George Floyd, a black man of fourty-six years, and a father of two children in Minneapolis, attempted to con a tobacco and wine store owner by trying to pass a fake bill of twenty American dollars. It is not known whether Floyd wanted to defraud the store owner some cigarettes or beer. What is known is that the store owner noticed the fake bill, then alerted nearby four police men on patrol to execute the arrest. According to the social media video clip, the policemen wrestled with Floyd who was resisting arrest, but after handcuffing him, the police shoved Floyd’s shoulder deep under the police van, leaving his neck and head to extend out. Then one of the policemen knelt on the neck of George Floyd. The kneeling took nine minutes during which George Floyd groaned, “I can’t breathe” several times before crying for some water. Floyd died immediately; his body was taken to a nearby clinic from where he was declared dead due to asphyxiation caused by the white police man kneeling on his neck. The poor and unfortunate George Floyd was also a descendant of black slavery in America.
The cruel inhumanity that marked the death of George Floyd triggered racial emotions and historical rationalism that made all the fifty states of America break into wild demonstrations. Black demonstrators filled the streets of all major towns in America for weeks, chanting “black lives matter,” but later on people from non-black American populations joined the demonstrations. This is when the demonstrations spiraled to Europe and Asia, but not to Africa. The demonstrations observed in Africa were mild and only seen in some countries. But in Europe the demonstrations were intense; governments of some countries in Europe and Asia began pulling down the statues and monuments of slave traders. Some African political activists supported this move against the statues of slavery and racism, the idea which must be accepted as timely under the context of cultural and socio-political perspectives. Indeed, it is a fact that for Europe and America to pay respect to statues and monuments of historical masters of cruelty on the African race in the likes of Leopold, Rhodes and other beneficiaries of slavery, is tantamount to Euro-American addiction to cultural perversity in form of brutality on Africans and Semites other than showing overt recognition and conscientious obligation to the Western political ideals of democracy, liberty, actuality, fraternity and equality. Contextually, Francois Verges, an Afro-Parisian historian and political scientist, argues that for a black person walking along the streets in the cities in Europe garlanded with gargantuan statues of criminals in the likes of world famous slave traders, this is an experience of fear, inequality and one that recalls memories of brutality.
The above observations by Professor Verges are somewhat water-tight in a psychological sense, but it will be foolhardy for the active history to absolve fully a black person from the crimes of black slavery that happened in the past and those that are currently taking place across the world. In Slave Descendants of Rabbi, a book about the trans-Indian Ocean slavery, Joe Khamisi exposes clearly several archives of evidences showing black African chiefs from Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Uganda, Mozambique, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia and Sudan that used to raid and capture and then hold in captive their victims until the Arab slave traders would arrive from the East African coast, coming to buy the captives that will be sold later on as slaves at Zanzibar slave market. The same African chiefs would provide security details to the Arab slave buyers driving coffles and coffles of the captured black slaves to the coast. That is why Arab slave traders like Muhammad Tippu Tipu a foreigner, a stranger and an Arab in Africa was able to walk freely and safely across Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Congo, buying slaves on his way, keeping them in stores managed by African village chiefs, and walk back for months from Congo driving coffles of black women and men across villages in the hinterland of East Africa to the slave market at Zanzibar as the African village leaders of that time looked on in admiration. This was so as long as the persons on the coffles were not blood relatives or friends of the chiefs. It is shameful to realise that pre-colonial societies in East Africa protected those Arabs that came to buy slaves, but the same societies violently resisted the European Christian evangelisers, educationists and railway construction workers.
Before you blame Europe and America for perpetrating slavery, colonialism and racism on Africans, think of a poorly armed Arab from Yemen or Dubai, coming to Africa as an individual buyer of black slaves going deep down the hinterland of the East African villages to establish a slave buying post or centre, but there is not any African chief or villager reacting to such social invasion by organising any uprising in protest, or launching acts of resistance against such criminal moves. Also, before you blame a white man for racial injustices on an African, think of those pre-colonial African chiefs that were shameless accomplices to Arabs in perpetrating the crime of buying and selling black slaves at Zanzibar to be shipped as cargoes to Bombay before being re-distributed to sugar farms in Europe, the Caribbean and America. Also think of the pre-colonial African chiefs that helped Arab enslavers only to be rewarded with funny items like tobacco, salt, a long gun, a bullet, a piece of white cloth, a smoking pipe, a bracelet ornament, cowrie shells and sometimes with only a promise of “wait for me to come back with your present.”
In the same book, Joe Khamisi develops an appendix under which is a list of families of survivors of Indian Ocean slavery and the families of African chiefs, as well as families that participated in the raiding and selling of black slaves to Arab enslavers. These are the same families that later on collaborated with colonisers and the first post-colonial African governments. This trait of dirty opportunism enabled these same families to be among the currently rich drug lords and politically well connected East African families.
Reading historical documentaries like the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade by Walter Rodney and Creative non-fictions like The Book of Negroes or One Blood Drop Rule by Lawrence Hill clearly shows that very many black chiefs and black-slave hunters facilitated the raiding, capturing and selling of black slaves to the European and white American enslavers operating at the West African Atlantic ocean coast. Critical reading of Olaudah Equiano’s Travel similarly testifies that there was significant undoing in terms of administrative omissions on the hand of the African political and social organisations that led to the uncontested capture and enslavement of Olaudah Equiano. This is a clear argument that, just like the sons of Jacob in the Bible, selling away Joseph, their young brother, to be enslaved in Egypt, African chiefs and merchants also sold away their disadvantaged brothers and sisters to be enslaved in America, Caribbean Islands and Europe.
It is an indisputable fact that if at all African chiefs and merchants had waged a spirited resistance to slavery like a female character in Toni Morrison’s book, Beloved, who chose to murder her own child rather than seeing the child grow up to become an adult that would only be enslaved by the white enslavers, then the enslavement of Africans that took place in the last five centuries would not have taken place in a large scale as it did and is still going on today.
As if five centuries of black slavery was not enough, in Africa today and even foreseeable tomorrow, we have well-doing online slave markets for buying and selling black slaves from West and East Africa. We also have physical markets for black slaves in some North African countries and in some countries in the Middle East. The Internet has some evidence that between 2017 and 2020, there has been substantial buying and selling of black slaves on slave markets in Libya, Mauritania and the Middle East. Most of the slaves on the markets have been self-willed or self-enslaving educated young men and women from Nigeria and other West African as well as East African countries, not to mention the Horn of Africa. Current researches in the social psychology of self-enslavement have revealed that young people from Africa prefer to be enslaved in America and Europe so that they can at least access some opportunity to do some work that has some pay rather than remaining in Africa to taste the ill-fated full cycle of personal poverty under the full-scale glowing vulgarity of African politics. The selfish politics that compel throngs of young people from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Djibouti, Khartoum and Congo as well as many other parts of Africa to move as illegal migrants to Europe and America only to die in ever recurring capsizing boats in the deep sea waters of the Mediterranean or for those maneuvering to the US through South America to die of dehydration while in the no-man’s land between Mexico and America, should be investigated. The present type of selfish politics orchestrated by political cartels in Africa is not different in any manner from the selfish leadership and avarice among the pre-colonial African chiefs from Ujiji villages in Western Tanzania that helped Arab enslavers in capturing and enslaving powerless villagers.
Africans in the past were raided, captured and then sold by their own leaders and brothers into slavery, but today’s politics of exclusion, police brutality, ethnicity in giving jobs to the youths, gender violence, intolerance to the queer, civil wars in defense of life-presidents, abject poverty, election related violence, poor pay for teachers and lecturers, crude culture and general failure in public governance, combine to compel the young people from powerless families in Africa to opt for self-enslavement to Europe and America through green card lotteries, illegal migration, political asylum seeking, salvage from ecological destitution, scholarships, then hard-earned citizenship. Of course, there are very many informative self-enslaving stories narrated in the 2007 edition of KWANI? journal. In the journal, there is a chapter with an interview between Billy Kahora, the editor, and David Onyango Oloo, the interviewee. The dialogue is about how African migrants manage to be accepted for some stay in the Diaspora. Onyango Oloo narrates that most Africans cheat and lie in order to be accepted as refugees in Canada. In the interview, Onyango Oloo reminisced about Gikuyus and Luos who faked stories to be accepted as refugees in Canada; a Luo lady from Kenya with a first degree in science faked that she ran away from Kenya because the people in Kenya wanted to cut her clitoris in a traditional FGM operation (note that the Luo community don’t practice both male and female circumcision). Likewise, a Gikuyu man faked that he ran away from the human sacrifice ceremony organised by the ex-Mau Mau chief in which he was to be sacrificed (also note that Gikuyus don’t observe rituals of human sacrifice); A Luo man faked that he was homosexual and he was running away from the state-sponsored mob justice in Kenya. Surprisingly, Oloo informed his interviewer that the people faking their ways into refugee status in Canada were holders of first degree from Kenya; they began working as dish-washers at small-sized hotels or as lawn mowers or drivers after being accepted as refugees in Canada.
Besides stories published in the KWANI? journal, there is a very enticing story about self-enslavement in the East African public domain about a lawyer from Uganda who resigned from working as a lawyer in Uganda and faked her way to Sweden as a war refugee from Northern Uganda. She now works comfortably in Sweeden as a baby-sitter.
Let me relate the above episodes to what Yoweri Museveni said some years ago. He made a public statement that, “when you display physical weaknesses, you attract the offenders to attack you.” I believe Museveni was alluding to Shakespeare in King Lear, in which it was observed that “when you put down your weapons, the enemies will be attracted to attack you.” And truly, Africa has put down its weapon only to attract hostile offenders; one of the offensive blots at Africa is hostile racism to African people in the Diaspora. There is little way a native Canadian or white American can respect an African who has come to America as a self-willed slave packaged and branded as an illegal migrant running away from poverty, hostility to homosexuals or political brutality at his or her home country in Africa. Even the study of psychology dictates that there is no way a normal human being can value an alien on the run from social vulgarities in his or her country of origin. Thus, racist treatment of black people in America, Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia will not stop until politics in Africa matures to a level of social decorum substantially to be seen in the manner in which governments in Africa deal with the powerless people of Africa. Otherwise, the indecent life of poverty and social squalour under the tyranny of political brutality at the country of origin will persist to transform itself to be reflected as racism in the country of destiny for Africans moving around in search of comfort.
The above premise is anchored on the argument that the best way to explain racism is not by focusing on the colour of the skin, but by focusing on the difference in economic advantages between the victims and perpetrators of racism. Racism is just an overtone of dialectical and historical materialism; it is a historical consciousness that emerges whenever those who have a rich heritage of owning meet those from a rich tradition of not owning. Such like phenomenon recently came up as xenophobia on the surface of social dynamics in South Africa. The same situation is currently observable among Kenya’s urban areas in the manner in which Kenyans treat the ever increasing populations of lame street beggars from Tanzania, sporadic populations of refugees from Somalia and as well as the ever swelling populations of female sex workers from Uganda. These three populations types experience the worst levels of police brutality, verbal harassment, social mistreatment and open derision in Kenya. They undergo all these hostile experiences for no other reason, but for being social rejects from their countries of origin and hence being identified as the foreigners that are socially junked by the politics in their home countries on to the Kenyan labour market, only to compete for scarce social benefits given by the Kenyan government. For example, If the lame beggars from Tanzania had been white people, then we would be talking about racism in Kenya without opening our eyes to see bad politics, poverty of social policy in Tanzania working as the mother of vulnerability in which wallows the Tanzanians in the Diaspora. Technically, we are all potential racists, only that our economic classes have never given us an opportunity or a victim to oppress.
Hopefully, it is not an overstatement thus to premise that the “Black Lives Matter” protests nudge we the living to look at the death of George Floyd through the eyes of a Manager; fact based on conscience that management or governance is a social process that need not only enable the interested organisations and institutions earn economic gains, but must also enable the interested organisations and institutions to achieve positive, social results in addition to enjoying good relations with its environment. In this context, ‘environment’ means individuals, communities, societies, other nearby institutions and organisations, as well as the immediate ecological factors.
George Floyd did not deserve to die like that. The offence he had committed was trying to pass a fake bill of twenty US dollars at a wine and tobacco store. The procedure of American criminal justice does not punish with death the crime of possessing and intending to use for purchase of goods a fake bill of twenty American dollars. In a fair trial, this crime attracts a punishment of less than twelve months in prison. But just as Taban Lo Liyong would put it, the Minneapolis Police officer must have thought that his public killing of George Floyd will only be rationalised away by the world as case of “another nigga dead.” But no, unfortunately for the Minneapolis Police Department, the extra-judicial killing incident of George Floyd was captured by the social media, and hence things took a different direction. For weeks, France 24 television aired endless facades of wild protests erupting continuously, the waves of spirited protests swept like a Harmattan bush fire across all the fifty states of America; the major towns of the UK, Germany, France, Tunisia, Japan, Spain, Belgium and many other parts of the world. Televisions captured throngs of youths in their diversities leading the protests on the streets of mega cities of the world, chanting all types of the anti-racist slogans: “black lives matter,” “white silence is violence,” and so on. It never became a case of “another nigga dead” as white police officer had thought; it is now a battle of life on both sides.
The policeman and his two colleagues that were on patrol at the particular time of killing George Floyd are now charged with murder on a bail of one million American dollars, the Minneapolis police department got dismantled, several democrat politicians have taken to the congress several multi-dimensional bills targeting police reforms and re-organisation of police recruitment; and the British statues of world famous slave traders and other slavers all over the world got pushed down. This was not all. Still, demonstrators and civil societies are pushing on, and across America there are still over one million people on the streets marching for racial rights. Demonstrations began with one slogan of “black lives matter” but later on they got wide in scope, only to ignite the fire that began burning other fibers of racial consciousness, igniting the pro-people chanting, “Asians for black lives,” “Jews for black lives,” “French justice for black lives,” and many other social actions for racial justice that resembled global scale impeachment to the legacy of American politics under the leadership of Donald Trump.
Some critical reviewing of the George Floyd event would not fail to borrow wisdom from the words of Leo Tolstoy in his classical warning that “ignore a spark and you will see a bush fire.” The American system of community policing have been ignoring a racial spark by deliberately refusing to stop police brutality on the populations of the black Americans. George Floyd is just one of the victims. Global watch on Human rights has the statistics which show that in the past ten years the American police have brutalised more than 500 black Americans to an extent of tempting the observers to doubt whether black skins have been criminalised in America.
The Management of community policing services in any post modern society like that of Minneapolis and many other places must be alive to the social reality that a police man does not operate in a social vacuum: his or her actions affects and are affected by environmental players like digital technology, civil societies, researchers, politicians, international communities, investors, donors, as well as the multi-racial communities and societies that make up the American nation. This observation is hinged on the facts in the words of the Baptist Pastor, Al Sharpton, which he made when reacting to the death of George Floyd that, “the political system based on the traditional white American choices have always kneeled on the neck of black Americans in all aspects of life ranging from academics, health care, criminal justice, business, employment, civil rights, and general life.” This was clearly a loud statement that black Americans are also complete Americans deserving recognition for fair trial and other institutional recognitions. Thus, socially conscious practice of community policing in modern America must accept the fact that America is a multi-racial society with the black populations being the third largest legally justified American citizens. And hence, irrational hatred or exclusions of the black Americans does not help. It only ends up harming the American economy, image and global relations. Such understanding would find no mistake in faulting the strategies chosen by Donald Trump to effect repression of the demonstrators by using the military or by trying to divert media attention from covering the death of Floyd through the illogical bombing of Afghanistan. These two strategies never worked for Trump, demonstrations still went on with a momentum. But the reason Trump avoided to court good practices of crises communication which would have included a dialogue with the leaders of “Black lives Matter” movement and affiliate organisations like National Association for Advancement of Colored persons (NAACP) is known to Trump himself. Most unfortunate for Donald Trump is his act of adopting the idea of using the military to repress the peaceful “Black Lives Matter” demonstrators. This act rhymes squarely in taste with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) man in Virginia who drove his car fast into the demonstrators and shot at one of the black demonstrators.
If we subject the death of George Floyd to eclectic or multi-disciplinary analysis, It will be obvious that explanation of such lapse in decision making has to borrow from socio-anthropology of racism just in the same way it has to borrow from the study of literature and psychology of racism. The two can well feed the understanding of phenomenology of the often observed lapse in professional ethics when it comes to trans-racial or trans-ethnic delivery of professional services. As an example; looking at the death of George Floyd through the psycho-literary eyes of Frantz Fanon in the Black Skin, White Masks will obviously pin the whole psychoanalytical debacle to the problem of “fear,” not rational but “irrational fear” that have always sought for safety in the colonial and post colonial white American culture of looking at a black person as a slave but not a free citizen. Unfortunately, the fear that gave foundation to the economic system of slavery committed suicide, just as all other evil systems do whenever subjected to the sun rays of democracy, the sun which was glorified by Shakespeare in Henry VI that, “with one eye it vieweth all the world, and your true rights termed a poet’s rage.” And it is true. Poets have, for generations, raged with wrath at the “fear” behind social practice of institutional racism, a management issue which binds all true and honest students of management to read Lawrence Hill, Richard Wright, Angelou Maya, Becheter Stowe, Alex Haley, Toni Morrison, Colson White-Head, Salman Rushdie in his collection of socio-political essays, Step Across this Line; Henry Louis Gates Junior, Aime Cesaire, Walter Rodney, George Lamming and Derek Walcott for proper understanding of theory and practice of management in the modern times of compulsory multi-racial relations.
In the same regard, a France 24 Television journalist on 8th June 2020, asked Mark Anthony Neal, the Duke University African-American Studies professor that, “why did the death of George Floyd trigger world-wide demonstrations calling for racial justice across all histories, cultures, nations and races?” In response, Professor Mark Anthony argued that, “It was due to the manner in which the social media presented the brutal manner in which the white police man killed George Floyd which sparked emotions among the black Americans to ricochet into mass demonstrations.” I don’t know if professor Mark Anthony implicitly ignored the demonstrators that were not from the black American communities as mere pretenders and social opportunists out to steal the show of the African Americans by coming up with parallel slogans like “Asian lives matter,” “Jews lives matter,” and so forth. Personally, I would not only cite the social media mode of communication as the only force behind world-wide mass protests in respect of George Floyd. But, like Karl Liebknecht, I want to argue that “the future belongs to the people,” and so far in this century, the current future of the people have a history of oppression. People-focused social milestones like digital revolutions, free flow of information, fastened transport system, liberal education systems across the world and the people-friendly tide of history have brought about a generational gap and paradigm shifts among the averagely educated young people across the world. These factors have made modern young people to not look at one another in terms of races; in contrast old people in our societies still do look at one another in terms of races. Class consciousness, but not racial consciousness, among the modern youths of the world has been strengthened by pangs and stings of economic exclusion perpetrated unto them by the dragon of patrimonial capitalism driven by the elderly, the patrimonial capital machinery which currently holds over 90% of the riches of the world in the hands of less than 5% of the families of the world. Hence, the youths have to think alike with the strong sense of victimhood dominating their psychology just as all other exploited people have always thought alike. The American youths are not an exception. Most of the youths from American white families are living in poverty, threatened by joblessness and drug addiction just as any other youth from any other ordinary country. Technically, there was nothing that could prevent them to join hands in strike against the hand of oppression as seen in the knee of the Minneapolis on the neck of George Floyd.
George Floyd’s death is not only a social lesson to the managers of American community policing, but it has a lot of management and governance lessons to teach different organisations and institutions in Africa. It is not wise enough to use it solely as a basis of condemning white-Americans for racism against African-Americans, given that vices of oppression are all over the world, and Africa is not an exception. Yes, there is no racism in Africa, but there is well-entrenched ethnicity which has made Africa to be a clear hub of those that own evidently oppressing those that don’t own. Though ethnicity looks like it is somehow tolerable than racism, only to leave racism more condemned because it is a vice that cuts across two different races, hence the most notable racism between the white Americans and African-Americans. But it is still the same. All types of oppressions, whether ethnic-based, gender-based, class-based or race-based have the capacity to perfect similar types of brutality on their victims. This is why we should not only focus on developing new management models of community policing and police reforms in America, but also in Africa. Africa needs same reforms that can salvage the poor African in the urban areas from the eventualities of recurrent police brutality and gender-based oppressions.
For the sake of localising our observations, let me take an example of Kenya, by adducing the eventualities in our recent history that has a lot of examples of our own George Floyd, Eric Garner, Adama Traore and many others. Our active memories still lurk with the unforgettable death of Baby Pendo that occurred as an off-shoot of police brutality in Kisumu town. Baby Pendo’s debacle is only one among others, among many other cold-blooded and extra-judicial killings that recently accompanied anti-covid-19 lockdowns and curfews. I mean the police brutality that robbed Kenyans the young life of 13-year-old Yassin Hussein Moyo in Nairobi.
There are also similar cases of class-based, gender-based and ethnic-based brutality in the current post-apartheid South Africa; the same way it is with Nigeria. What I mean is that there are still too many active examples of massive injustices the people of Africa face, the injustices perpetrated by black people towards other black people every day, with little attention and almost no outrage. However, there are no headlines yet, apart from few hashtags. Not to mention the appalling absence of significant movement to call out the injustice. But we are not late to learn that it is our time to begin making cases for the commonly violated powerless African lives living in Africa. It is not dubious that Africa can learn lessons from #black Lives Matter, about how to start campaigns for social actions that can create social change for us and elevate the plight of the powerless and the downtrodden in our African society.
Now, I don’t know why Africa was somewhat stand-offish in relation to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and yet George Floyd was an African-American and hence having ancestry in Africa. George Floyd’s blood connection to Africa did not trigger significant participation by African governments, civil rights organizations, African Union and other intergovernmental organisations in Africa in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. For example, in Kenya, people were overtly not interested, apart from a certain slum artist in Kibra drawing some funny effigies of Floyd on the tin wall of a hovel, and short-lived demonstrations in Mathare calling for the government action against police brutality on the urban youths living in slum areas. But there was no sign of organisation towards the formation of a civil society or a movement like #mathareslum live matters. It was significantly notable to some extent that Africa was semi-silent as the world mourned George Floyd who was overtly the grand-son of Africa. The cause of all this social anti-climax will be discussed somewhere else; however, it is basically the sacred duty of history to absolve Africa from this crime of silence in times of encroachment of sanctity of black lives. In spite of everything else, George Floyd’s death was the moment of women in political leadership. I saw young and middle-aged ladies coming out to protest. They were vocal and effectively communicating politics. I should not be mistaken when I promise that the future of politics is in the hands of women. Significant vocal presence of women made George Floyd to be buried as a hero on 9th June 2020 at Houston Gardens. His burial was attended by thousands in their indefinite diversities; they paid homage to him by kneeling for nine minutes in silence. It was wonderful and humbling. What can we the living say other than humbly submitting that may God keep safe the family and friends of George Floyd.