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In America, the Black Lives Matter movement is a protest against white and non-Black police officers using excessive force and oftentimes lethal force against unarmed, innocent Black civilians. Almost all of the time, the cops face no charges and the victim receives no justice. How do we navigate police brutality, excessive violence and murder of Black people, when the aggressors are also Black?
A Washington columnist named John Lewis once wrote an opinion piece titled “Black Officers Won’t Shoot Black Jaywalkers,” where he argued that in America, “we need more Black police officers because Black officers don’t shoot jaywalkers.” It’s hard to imagine a day when police brutality is another term for Black on Black violence.
I know that Nigerians do not use the term Black to refer to themselves. However, when I watch the footage of the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre in Lagos, I think of all the ‘race riots’ and similar massacres in American cities against Black Americans (who most likely have ancestry in West Africa).
The first scene that comes to mind is white police officers firing at unarmed protestors. But in Lekki, that’s not true. Today in Lekki, a place where I’ve fantasized about my ancestors ruling as kings and queens before they were kidnapped and held as slaves in America, the Black men are mimicking the monstrous American police officers. It’s too damaging to imagine, let alone witness.
Here are some images of Nigeria and Lagos before the Lekki Gate Massacre. Let both the obvious beauty and incredible ordinariness of the people remind us that we, Black Americans, share the same face, pain, and magic of the people of West Africa.