|African man being attacked in South Africa.
It started in South Africa. Well…it didn’t really. It was however one of the first times I had seen something so disturbing. So for me, it started in South Africa.
It was sometime in 2015. The news was flooded with gruesome images (and videos) of angry mobs chasing a man, capturing him and beating him to death. The mob was made of men, women and children who seemed eager – too eager – to kill this man. There was no justification for the scene that played out but I needed to know why these foaming-at-the-mouth people decided to take a man’s life in such a deliberately wicked manner.
I found out his crime; he was an immigrant. Just that. But for many South Africans, that was enough.
That incident wasn’t an isolated case. It was however my introduction into the word categorized as xenophobia.
I wondered how people could be so brutal and decidedly evil. There were nights when I couldn’t sleep because of the images and videos I had watched. I tried to understand the rationale behind killing immigrants. Some South Africans said these immigrants were the dregs of society and brought with them a life of crime and criminality. If that was the case, why then did they only seem to attack affluent or middle class people who were doing well for themselves, who had their own shops or businesses or who were students? Another rhetoric was that these immigrants were taking jobs away from citizens. Again, that rhetoric was flawed because in many cases, immigrants worked the dirtiest, most degrading jobs that citizens didn’t want. So if you didn’t want to do them, how could they have been ‘taken away’ from you?
As I mulled over these problems, even more disturbing stories began to come out. From America, Europe, South East Asia, Northern Africa and even our neighbors in other parts of Africa, there seemed to be a whole lot of hate for African immigrants; especially if they are from Nigeria.
Recently, I watched another really disturbing video showing how policemen from a Northern African country – I cannot remember which – treat black Africans in their prisons. This police man in particular beat an African prisoner so bad that he could not cry again. He just grunted every time a blow or a kick landed on his already bruised and broken body. Not satisfied with what he had done, the policeman pulled out a pocket knife and repeatedly stabbed the victim’s back with quick jabs of pain. The victim cried out again but the sound was lost in his throat. Only the agonized expression on his face explained what he had been trying to do.
I was sick to my bone at the images I had seen. I am very visual so I really guard my eyes from these kinds of images but I stumbled on these two and was glued to my screen; a testament of how horrifying they were.
My question then is, why do Africans go to other countries when they are obviously not wanted there? Why risk mob action, police brutality, racial or xenophobic discrimination, robbery and even death? And worse, why do they still stay in such countries after witnessing the hateful way with which their kin are treated?
The answer, though glaringly obvious, still hurts.
Our countries are not working!
It is 2019 and many African countries are still dealing with poor infrastructure, communally entrenched corruption, sub-par education, poverty, religious and tribal discrimination, firmly rooted patriarchy, a myriad of preventable and curable diseases, unnecessary wars of power and supposed superiority etc. We are still lagging far behind! The rest of the world is championing new fronts in all spheres of life. We can’t even access basic necessities if we are not among the wealthy or middle class in our countries. Affluence divides the line of people in all countries, and it is a problem in Africa because many of the affluent are where they are because they shortchanged the rest of the population.
So I want to tell my brothers and sisters to come back home and away from those horrible countries but… what are they coming back to? To failed systems that lets them down all the time? To governments that do not even care for them? Or to a no-dream country? Because you see, people would rather risk everything they have, even unto death, if it means a chance at a better life. That is why many Africans still try to cross the Mediterranean even though people are dying DAILY at sea. That is why we have immigrants doing the most disgusting jobs to survive. That is why our brothers and sisters return to communities where a brother was killed, hoping the sharp looks of hatred are just that; knowing that one day, they may transcend into something much worse.
This is the reality of the continent we call home.
And this why we have to, collectively, rewrite the entirety of our lives as Africans. We need to make our countries work! When each of our countries works, our continent will work! Europe is probably the most stable continent in the world because they have created systems that improve the lives of their people. Even Tunisia, which is a bedlam most of the time, works. Why can’t we have effective systems for ourselves? Why do we seem so keen on imploding first before finding ourselves? When will we catch up to the rest of the world?
We need to take a cue from Nehemiah’s wall; a system where everyone worked to fix their own wall as they added to the grand wall of Jerusalem. We don’t have to wait for our nobles and leaders to start causing the desired change that we want. We can start from ourselves and our immediate environment. Educate ourselves and our children, love our neighbors as we do ourselves, work hard, clean our environment, refuse to be corrupt or mediocre and contribute to our national development as if it was our personal projects; which it should be. If we all did our parts, all contributed to developing our land, all contributed to being a better family, race, country and people, maybe…just maybe, our brothers and sisters may not be too eager to run away from home, to face harsh conditions in the name of searching for ‘greener pastures’ and worse, lose their lives. Maybe if our home could become our haven instead of our hell, we wouldn’t have to see videos of members of our family beaten to death, or near death like in India; the reason I am writing this post in the first place.
This is my prayer for everyone who has to be in a foreign country that doesn’t want them. I pray for your safety; you are going to need it.