The recent stories about violent police killings of African Americans are pulling at my heartstrings.
My expertise is in child and maternal health and wellbeing in Africa, and police brutality in the United States may seem like it is 6,218 miles (the distance from Lagos to Minneapolis) away from my wheelhouse. But that would be denying the reality that we Africans are a global community united by the colour of our skin and ancestries that have been altered by systems of oppression that have spanned and scrambled our societies for generations, and which we have, collectively and individually, climbed to overcome.
The video of George Floyd, pleading for his life from under the knee of a casual police officer; the story about the EMT nurse Breonna Taylor, shot a shocking eight times after a misunderstanding; that Ahmaud Arbery was practically hunted by mistaken neighbours while out for a jog is a stark reminder of our peoples’ endangerment.
With all of its power and functioning bureaucracies, the U.S. —held up as the pillar of democratic practice globally—has the means, the wherewithal, and the opportunity to signal to the world that it values black lives. I am given an ounce of relief in the fact that the U.S. Justice Department said it would make a federal investigation into Mr. Floyd’s death a “top priority.” However more must be done through education, investment and empowerment.
In the face of mounting police brutality in my own country, in 2019, I encouraged the youth-led END SARS Movement in Nigeria, initiated by the Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation. Their aim was to establish much-needed partnerships between the key security agencies, academia and industry practitioners for research-based solutions. They have advocated for operational and governance models to be developed—to put a stop to extrajudicial killings of young people.
Since then, some best practices have been adopted and shared, as well as SIAF joining a national security cooperation in support of peace and stability. The work continues as they liaise with national government security agencies and to facilitate them in improving operational standards and good governance, and as they help to maintain a peaceful and tranquil society.
Riots are not an answer – to enable change, stakeholders know that they must constantly undertake methodical studies of endemic and emergent problems in the principles and practices of law enforcement policing, intelligence operations, maintaining homeland security, transnational security and trafficking, corruption and the criminal justice system and promotion of science and technology. Reformation in correctional services and forensic sciences, being an integral part of the justice system, must also be researched thoroughly.
We as Africans and African diaspora must work to instil the understanding that soft phrases such as ‘race relations’ oftentimes hide the fact that racism for so many of us is corporal. The failure of health systems to protect and cure people of black and minority ethnicities around the world means that racism does manifest through organ failure via COVID-19. The failure of police hierarchies to ensure its ranks are careful, and the failure of education systems to teach its pupils about other cultures is manifested through bodies bleeding out from gunshots. Some are calling for African leaders to summon their local US ambassadors to speak out against these injustices, and in the name of our community, I join in that call. We must unite our global African community around these lost souls, who have been killed extra-judicially, to proclaim the might and meaning of human rights and social significance of our people.