In Senegalese scholar Mahamadou Lamine Sagna’s 2019 book, “Cornel West Matters: Politics, Violence, Racism and Religion in America,” he helps explain the building pressure in America and the world that reached a boiling point with the death of George Floyd in the hands of Minneapolis police.
Dr. Sagna, who currently teaches at the American University of Nigeria and holds a PhD. in sociology and master’s degree in business administration, wrote, “America (if it is to survive) must first accept that supremacist violence constitutes its social and political life. It must then take stock of the atrocities it has sown inside and outside the borders. It is this self-criticism or awareness of its imperial aggressions that will enable it to grasp the hatred it provokes in the world and within its borders.”
The problem is awareness alone is not enough. Even West has said as much.
During a recent CNN appearance West argued, “We are witnessing America as a failed social experiment. What I mean by that (is) the history of Black people for over 200 and some years (has) been looking at America’s failure. Its capitalist economy could not generate and deliver in such a way that people could live their lives in decency.
“Its nation state, its criminal justice system, its legal system could not generate protection of rights and liberty. And our culture is so market driven, everybody for sale, everything for sale, it can’t deliver the kind of real nourishment for the soul, for meaning, for purpose.”
Responding to questions via email from Nigeria, Dr. Sagna told Africa Watch, “Basically, the death of George Floyd combined with this (coronavirus) pandemic, reveals in a glaring way, the link between the economic, the health and the racial question. From this point of view Cornel West is right to insist on the links between what he calls the fundamentalism of the market economy (which requires that the economic comes before everything else), militarism (even the police is militarized) and authoritarianism. George Floyd’s death stems from this economic, military and political connection to Trump’s authoritarianism.”
Dr. Sagna continued, “By a mirror effect, the death of George Floyd brings to the surface the memory of violence and racist experiences suffered by Africans and African-descendants. It is a shame, we have not seen many African leaders publicly indignant. But this is not too surprising, since many of them are neither free nor courageous, and even sometimes govern by torture.”
On the “African continent where more than 70 percent of the population is illiterate, many know nothing about the history of African Americans. Others, who are educated, see African Americans according to what their former colonizers tell them–and let’s also point out many African Americans see Africa from what white supremacists tell them about this continent. As long as we do not tell our story ourselves, I do not think that will allow a junction between Africa and it’s diasporas.”
Ghana, however, is more-and-more laying claim to first President Kwame Nkrumah’s vision “of a united politically integrated Africa with inextricably linked common destiny,” observed Ademola Araoye, a former Nigerian diplomat and retired United Nations official currently with the African Diplomacy and International Relations Department at the University of Johannesburg.
His commentary, which appeared in TheNews Magazine, referred to Ghana bathing in the “glorious legacy of the redeemer, the Ossagyefo.” He was critical of Nigeria, saying the country was “characterized by a tenacious digging in conservatism, unfathomable fiscal and political profligacy, institutionalized corruption, mediocrity to the high heavens and global reputation for every unimaginable malfeasance and high tech criminality globally.”
A Christian Science Monitor story July 1 was headlined: “How George Floyd’s death united Africans and African-Americans,” said though African immigrants have not “always” felt at home in Black communities, from “Minneapolis and Houston to Boston and New York, generations of African immigrants have begun to raise their voices in unison with their African American neighbors.”
The article quoted Republic of Congo native Emamsy Mbossa Ngossoh, who recently graduated from Columbia University, and said he had a “hard time seeing the kinds of change called for here in (U.S.) finding many footholds on the African continent.”
“Unfortunately, African police have excelled in bad practices of beating and hurting helpless people including teenagers and elderly people,” he said. “Honestly, police reform will be hard to implement simply because it’s linked to the bad governance with corrupted leadership who only seek their interests.”
Albert Usumanu, a Cameroonian born attorney living in the U.S. since 1985, said the reach and unified purpose of the anti-police brutality and anti-racism movement “can be instructive for Africa and African-Americans.”
“Our African-American brethren finally believe we all are in the same boat, seeing the reaction of Africans from Ghana (where a ceremony was organized in honor of Floyd) and across the continent as well as Africans right here in America,” he said.
Dr. Sagna’s email response to Africa Watch questions included a caution: Watch out for Whites and others using the platform you build to make demands to highlight their own.
“We just have to hope that the anti-racist movements, in particular the mobilization of the white populations, are not due simply to the social distress and the uncertainties that the Covid-19 pandemic creates. I mean by that that in the past we saw populations, e.g. white women rise up against discrimination but once their social demands were satisfied, they forgot the issue of discrimination.” (Follow @jehronmuhammad on Twitter.)