How I feel about the sudden outcry after the deaths of Mr. Alton Sterling, who was shot during an incident in Baton Rouge, LA. And Mr. Philando Castile, murdered in the state of Minnesota. Both at the hands of police.
Please imagine for a moment. You are standing in a queue at a bank; there are in total seven teller stations in the branch. However only three are open.
In the midst of all of your waiting, there are staff members walking around aimlessly, chit-chatting. Clearly, they could be far more useful filling up the remaining four teller stations and move the queue. Not so?
But they are in no mood of doing that!
What must happen then? What are you going to do about that? Is there even anything at all you can do to spur movement and ensure faster service?
Or, are you going to wait and see if another disgruntled customer raises their voice against the horrible service that’s going on?
Now, more often than not, you will opt to discuss the matter amongst yourselves in the queue. You’ll complain about how useless the staff is, throw around expletives and create a rhythm out of clicking your tongues in anger.
The fatal killings of Mr. Sterling, and Mr. Castile have shattered the world. More specifically, the black community.
As a result of this, we have seen the internet goes bersek with powerful words and imagery, actual protests in the US, and other parts of the world.
Beyoncé Knowels released a moving statement on her website; stopped her Formation tour performance in Glasgow to call for a moment of silence for Mr. Sterling, Mr. Castile and countless others. Barack Obama released a statement after the incidents, calling police shootings ‘an American Issue’. Media agency, Wieden + Kennedy, took it a step further and took down their entire website and left one black page overlaid with a passionate note apparently emailed to the team by one of WK’s black professionals. (Read the full note on AdWeek.)
AdWeek reported, “So far, the agency stands alone within the advertising industry in choosing to bring attention to this highly impassioned subject.”
And that leads perfectly to my point! Many people — including the celebrities and other powerful people who’ve been vocal this week — stand far way from such matters. Publicly anyway. When a Beyoncé speaks openly about something like this, she stands to lose lucrative deals and associations from companies who’d rather sit on the fence. Kanye West was once heavily criticised when he spoke out about how endorsement deals turn many people into prisoners. Because if one offensive Tweet ruffles feathers and goes viral, a contract might be terminated.
Black lives have always mattered. Unfair racial profiling and the fatalities it comes with have been going for years on end in America. Black people with influence have always been in existence. They just haven’t been talking!
An individual like Kendrick Lamar deserves to be hailed for his devotion to speaking openly about matters of race, black history, slavery, police brutality, et cetera, through his work. Especially in a world where he often needs to make peace with the possibility that he might just be the only person who’s willing to risk offending the corporate sector, lose bookings, industry awards, endorsement deals, because of what he chooses to talk about though his music.
Have you ever wondered why certain musicians who don’t sing about ass, alcohol, sex and bad bitches never get airplay in the (white-dominated) media? Lauryn Hill and Talib Kweli speak about things young black children “shouldn’t be hearing”, according to slave masters. So they get shunned. Though necessary, talking about real, disturbing issues of our societies through media has never been a lucrative step to take.
So, I am equally in two minds about this matter. On the one hand, I salute scores of celebrities and other powerful people who have chosen to use their influence to voice out their frustrations about the senseless killings of black people. On the other, I am bitter that it had to take numerous families being robbed of their loved ones, and quite often, breadwinners.
It had to take the hurt to pile up in mounds. Tears to form into and flow like an endless river stream. For power to run rampant and damage families.
All because we are scared to shout the truth. We are scared of being disenfranchised because we have been trained to cast our heads downward and not stir any trouble. Not stand out. Not be fearless. Lest we go without out the jobs slave masters hold. Lest we have our own turning against us when we tell the truth.
Our people being this vocal has taken far too long.
Better later than never. I suppose.
I feel, we need to be less tolerant of nonsense against us. Being of African descent in the world ought not to be this difficult!
And so, as you impatiently and angrily wait for service in the bank…
A messiah-nic individual walks in, stands behind you for precisely three minutes and then walks up to the staff wandering around. He asks for the branch manager, makes his feelings known to him or her, and in no time, four other tellers take up their stations and begin moving the queue with fervour.
Everyone glares at him, others openly expressing their appreciation for his intervention.
It is ludicrous!
I feel, whatever stands to happen to us, we should never stay in or within the pack for the comfort of avoiding criticism!