A George Floyd opportunity to deal with injustices

Monday July 06 2020

Protestors take part in a demonstration on June 5, 2020 in Vienna, Austria, to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis. PHOTO | JOE KLAMAR | AFP


The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 by Derek Chauvin, then a policeman working for the city of Minneapolis revitalised a litany of injustices against black people globally. 
Minneapolis is where I lived for 10 years in my younger years as a student and later as an employee of a fortune 500 company. The killing therefore, affected me in many ways. 
Although the protest still continues in many forms to the chagrin of those habouring the ideology of white supremacy, I am worried that the opportunity for sustainable change may be dissipating.   
While #blacklivesmatter has helped galvanise like-minded people from all walks of life to protest against injustices against black people, it is an advocacy group. It has and will continue to do its job. 
Now that everybody is in agreement that indeed there are economic inequalities, there is need for building a broad coalition to set up a more structured broad-spectrum movement to address socio-economic issues more sustainably and in a non-violent way not just in the US but across the world, including mother Africa.
In my view, Africans wherever they are in the continent or in the diaspora, should use the Floyd opportunity to rally the many people who want to see change and create that movement that will focus its energies on economic redress. The agenda to start with should just contain four items: First, re-writing the history of black people. It is now clear that history was distorted and a lot must be rewritten to recognise the contribution Africans made in building the Americas and Europe. It is through such changes that perceptions about Africans can change. 
Second, countries that exploited African labour and resources should begin working towards addressing inequalities that have been widely acknowledged for all disadvantaged people and give real opportunity to all.  It has been demonstrated that denial of opportunity was superficial.  One example is the National Football League (NFL). For years, they did not allow African Americans to play the quarterback positions because they thought black people had no ability to effectively play that position. When they were given the opportunity, they excelled. Many positions like that exist but no opportunity has ever been given.
Third, seek for the recognition of African produce brand value by seeking for intellectual property for what is authentically African. These will include cocoa, tea, coffee, art and other brand produce that has often benefited multinational companies and collaborators while excluding the poor farmers. In the same vein, the movement should investigate the African collaborators as well to seek justice for all. We’ve had sham auctions that we know benefit a few when the majority suffer.
Fourth, African wealth hidden in Western banks by former and present leaders should be repatriated to the continent and used to subsidise education and health of the poor in countries from where it has been stolen. There is no justification for the poor in Democratic Republic of Congo for example, to die when much of their stolen wealth is in Swiss banks. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that between $50 and $148 billion is stolen from Africa and stashed in European countries every year. 
There are many issues, but dealing with just a few at the beginning will create momentum to deal with all other injustices. Several published books have detailed how African wealth and creative art was stolen. These include: Martin Meredith’s The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor, Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Tom Burgis’ The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth, Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa and many more. 
There are also issues that the academia should keenly follow to unlock the intentions of white supremacy. It is not just the fear of the unknown. And for that reason, Ms Moyo’s insinuations in her book should never be dismissed.  There are concerted efforts to associate failure, laziness and similar negative terms to African people. In the early 20th century, the Greenwood neighbourhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma had the wealthiest African and Native Americans. However, in 1921, white supremacist massacred innocent people whose crime was that they were becoming wealthy. The entire neighbourhood was decimated simply to demonstrate that America was founded on white supremacy.
As Floyd’s protest intensified in the US and across the world, a political rally organised by acknowledged white supremacist was going on in Tulsa against the odds of coronavirus to cheer their leadership. Such celebrations happening a few months before the 100th memorial of those who lost their lives connotes bigger things than just a rally. It could be a show that if need be, they can do the same and destroy any successful African. 
In my view, it is unfortunate that the event took place in Tulsa. Any right-thinking human being can read the intentions and conclude that we have a long way to go with regards to race relationship. Fortunately, there is an opportunity to create a broad coalition of people from all walks of life to comprehensively deal with race relationships. It is also a chance to send a strong message to collaborators in the continent that there is no where to hide themselves or their wealth.
The writer is a professor of entrepreneurship at University of Nairobi’s School of Business.