THEN AND NOW, WE ARE STILL HISSING- WRITTEN BY CLAUDE OPARA (A MUST READ)

THEN & NOW, WE ARE STILL HISSING…

I couldn’t get myself to watch the George Floyd video completely. Still can’t. I’ve only seen clips on the news.

There’s anger it stirs within you when you realize that anyone involved in that gruesome murder must have taken the victim as subhuman- undeserving of respect. Undeserving of pity. This sentiment was not directed to Floyd alone but all black people. Floyd was just an object to channel their disdain and frustration. The knee was left there for an eternity to squeeze the life out of a race he clearly had no affection for. Even though they had enough time to snap out of it and salvage a bad situation, they chose not to. Their madness was far from momentary. It was nurtured from a much greater, systemic, and generational madness that goes back centuries. The George Floyd incident, like many others, paints an ugly picture of a racial divide that has refused to close.

After publishing …And the night hissed some years ago (a fictional suspense thriller about the exploits of a white slave trader in 19th century Yorubaland), I took a step back and asked myself if the racist sentiments I described in the narrative hadn’t been over the top. Well, visits to Elmina and Cape Coast Castles in Ghana a few years later cleared any doubts I might have had. I realized that my depiction of the African slave trade was just the tip of the iceberg. It was a sobering trip for me but one I would surely recommend to anyone. What I couldn’t fathom however was how such bile… such racial abuse as witnessed in the 17th to 19th centuries could still exist in our world today and why certain countries would treat it with kid gloves. Racial mistrust and resentment for blacks haven’t faded away with modernisation; it’s just been hiding in the shadows. Recent cases like the Nigerian woman in Lebanon who was sold at an online auction or the blacks caught on CNN being sold at a Libyan slave market or the racist chants we hear and bear at European football matches…all show that we are not there yet. Not yet uhuru!

Cape Coast Castle had a lot to show and tell but what probably struck me most was the chapel located directly above the male dungeons which, by the way, still carries a strong pungent odour. Lord knows how it must have smelled two hundred years ago! Did these people actually worship over the heads and stench of thousands of naked men and boys crammed into dark tunnels and shackled together with no toilets waiting for months to be shipped? How did they pray to their God with a clear conscience? How did they utter words of prayer over cries for help? How did they? How could they? The only explanation I could find to this disturbing question was that they considered us sub-human. In other words, we didn’t count: just like Floyd and Arbery and Breonna and Michael Brown and Diallo and Rodney King didn’t count. Many racists and Neo-Nazis in our world today still describe themselves as ‘God-fearing, righteous white Christians’ while they proudly ascribe little regard to nature and ‘Negro’. 

You may ask how the slave traders slept at night with all this on their conscience? Well in Elmina Castle at least, the answer would be with a slave girl. The master’s bedroom was directly above the female dungeons and it had a trapdoor and cat-ladder that descended to where hundreds crouched in fear. The master would raise the door and select a woman or girl to be brought up to him for the night. So we ask again: How could they do all this without finding it a crime against humanity? If we could ask Arbery’s or Breonna’s killers, I bet the answer they would give would be no different from those given hundreds of years ago by slave masters. Racial inequality demands neither reprimand nor repentance.

It is a sorry state of affairs for us to still have a closet and systemic support for racism in some Eastern and Western countries. The challenge for us therefore seems daunting but there is hope. From the number of pensive white tourists at those castles years ago to what I see now on TV with all races protesting together worldwide for Black Lives despite a pandemic, there appears a steady growth of conscience. I am thus of the strong opinion that we can only combat racism if we refuse to shy away from it however disconcerting the topic may be to some. Therefore, I was (and still am) quite appreciative of reactions to my novel which delves into this disconcerting subject. Our comfort zone needs shifting once in a while for people to see another view. Floyd’s video was disconcerting and haunting enough to evoke change. It succeeded in exposing the harsh reality of racism to a world that has played the ostrich for too long. Now that our common neck is out of the sand, we need to strike more cords to move the legs so paralyzed by inertia. 

So the million-dollar question remains: can we ever eliminate racism? I have my doubts. We can’t change the hearts of every man but like the Abolitionists of the past, we can rely on a collective resolve to attack it wherever it surfaces. So long as there is good and evil in the world, racism will find a place. We just need to ensure that it no longer finds hold.

Claude Opara

Author, …And the Night Hissed @nighthissed

             Bayajidda: An African Legend @bayalegend 

About Tony Tokunbo Eteka Fernandez

Tony Tokunbo Eteka Fernandez is an International Award Winner, Published Author & Poet, Broadcast Journalist, MC and Youth Empowerment Consultant . He is also The CEO of AFRICA4U and The Founder of Africans in The Diaspora People also see him as a Cultural and Social entrepreneur, which means he is skilled in working with many different communities, bringing people together in successful focused events. Tony has organised many cultural events …involving both BME and mainstream communities. He is skilled in hosting events that reinforce community cohesion and bringing different kinds of people together. He has organised events in The UK, The U.S.A, Holland, Germany, Romania, Malta and Nigeria and has visited over 22 European Countries. Tony has also organised The Black History Month Celebrations at The UK House of Parliament for over five years in a row He continues to promote the true life and success stories of Africans in Europe and Africans around the world and has organised several small scale literary and awards initiatives aimed at empowering young people. He has also spent time as an International broadcaster and was The Producer and Presenter for AFRICA4U International Radio Talk Show at Reading4u Radio Station for nearly three years. Tony has interviewed high profile Members of Parliament, Distinguished celebrities and some of Africas best musicians including Ivonne Chaka Chaka and Kanda Bongoman. He has also been a guest on BBC Radio on numerous occasions to discuss the community cohesion events he organises at UK House of Parliament and also to recite some of his published work in memory of Nelson Mandela, 50 Years Anniversary of The race relations act and major community issues. Tony has also a Guest on popular Radio stations in Nigeria and The States In the last few years he has been very passionate about Youth empowerment, community cohesion and cultural intelligence. Tony was born in South London and has lived in several parts of England and Nigeria . He started writing at the tender age of nine, a habit he expressed with creative enthusiasm. Tony writes Poetry, short stories and proverbs on personal development. He is currently working on his 4th book which will also be his first novel. He is also into Public Speaking at Special events and Social functions and is a Mentor for young people in the UK Community. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at The University of Lagos, Nigeria in English and World Literature. He later went on to attain a teaching qualification at The Frances King International Training Institute, South Kensington London, it was here he studied Teaching English as a Foreign Language. He also studied Web Design at The City University in London. He published his first book in June 1999 called “The Beauty in the Dark” (A Collection of Poetry which received critical acclamation in many circles around the world). .Tony’s aim in life is to inspire the young generation and to encourage the youth to make the very best of their dreams and aspirations,. He published a 2nd book in June 2009 called ” The Sound of Running Water” – A Family gift book of proverbs and quotations on Personal Development and Positive Thinking . In December 2009, he published his 3rd book called “One Moment of Peace”.- A collection of Poetry inspired by personal experiences and spiritual growth. Besides the fact that the Artist has won International online awards, he is mostly inspired by Life experience, love, music and cultural awareness. He was Resident Poet at the 5th London Poetry Festival in 2009 and has been a guest on BBC Radio on very many occassions including The famous Anne Diamond Show. He has also been a guest on a few SKY TV stations and several International Radio Stations around The World
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