Stephon Clarke was just standing in his grandmother’s backyard holding his cell phone when he was shot eight times in the back. Most of the shots fired were after he had already fallen to the ground. When the cops were brought in for questioning, they said they had mistook his cellphone for a gun. A cellphone had cost Stephon Clarke his life.
Police brutality cases like the murder of Stephon Clarke are nothing new. From Amadou Diallo to Michael Brown, the criminal justice system has been systematically targeting blacks since the emancipation of slavery. As the list of unarmed black men killed by the police grows, the fight for gun control and criminal justice reform intensifies.
But there is another issue that the Black Lives Matter movement has not addressed; the reality that there are still many Africans who refuse to identify with black Americans. Of course, that is not surprising. After all, the U.S. has a complex racial hierarchy system that many other countries are unfamiliar with. It is only upon entering the country that you truly discover what it means to be black in America.
I have witnessed this phenomenon with many of my own family members. They will reassure you that they are Ivorian, not black; that they do not resonate nor identify with the culture and traditions of Black Americans. And let’s be real, there are many African immigrants in the U.S. who look down upon Black Americans as inferior. Let’s not forget that the hate goes both ways though; we’ve all known of African kids taunted for being African booty scratchers by their black comrades.
We need to accept the fact that issues concerning police brutality involve us too, because to the average white American, we are all just black. A cop is not going to pause before grabbing their pistol to confirm that you’re African and not African-American. When they fire shots at you, they’re not going to see an electrician from Mali, a teacher from Guinea, or a Kenyan student. All they will see is a black body.
No one is saying that we should forget our unique identities and culture from home and simply assimilate. But in a crisis like the one we are currently living through, unity is something that we could all greatly benefit from. Let’s not forget that the slave masters purposely divided slaves because they feared that they would become too powerful if they congregated together. Now is not the time to look down upon African Americans because let’s face it: Black Lives Matter involves us too.
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