OPINION | Black lives matter in your own country too

Demonstrators on the Römerberg in Frankfurt, Germany, show their solidarity with the anti-racism protests in the US.
Demonstrators on the Römerberg in Frankfurt, Germany, show their solidarity with the anti-racism protests in the US.
Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Post a blackout image, hashtag to your heart’s content, just don’t forget to give some of that same empathy, support, and attention to your own backyard first, writes Charlene Naidoo.


By now we all know of the riots sweeping across America.

A man in Minnesota, George Floyd, was arrested for a counterfeit $20 bill, and in front of the horrified, incredulous eyes and cameras of bystanders, lost his life at the knee of a white police officer.

His final moments, cries, and breaths were captured for posterity, so we could all relive the inhumanity.

Not the first black man to die in such a manner.

"Black lives matter" is trending on social media every day (and for good reason). Police brutality in the US and the disproportionate level of violence against black people in America at the hands of those meant to “protect and serve”, has long needed addressing.

george floyd
Participants of a Black Lives Matter demonstration walk through the city centre to the Römerberg in Frankfurt, Germany.

I watched with interest when social media was flooded with #blackouttuesday or #blacklivesmatter hashtags and posts from people all over the world as they denounced these injustices.

Most interesting were the sentiments from people right here in my neighbourhood, city, and country.

I get it. It’s difficult not to get swept up in the reality of what’s happening in America.

When the US shouts loud enough, we listen. We consume their media, watch their shows, eat their food, buy their clothes, and overidentify to an unhealthy degree.

So, we unleash Twitter fingers and outraged Instagram posts, retweeting, and shouting all the way from South Africa for justice to prevail across continents.

But where’s the same energy for Collins Khosa? A black man in South Africa, probably not more than 50km from your own house? A man who died at the boots of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) for drinking alcohol during lockdown.

No-one’s out here marching for him.

Where’s the same fervour and riots for the black people that SANDF had rolling around in the dirt, doing jumping jacks for being out in the streets when they should have stayed confined indoors?

No-one’s out here marching for them.

Did you shout at all for the 230 000 people arrested during lockdown? For the 11 black men who died during that time?

Where’s the incensed rage at the disparate rate and reality of black people being arrested on weekends so that they can’t be bailed out until Monday? (Admittedly, purely anecdotal hearsay, but let’s allow the benefit of the doubt).

No-one’s out here marching for them and storming police stations.

Too often we glom onto the latest buzz and wave, especially when it's "first world" related.

Yes, social media will trend a hashtag and decry police violence and black oppression for a day or two. Some may even (33 outraged citizens, in fact), actually do something like register formal complaints.

Hardly the same hundreds of thousands of vociferous warriors shouting their outrage at the injustices in America. Hardly the same as the ANC calling for calm in the US.

Where was the call for calm and justice to prevail for Collins Khosa?

Who’s out here marching for the children who get caught in the crossfire of local gang wars? A lot of those kids are black too. Do their lives not matter?


Do we go out and protest xenophobic attacks that routinely sweep our country? Most of those people who are attacked or killed are black. Do their lives not matter?

Injustices, crimes, and aggressions against black people are universal. In South Africa, with our chequered history – throw a stone and you’ll hear a story, witness a discrimination. Maybe we’ll post something on social media. Maybe we’ll turn away and shrug, “Just another day in South Africa.”

Post a blackout image, hashtag to your heart’s content, just don’t forget to give some of that same empathy, support, and attention to your own backyard first.

Otherwise, what’s the point and are we really doing anything but performative posturing?

- Charlene Naidoo is an editor at Mondia Media.

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