In response to the dramatic rise of police brutality in the United States in recent times, an activist movement known as the “Black Lives Matter” came into being. The movement, which is majorly a social media campaign, strives to turn on the spotlight on the plethora of crimes against African Americans in the United States, ranging from assaults to killings.
The reaction of many Nigerians towards the activist movement can be adequately summed up in the colloquial phrase “why are we taking Panadol for America’s headache?” This sentiment is shared by a large number of Nigerians who believe that Nigerians have more than enough of their own obstacles to deal with. The Nigerian attitude to the calamity facing their brothers and sisters is a non-challant one because most they believe that they should focus their energy fighting the battles on the home front.
It would seem, however, that the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are spurring a change in the attitude of Nigerians towards the movement. Sterling and Castile join, what has now become a long and unwinding, list of innocent African Americans gunned down by white male police officers. Sterling and Castile were killed between 48 hours of each other in horrific incidents. Alton Sterling’s death came first, as he was shot down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for selling CDs at the car park where he was gunned down. Sterling’s death was followed rather swiftly by Castille’s. Philando Castile was gunned down in his car in St Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday in front of his girlfriend and her son. Castille was shot as he reached for his driver’s licence. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, posted a Facebook Live video as the tragedy occurred.
The circumstances surrounding the unjust deaths of these men sparked international outrage. This can be attributed not only to the normalcy and mundane activities surrounding the deaths, but also to the submissive and non aggressive attitude of the men killed. These two men, whose deaths were recorded on mobile phones, can be seen cooperating willingly with the police officers and despite the fact that they cooperated, they were still gunned down. This coupled with the fact that America is the desired destination for many Nigerians brings the matter closer to home. Thousands of Nigerians seek for the American visa every year and an even larger number of Nigerians reside in the States.
As host of popular Nigerian web show, As Toyo Sees, Toyosi said: “You are black first before you are African”. It is quintessential that Nigerians do not isolate themselves from the Black Movement struggle. Standing strong with their brothers and sisters abroad will inevitably be to the advantage of Nigerians. Lest we forget, it was the Americans who stood with us and made #BringBackOurGirls campaign a global affair.