The killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black American man by a White police officer, on the 25th of May 2020 in the US state of Minnesota, has once again opened another sad chapter in the ever contentious issue of inter-race relations in contemporary America. So gruesome was this particular case of Floyd’s murder that it has sparked off spontaneous protests and riots across America and beyond against what many believes to be a perennial racism-motivated, police brutality of Black Americans. Footages of Floyd’s dying moments from suffocation with his neck was pressed hard under the knee of a White police man as he was laid flat on the ground with his hands tightly cuffed behind was like a scene from a horror movie. George Floyd, a 46 years old Black American father of one, can be heard under his dying breath saying to his White tormentors ‘’I can’t breathe’’ but unfortunately deafened by racism, he suffocated him to his untimely death after 9 minutes of choking.
Notwithstanding the fact that the main culprit in this latest episode of lethal police brutality has been sacked from his duty post, arrested and charged with murder, Americans across racial divides have poured onto the streets of major cities to protest this one death too many. The death of George Floyd, which has been blamed largely on what many describe as institutional racism against its Black citizens and other people of colour in White dominated America, has sparked off a renewed conversation about inter-race relations around the world. In Africa, the continent of origin of Black Americans, there has been an outpour of emotions over the killing of one of their brethren in America and have also expressed solidarity for the massive ‘’Black life matters’’ protest matches across the United States against racism and police brutality.
However, in expressing solidarity and support for Black Americans against racism in America, Blak Africans appear to have conveniently forgotten their own problem of broken intra-race relations that has manifested in the form tribalism; a problem that is no less prejudicial than racism. While, there is no denying the reality that America has a big problem of institutional racism, Africa has a bigger problem of an entrenched culture of tribalism. And Tribalism is worse than racism because the latter is hate for others while the former is hatred for one’s own self. The biggest problem that can befall a people is self-hate. Whereas, the White race appears united in their racism against other peoples of colour, the Black race is divided along tribal lines in acrimony, prejudice and hate for each other as expressed in the most bestial form of discrimination ever known to man. The problem of tribalism in Africa, which predates the coming of the White man to the continent, has been at the core of a weakness that served as an enabler of trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
With an inglorious history of institutionalized slavery, as the major destination of the human cargo transhipment out of Black Africa, Inter race relations in America between descendants of former slaves and slave owners, is a very touchy and sensitive matter. The image of a White choking a Black man to death with his knees jammed on his neck understandably evoked the horrific memories of slavery in America. Unfortunately, the guilt of the evil trans-Atlantic slave trade is not one that should be borne by White slave merchants and their brothers’ plantation owners alone.
The evil trans-Atlantic slave trading enterprise was a joint venture partnership between White merchants and Black African tribal chieftains. The culture of slavery in Africa predates the trans-Atlantic slave trade as Black Africans had enslaved fellow Black Africans of different tribes from time immemorial. And as the demand for human cargo export to work in the plantations of the new world increased, so did Black African tribal chieftains waged ceaseless wars on their neighbours in order to capture more people for sale to the White man. Therefore, the guilt for the trans-Atlantic slave trade is a shared one between White slavers and their collaborating Black African tribal war lords. This tribal division among Black African peoples will be further exploited by Europeans to colonise most of continental Africa.
Just as it was an enabler of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism, tribalism has manifested itself in post-colonial Africa in the form of divisive, exclusionist, conflicting and destabilizing politics of ethno-geographic identity that has proven to be an anathema to collective development of Black African states in the contemporary world. Identity politics has left many a Black African states divided and destabilized from acrimony, discrimination and marginalization on the basis of ethnicity, hence resulting in violent armed conflicts across the continent. The tribal wars between the Dinka and the Nuer, in South Sudan, Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, Hawiye and Marehan Darod in Somalia, Luo and Kikuyu in Kenya, Fulani and Tiv, Jukun, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, etc. in Nigeria, while not forgetting the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, arising from social injustice, have resulted in the slaughter of more Black African lives than White racists have done in the entire history of America.
As a direct consequence of the social instability brought upon Black African states by the entrenched culture of tribalism, not much economic progress has been achieved in post-colonial continental Africa. Tribalism has bred nepotism, cronyism, favouritism, influence peddling and all other forms of corrupt practices in Black Africa, thereby reducing the region and its peoples to a dark condition of socio-economic destitution. This situation has created a huge army destitute economic refugee out of Black Africa, desperately trying to escape the impossible living conditions back home, through land, air and sea into the more prosperous Europe and North America. In addition to colour differences, the economic destitution and prevailing conditions of social savagery in Black Africa is robbing off negatively on the image of Black people all over the world.
A people that are steep in self-hate will be standing on a weak moral ground to point accusing fingers at other people for hating them because tribalism is worse than racism. When the Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Itsekiri, Ijaw and Urbobo tribesmen hates each other, it is in reality Black African peoples hating themselves. When the White police man choked George Floyd to death, it matter to him if was Hutu, Tutsi, Xhosa or Fulani. All that mattered was his black skin. Without prejudice to the fact that America is still having a problem of racism, it will be unfair not to acknowledge its commitment and concertedly deliberate effort towards evolving into a more a racially inclusive nation more than any other country in the world. Many Black African countries on the contrary are retrogressing from inter-tribal to intra-tribal conflicts. While America has extended civil rights to descendants of freed slaves and immigrants, Black Africans of ancestral slave heritage are still socially ostracised, derogated, demeaned, discriminated, marginalized, excluded and treated as outcasts in the most inhuman manner in their home continent. Whereas, America achieved a major milestone as a leading racially inclusive nation in the world when in 2008, Barack Obama, A black American was elected President of the United States, Black African states are still plagued by indigene/ settler dichotomy and minority/majority tribal supremacy. And that is why it would be easier for Obama, a Black American to be elected President of White majority America than the Obama an ethnic minority Luo to be elected the President of his majority ethnic Kikuyu native country of Kenya.
Due to the low of level of integration and assimilation within the peoples of Black Africa, Ilhan Omar had to take refuge in faraway America, following the destabilization of her native Somalia from protracted intra-tribal/clan wars, where her success story as a refugee turned congress woman is only possible. The story of Sesugh Uhaa, the Black American wrestling super star that was born to Nigerian parents of Tiv ethnicity, in America where his talents and potentials have been nurtured to success may have been different if he was born in Taraba state in Nigeria. If Uhaa was born in Taraba state, where ethnic Tiv people from neighbouring Benue state a regarded as non indigenous settlers with very limited political and economic rights, his accomplishments in life would have been severely hampered and that is if he wasn’t mowed down in perennial Tiv/Jukun tribal wars.
Black Africa must begin to take full responsibility of what has become of its pitiable socio-economic conditions of strife in the midst of poverty. Africa is not innocent of its own problems and there has to be a shift from ‘’How Europe underdeveloped Africa’’ to how ‘’Africans are ‘’under developing Africa’’ as the theme of modern spirit of Pan-Africanism. Massive ‘’Black lives matter’’ protests alone will not bring institutional racism to end. To bring an end to the problem of racism in America and elsewhere, Black Africa must first put an end to its bigger problem of tribalism.
Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through email@example.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily