Friday, 23 September 2016

An African Man Trying to Understand US Cops Killing Black Men

It is another week and CNN is reporting another shooting in the United States of America. It is followed by protests in the streets that extend into the wee hours of the evenings. Placards and clenched fists are raised in the air. It is clear from the scenes that I am watching that the people are upset. This is not the first time, I have witnessed such scenes. I have seen these familiar scenes before. The only difference is that the names have changed. This time around it is Terrence Crutcher and Keith Scott who have been shot dead by police officers in separate incidents. Like I said earlier these scenes are familiar there is something else that is familiar, the men who were shot are BLACK.

I am an African born in Zambia and I am black. In my country decisions about whether I succeed or fail, be free or go to jail, live or die are not based on the colour of my skin. In my country the talk is not much about the colour of my skin perhaps tribe. Even though Keith Scott and Terrence Crutcher were not Zambians, I received the news with sadness. It is more than the loss of life that was bothering there was something much more. I did not know them or their family, they were not Zambians, and our only connection was that they were black men like me. And that is probably where all these mixture of emotions are coming from. I am failing to understand how being black made them most likely to be shot dead.

Terrence Crutcher with hands raised

Terrence Crutcher was shot when his car broke down; he had his hands raised when the cop shot him. This man was not a criminal, he did not show any aggression and yet he lost his life. His only crime was being black. Terrence has now become a statistic that can be added to the list of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and others all killed by cops. The other familiar thing about all the names I have mentioned, the cops are never indicted for killings. This is despite the fact that the evidence is clear to me who is oceans apart that the victims did not deserve to die.

I am now asking myself questions such as, "What is it about a black man that some people find threatening?" Surely those individuals did not deserve to die. Is it that their lives are not valued and do not matter? Don't the cops see the wives, husbands, children, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers behind the people whose lives they shorten by the pulling of the trigger? I was recently in the USA and I was afraid each time I saw a cop. I did not make eye contact with them, held my breath, and walked upright. Random thoughts raced through my mind preparing myself to raise my hands if they uttered a word to me... Coming to think about it now would raising hands have helped it clearly did not help Terrence. At that moment I knew that I was conscience of the fact that I was black, something I never do in Zambia.

As an African who is witnessing the murdering of blacks in America by cops, I can empathise with black people who live in America but I doubt I can ever fully grasp the pain, fear, struggles, injustice and loss they go through. And I still do not know what to do or say in solidarity. Is there anything that Africans can do or say that will make a difference? Should our presidents be calling on the United States America to uphold human rights as they often do when it comes to African countries? Should we hold solidarity marches for our brothers and sisters who are killed? The sad part about all this, it will not be long until I turn on CNN and see the same news again. Another black man shot dead by the police, and once again I will be left wondering if there is anything I can do? At this moment, all I can do is think of Martin Luther King's words, "I look to a day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but the content of their character."