What Would Mandela Say on Floyd?

Guest Columnist: ISSA AREMU


Following the collapse of apartheid regime in South Africa early 90s, United States of America (USA) remains an undisputed leading failed state when it comes to race and racial relations.

This is the only 21st century Republic, where some humans are endangered species on account of their non-white skin colors .

The color- blind country dream of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remains a dream. The great pastor, non- violent leader of the Civil Rights Movement was himself assassinated in 1968, five years after his historic dream speech.

Only in America was an “Equality dream” got dastardly weaponized! No hiding place for most black Americans who are hourly officially harassed and killed at home and on the streets at the slightest accusations and alleged provocations.

Given the abysmal performance of President Donald Trump in managing Covid:19 pandemic with as many as 120,000 deaths, (half of global fatalities!), America passes for “catastrophic governance” which Professor Richard Joseph defines as “endemic practices that steadily undermine a country’s capacity to increase the supply of public goods”.
Richard Joseph is an American political scientist and the author of a seminal work on Nigeria’s prebendial state!. He paradoxically applied his notion of “catastrophic governance” in coming to terms with Nigeria’s perennial crisis of governance in the 90s.

He possibly never thought his concept would have a heuristic value in explaining America’s complications under Trump in 2020.

The fact that an African American won popular votes and massively triumphed in the Electoral college as the 44th President in 2008 has not altered the toxic narrative of race discourse!

On the contrary. Barack Obama is the first President forced to present his “long-form birth certificate”, almost at gun point , sorry, with the establishment media men “knees” literally and metaphorically “on his neck”. Obama, unlike George Floyd, had the last laugh, dismissing the smear prejudice as “silliness”.

It was nonetheless a deliberate orchestrated racist distraction which created a false impression that a black man in the White House was an underserved foul play. The question is after Obama, which woman of color would dare to pay another “ price of the ticket” to the White House without a humiliating racial media lynching?

On May 25 (paradoxically Africa Day!) in Minneapolisis an African American George Floyd, father of a 6- year old daughter was brutally murdered by some white murderers in American police uniforms. Their names sounded humans: Derek Chauvin, J Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Some fathers and mothers do have the hate-afflicted killers as children! Again only in God’s Own country:America!

This singular killing of another black man, emotionally repulsive provokes legitimate daily rage world wide with millions of protesters in diversity commendably determined to damn racism in all it’s ramifications. Thanks to the age of digital world that made humanity witness to a daylight murder.

But the point cannot be overstated: America remains a rogue state with respect to race precisely because it is permanently hunted by his lowly and miserable history of slavery.

America must apologize for slavery and pay reparations as demanded for by late Chief Moshood Abiola, winner of 1993 June 12th election. America must also halt it’s persistent denial of despicable past which fuels current addictive brutalities against the blacks. Some 400 years ago, a Dutch slave trader brought some scores of enslaved Africans, to Virginia, (then a British colony) which formed part of the United States 150 years later. By 1860, there were as many as 4 million enslaved black people – 13% of the population who toiled for US prosperity in chains. Indeed no less than 10 million African slaves were shipped to the American colonies. Some millions perished in the most gruesome trans Atlantic forced trade in African slaves.

Even when the trade in humans was banned by Congress in 1808, slavery still endured in USA. The 16th U.S. president Abraham Lincoln did not abolishe Slavery as received textbooks misleadingly put it.
It was the courageous millions of slaves who died fighting for emancipation.

Abraham Lincoln, of course, signed abolition act but he also unapologetically resisted the extension of Declaration of Independence, that says “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights”, to African slaves, Africans or African Americans. Saying Abraham Lincoln abolished Slavery is to say F.W. de Klerk, the last South African “State tormentor in Chief / Chieftain of apartheid South Africa, abolished apartheid in South Africa.

F.W de Klerk in 1993, undoubtedly publicly apologised for apartheid’s crimes, he was nonetheless an apologist of apartheid, indeed it’s beneficiary. It was the South Africans with global solidarity and with enormous sacrifices that defeated apartheid.

Witness Sharpeville massacre of 21 June 1960 in which apartheid police shot at a crowd of peaceful protestors and kill 69 people. What with 1976 Soweto massacres of 700 unarmed Students who protested compulsory introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of learning in schools in 1976? Witness Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid and for liberty for African people.

All Presidents of United States of America from Harry S Truman in 1948 when (Apartheid was formalized in South Africa) to Gorge Bush in 1993 ( when apartheid was defeated) shamelessly defended racism and apartheid. America’s CIA actually facilitated Nelson Mandela’s arrest on August 5 1962 after which he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The struggle for justice for George Floyd has triggered an unprecedented Anglo-Saxon Spring. The spectacular tore down on 7th of June in Bristol, (south-west of England), of the 125-year old statue of the 17th century notorious slave-owner Edward Colston, is emotionally cathartic for humanity. However beyound symbolism it’s time to dismantle structural racism, xenophobia, tribalism and ethnicity in United States in particular and the world in general.

There are no better quotable quotes on racism than Mandela’s who lived, confronted and defeated apartheid. On 15 October 1962 Mandela in a statement said “I detest racialism , because I regard it as a barbaric thing , whether it comes from a black man or a white man” .

A relook at the viral tape of George Floyd begging for breath (“I can’t breathe!) “They’re Going to Kill Me!) confirms how truly barbaric racism and xenophobia could be. “Racism”, Mandela rightly observed “ pollutes the atmosphere of human relations and poisons the minds of the backward , the bigoted and the prejudiced.”. That was in Harlem USA on 21 June 1990.

Mandela would not have imagined that in 2020, America which elected Bill Clinton and Barack Obama would produce a Donald Trump 45th President whose globally acknowledged “character flaws’ are stoking race riots during COVID: 19 pandemic.

His perverse bigoted glorification of violence is captured in quotable unquotable ( ‘when looting starts, shooting starts! ). Mandela long demanded that “Racism must be consciously combated and not discreetly tolerated” . Recently Africa Union (AU) spiritedly damned racist attacks on Africans in China. It must come to equity to rally against same official and institutional racism especially in criminal justice system of USA. “The very fact that racism degrades both the perpetrator and the victim commands that , if we are true to our commitment to protect Human dignity , we fight on until victory is archived”. All of us know how stubbornly racism can cling to the mind and how deeply it can infect the human soul .” That was in Mandela’s address to UN General Assembly on 3 October 1999. The British prime minister, Boris Johnson has said Britain is not a racist country .

This confession coming in the wake of British feverish Spring against racism is fine and reassuring.
Let all statesmen and women repeat Nelson Mandela’s pledge that “We shall never again allow our country to play host to racism . Nor shall our voices be stilted if we hear that another , elsewhere in the world , is victim to racial tyranny.”

*Issa Aremu is a Member National Institute, Kuru Jos.