This year has been exhausting for all of us but for the Black diaspora, the trauma we’ve experienced has been overwhelming.
I didn’t think I’d have to attend another protest but, on October 11th, I found myself outside of the Nigerian Embassy shouting “Ends Sars” in unity with my peers. After a few hours of peacefully protesting, one of the organisers yelled: “SARS has been dissolved.”
Some of us (including myself) were quite taken back at how quickly the decision had been made. Others were cynical of the news, but, I don’t think any of us could have anticipated the events ahead.
The Special Anti-Robbery Squad was created in 1992 as a way to tackle serious crimes in the country. SARS only operated in Lagos until 2002 before it then spread across 36 states. Over time, young Nigerians started to share stories of violent encounters with SARS. A video of a man being killed in Delta state began circulating online and thousands of young protesters took to the streets in cities across Nigeria with banners that read “#EndSARS.” Soon after the hashtag went viral Nigerians and other Black people in the diaspora protested in support. The government then announced that SARS was ”dissolved with immediate effect” but people were still unhappy with the news and continued to protest.
On October 20th protesters decided to block highways and toll gates in Lagos but they were met with armed forces who decided to open fire at the protesters. Nigerian musician DJ Switch broadcasted this live via Instagram and we were seeing young Nigerians being tragically killed in real-time. If this had occurred in the west, this would have been breaking news, but mainstream media outlets were one again, playing catch up with social media.
When we think of police brutality, people usually associate it with the west, specifically America
When we think of police brutality, people usually associate it with the west, specifically America. Though the Black Lives Matter movement started in America, police brutality is a global issue. Though this isn’t an act of racism what’s been happening in Nigeria isn’t any different from what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Ahmaud Arbery. The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement allowed non-Black people to learn more about how state violence affects Black people but it seems that the message might still be lost in translation.
After the Lekki massacre occurred, being on social media felt like I was in two completely different worlds. On one hand, I had myself and my friends who were mourning the death of protesters. On the other hand, I saw non-Black people clearly unaware of what was happening in Nigeria, living life care-free.
After the death of George Floyd, the outpouring of support from non-Black people shocked me.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been around since 2013 but this was the first time I saw non-Black people stand in solidarity with us on a global scale. Books about racism were bought, Black squares were posted on Instagram and brands started to speak out, it felt like a true awakening for many. Fast forward to the events taking place in Nigeria I couldn’t help but notice the silence from non-Black people who were the loudest a few months ago.
Silence doesn’t always mean compliance though.
Posting something related to a cause doesn’t automatically mean that you care. In the same way that not posting anything related to a social issue doesn’t mean you don’t care either. However, it seems apparent to me that people think there’s a difference between police brutality in the west compared to Africa. If we can all agree that Black people shouldn’t be killed by the police, how can you stay silent on something like this? Especially after the events, we’ve seen this year, raising awareness on these issues should be a continual thing. It also highlights the performativity of non-Black people. If Black lives are truly important to you, your support shouldn’t end for us when state violence happens outside of America.
If you see a difference between a Black person being killed by the police in the west compared to a Black person dying by the police in Nigeria, you need to consider if you really believe our lives matter. Black lives matter shouldn’t be synonymous with America, our lives are important in every country.
If you took the time out to educate yourself about the death of Black Americans you should be learning about the death of Nigerians too.