children on those long road trips. Frankly and maybe embarrassingly most adults should admit that we can now relate to this annoying question after months of stay-at-home and work-from-home due to covid19. And then there were the protests. Youth took to the streets…14 days and counting…a convergence of four months of penned up frustrations from lock down with four centuries of rage based on racism, triggered by police murder of George Floyd. Many said, the protests will not yield anything in our “here we go again” voice but optimiss asked, could this be the turning point in justice? “Are we there yet?” A list of gains, circulating on social media, best captures the demands met by protestors including:
Minneapolis bans use of choke holds.
Charges are upgraded against Officer Chauvin, and accomplices are arrested and charged.
Dallas adopts a “duty to intervene” rule to stop other cops engaging in inappropriate use of force.
New Jersey’s attorney general will update use-of-force guidelines for the first time in 2 decades.
Maryland, a bipartisan work group of state lawmakers announced a police reform work group.
Los Angeles City Council introduces motion to reduce LAPD’s $1.8 billion operating budget.
Boston agrees to stop using public buses to transport police officers to protests.
Monuments celebrating confederates are removed in cities in Virginia, Alabama, and other states.
Street in front of the White House is renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica, Spain, Greece, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Syria, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand amongst other countries also joined in with “I can’t breathe” signs and protests representing both the last words of Floyd, and the last words of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man also murdered by police in Paris in 2016 in similar fashion. The rage filled removal of statues, though symbolic, was another significant product of the protests. Statues of King Leopold II of Belgium were targeted, as he was the most vicious 19th century European exploiter and murderer of an estimated 10 million Congolese during the “Scramble for Africa.” Cecil Rhodes did not escape. In front of Oxford University, crowds chanted “take it down” in support of the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign. Rhodes, founder of De Beers diamond firm, was a racist businessman and politician who helped shape southern Africa in the late 19th Century, steering the annexation of vast swathes of land. He’s memorialized with coveted scholarships for overseas students to Oxford University and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) were named after him. Removing these statues dotting colonial centers make a major statement, but are we there yet?
As we move one block forward, colonial mentality and white privilege takes us two blocks back. Invaluable iconic treasures stolen from Africa by colonial powers and proudly displayed in European museums and private collections are set to come up for auction at Christies and Sotheby’s. Quartz Africa’s Oluwatosin Adeshokan writes, “Auctions of valuable African artifacts, some of which could be identified as candidates for repatriation to their lands of origin by activists, would be controversial in normal times but particularly so during the ongoing global pandemic and its attendant economic fallout.” Seriously Sotheby’s and Christies? Mercantile interests trump justice. Sotheby’s March online auction of 100+ works from 58 artists across 21 African countries, yielded a massive 46% increase in number of bids from 2019 with sales of $2.9 million. Money talks. But my bets are on the youth to tackle this issue too, hopefully shaming African countries to swap diplomacy for demands.
Finally, right here at home on the continent South African Julius Malema’s reprimand to fellow citizens was clear. Malema, the unrepentant firebrand armed with powerful and sometime painful speeches targeting the ANC status quo, emphatically declared that South Africans can’t say Black Lives Matter while killing Mozambicans, Nigerians, Zimbabweans etc. Discussions about black on black crime are also being held with the awful conclusion that we have known forever, the root of black economic and social issues are rooted in racism. So are we there yet? Frantz Fanon, known as a radical psychiatrist said, “Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.” His anti-racist anti-colonial approach to psychiatry, known as “institutional psychotherapy” asserts colonialism has a direct psychic effect with the “ability to render one mad by hijacking their person, their being, and their sense of self.” His famous books Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth unpacked the psychological effects of racist social and economic structures while probing the how’s of mental liberation. So with visible gains from the protest, including Ghana’s invitation to her kith and kin to return home, it appears we still have a way to go. So stock up on snacks, fuel, entertainment, educational materials etc. cause we are not there yet.
Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.