Africa & Diaspora: Using Black Lives Matter campaign and Covid to change status quo

By Nandi Ndoro

Posted on July 9, 2020 08:46

When news of COVID-19 reached the non-scientific world, there was panic and surprisingly, hope. Optimists saw this global crisis as an opportunity for people to empathize and connect based on our shared humanity. As heartwarming videos of quarantined Europeans singing on balconies went viral, for a brief moment,  this idea seemed possible.

Yet instead of uniting us, in many ways, the pandemic has highlighted differences and inequities. Low-income and minority communities have been hardest hit. Due to centuries of systemic oppression, marginalised communities around the world are in vulnerable positions in health and the economy.

The pandemic has not stopped police from treating black people as animals. The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery showed that even during a global health crisis, police officers are murdering black people with a sense of impunity.

READ MORE Racism Against African Americans: Does The World Give A Hoot?

Today, people of all backgrounds are demanding racial justice and equality. However, can this new global consciousness help end class, income, and racial discrimination for good?

Black Lives Matter

For the first time, it is now trendy to support black lives. According to the Washington Post, today more white Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement (54 percent) than those who approve of President Donald Trump (41 percent).

The rising awareness of racial injustice is not only happening in the United States. All over the world, the recent police killings of black people have forced individuals to take a look at the systemic racism in their own countries.

READ MORE Global mass protests are seizing the historical moment

In France, for example, which hosted multiple demonstrations after the murder of George Floyd, many recalled Adama Traoré, a Malian-French man who died in police custody in 2016. This reflection is also taking place in Africa as Kenyans and South Africans demand justice for victims of police brutality, specifically those killed and wounded during strict COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Today’s demonstrations against racial injustice are bigger and more diverse than ever before, despite the pandemic.

Technology’s role in mass demonstrations

Technology has been a big help, as people encourage their networks to spread information globally, donate and attend protests.

As uplifting as this mass social awareness has been for many black people, for others, it is suspicious.

Dana Osei, a Ghanian-American student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), questions the rise of digital activism among her white friends. According to her, “the majority of it is probably performative”. She is not alone in her concerns.

The new wave of online digital activism has struck many as almost too easy. From posting a black square for a couple of hours (#blackouttuesday) or simply putting #blacklivesmatter as a caption for a vacation photo, the bar for being an online activist is low.