Letter to Brother Kole

Random Notions with Bimbo Manuel

Email: da.bmer@gmail.com

Bimbo ManuelDear Kole, Pascal just left for Los Angeles after the burial of his father in Arondizogu. It was quite an event and he was rather reluctant to go back. Smile. He carries some ground crayfish and blended elubo for you. I hope you enjoy them.

I wish to pursue our discussion from the last time we spoke during that rather expensive telephone call – remember I was the one who called as you complained about how telephone bills can be killing in America. We don’t mind though, we are Nigerians and we talk, anywhere, no matter the cost, so long as we connect with our own.

I think you are more American now than the typical Ijebu boy that left Lagos to become a professor in far away Atlanta. Your reaction to that will not deter me however as that is my conviction, hence the compelling need I find to write to you about some of the realities we face here and how we see your newfoundland through the unfiltered flow of news that symbolises the genuine commitment of your society to personal liberty. It gives fillip to your system of government and voice to the people.

CNN. BBC. Al Jazeera. Sky. I don’t know if you do there – too many to choose from, I understand. They are the staple of we the ‘in people’ here.

I had thought the repeated mention of ‘Ferguson’ on global television referred to the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, football manager, extreme strategist and Manchester United deity. I doubt if he will however be caught shooting down a teenager or ‘molotoving’ and looting. No matter, I know how passionately you detest football or soccer, the backward appellation you backward Americans insist on. To you rugby is football.

That is however not the reason for my letter. It is because Ferguson is in the State of Missouri in the United States of America and right there, in full view of the world is played out what seems to have become a recurring issue in your national life – American blacks vocalising their frustration at the near-institutionalised discrimination that has made them seem lesser than visiting and immigrant Africans, in their own land! Seem, I said.

And I don’t think it is their land.Please educate me. However, I think I read it somewhere that quite a number of the population that drove the native Indians from their land was actually thieves, failures and fugitives. But they are Americans now and not many remember their ancestry anymore. Whatever, there obviously existed a difference between how they got to America and how the blacks got there.

If the accounts of those who resettled in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria afterwards and William Wilberforce’s passionate pleas were anything to be trusted, the blacks of America came in slave ships, hundreds of thousands of them, bound hands and feet in iron fetters and purchased to work on distant farms where their lips were sealed with padlocks to keep their fearsome native teeth from sucking up all the sugarcane on the plantations. The ones who ended in the ‘Massah’s House’ looked down on field slaves who came with them on then same boat with disdain. That again is typically African, even you will attest to that, the oppressed detesting the downtrodden.

And I think that is the matter: Americans, have not quite gotten over the slave mentality, irrespective of race.

Let us address the facts: is it not rather too soon for the blacks of America to aspire to such level of equality with the vagabonds of Europe who ‘founded’ America considering how recently Martin Luther King Junior was still screaming for racial equality from the pulpits? And see the price he paid for that irritation. But you are an astute student of history Kole and I will not insult your intellect with a reminder of these things.

I honestly think American blacks are still reeling from the inherited complexes of their forbears and still struggle to shed the invisible shackles that still hold them bound. Ultimately, they make the job more difficult for President Barak Obama, who I have heard a Puerto Rican refer to as an ‘upstart’. Obviously, racism still runs deep, even in the Land of the Free!

I watched like many Americans did as Ferguson boiled over the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, his death the price he reportedly paid for hustling a shop owner for a pack of cigars and hassling a white policeman.

Two things stood out for me as I followed the events in that relatively unknown neighborhood of America. The first the wail of the teenager’s mother as she rhetorically asked a reporter “do you know what it means for a black person to GRADUATE…?! He just graduated from high school and was waiting to start college. It was the summary of the entire status of the black American in America. The second is the composition of the symbols of authority in that predominantly black community – 67 percent – and the reaction of the authorities to the unrest that followed the young man’s death.

In the first instance, the council has space for only one black person among six or so – the blacks didn’t vote their own, I guess – and the entire police department of about 53 has five black persons in its enrolment representing just about 6 percent. That police unit is a beneficiary of the renewed aggressive funding to police departments across America that has leaped to $450m in 2013 also inheriting leftovers of the Iraqi War, truly scary stuff, seen only when America is truly vexed!

Oh, accept my congratulations that the matter has finally been resolved; the blacks have worn themselves out and gone home to wait for another teenager’s death.

Meanwhile, we all must remember who we are…‘…one nation under, we are on the move…getting down for the funk of it…!’ Second bass?