I woke up at 2.am this morning when I received a text from one of my best friends who is an American living in India. The texts read ”Man, I’m completely distraught over the two recent black shootings by police, stay safe over there. I’m sorry racism is so prevalent, and we have done so little to advance as a more open and less hostile society.” After having gone to bed watching videos of the murder of Alton Sterling, a black man shot by the police 6 times in the chest while lying on the ground, my quickest reaction was, “Has there been another killing barely hours after Sterling’s death?” I opened up my Facebook, to come across an absolutely disturbing video, which was live-streamed to Facebook by a woman who identifies online as Lavish Reynolds, showing the bloody, harrowing aftermath of the police shooting of a black man, who is identified as Philando Castile.
It is at that moment that I got a reality check and reminder that you are not as safe if you are black in the US. I have completed 6 weeks of my one year in the USA as an Atlas Corps Fellow. Before this, I spent one and a half years in India, and have always called Zimbabwe my home. Having experienced what being Black means and how I am perceived in three continents, these are my thoughts. Just a few weeks ago I was back home in Zimbabwe, the only place that i supposed to be removed from feelings of racism or inferiority. The unfortunate reality is the government still oppresses its own people, by taking out any form of opposition or idea that has the potential to remove them from power. The most comforting thing is the fact that technology has done tremendously well to expose and show the world what exactly has been happening all along. The big question then becomes, With so much overwhelming evidence, is there ever going to be justice or a way of keeping the police and oppressive governments accountable?
Yesterday, July the 6th my fellow participated in one of the biggest stay-aways in our history, In protests over continual failure by the government to run the country properly, ordinary citizens used Whatsapp and Facebook to mobilize and coordinate the whole country to literally shut down. The country responded so overwhelmingly to the #zimbabweshutdown call, that the government was forced to block social media for about 2 hours to disturb the coordination and communication. Again this was a clear sign of how technology and the internet have proven themselves as a worthy adversary to oppressors and racists. There is no hiding the truth or lying when it comes to real time communication and recorded incidences. To a very large extent people have been using social media for entertainment and social communication. But as it stands right now technology and the internet are at the forefront of solving critical social issues especially in this digital era we are living in.
Is there anything new about the above mentioned? The answer is”NO”, Police have been shooting and arresting black people in the US unreasonably for far too long. Being dark skinned, or worse off black in India, is a well-known social inferiority. The political and economic situation in Zimbabwe has been at its worst for almost 16 years now, but our President has remained in power for the past 36 years.My answer to my American friend was, There is nothing new about these shootings, the biggest difference is the proliferation of the internet and smartphones documenting and sharing these incidences more than any other period. There is so much evidence in the videos that have been recorded and posted online, depicting the racist approach and nature of police when dealing with black folks. Philando’s death was live-streamed on Facebook, reaching the rest of the world as it was happening.
As a social purpose leader and a digital strategist, I find it very key for citizens to engage actively online and be as vocal as they can on issues that are of paramount importance to our existence. The biggest challenge for my continent Africa, and country Zimbabwe is always going to be internet access for all. According to Internet World Statistics, Internet penetration in Africa averages 29 % compared to 87% in the US. Internet is still a luxury in most communities and comparing that situation to the accessibility in the US almost brings tears to my eyes. Governments need to invest in technology infrastructure for a prosperous future rather than censor or block the internet for fear of being removed from power. The power of technology and the internet here in the US is definitely helping in exposing all the brutality that has otherwise been happening all along. Citizens in Zimbabwe no longer need to rely on the state controlled media as social media is proving to a much reliable tool for information and resource mobilisation. It is time for the rest of the world to harness this power that technology and the internet have to push for justice, democracy, equality, accountability and most importantly making our world a much better place to live.