Opinion

Black Lives Matter, but only if they’re American

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Let’s be honest: When people say “Black Lives Matter,” what they really mean is that Black American Lives Matter. Not Afro-Brazilian lives, not South Sudanese lives and certainly not Congolese lives. Just black American lives. In July, as outrage over the police shooting of Alton Sterling dominated the news — propelling black protesters across the world to the streets, much as Black Lives Matter protesters shut down London City Airport on Tuesday — 300 people were killed in Juba, South Sudan.

That same week, an estimated 8,500 people were also killed in Congo, Africa’s largest Sub-Saharan country, where proxy wars over control of its mineral resources that go into our mobile phones killed more than estimated 5.4 million between 1998 and 2008 — and continue to claim 1,500 lives, with 1,100 women and young girls reportedly raped each day. Yet, as with most killings in Africa, there wasn’t any international protest within black communities in the diasporas to defend the humanity of these black people.

I cannot help thinking about this paradox: our preoccupation with the killing of black people in the United States versus our almost overt disregard for the killing of black people in Africa. Why do we feel strongly enough to take to the streets over the killing of black people in Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri, or Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but remain silent about killing in the Congo, Brazil or South Sudan? Is it because Staten Island, Ferguson and Baton Rouge were flooded with media reporters from almost every major news outlet, with vigorous editorial discussion in the morning, noon and evening for viewers around the globe, while crises in the Congo and across Africa barely receive any airtime?

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