There exists a global indifference to black suffering. While we proclaim that all lives matter, our society tends to discuss black lives in a reductive manner. Time and time again, we are reminded that black bodies were conditioned at birth for suffering.
In August, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge took the world by storm, raising nearly 220 million dollars in donations globally. At the peak of the Ice Bucket Challenge, black lives were being threatened around the globe. Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s murders by police officers added to the thousands of black bodies disposed in the United States, and Ebola plagued thousands more in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. I was nominated for the Ice Bucket Challenge four times. Of the four people who nominated me, few have been enthusiastic in support of Ebola victims or victims of racialized police brutality. By choosing to pour a bucket of ice over one’s head, and yet remaining mum on issues like Ebola and racialized police brutality, one is complicit in perpetuating the idea that white lives matter more than black lives. How? Ninety-three percent of people suffering from ALS are white. However, nearly ninety-nine percent of those suffering from Ebola are African. In the United States, white officers kill black suspects twice a week, or on average of 98 times a year. These are more than just statistics. These numbers expose the trauma that is black victimhood. Furthermore, they challenge us to question the violent inactivity surrounding racialized police brutality and Ebola, which stems from an ideology of racialized indifference. It is this implicitly racist ideology that reduces the black body to dust, rinses out black humanity, places an immeasurable weight on black shoulders, and makes black death feel all too familiar.
It is also important to acknowledge that this indifference to black suffering appears internally within black communities, as well. To Africans who ignore the struggle of blacks in United States, and African-Americans who equally ignore the strife of their kinfolk across the globe: you must realize that black bodies are black bodies. You must realize that the growing oppression of black bodies around the globe necessitates unity among black bodies. If we do not start loving our humanity, the world will continue to weed us out. To non-blacks: you, too, must realize the implications of your choices. By speaking out on one issue, you shut out another.Victims of racialized police brutality and Ebola are humans too. Where is their Ice Bucket Challenge?
The plight of black suffering is not new. It is our history. For hundreds of years, we have commodified and stigmatized the black body, emptying it of dignity. It’s easy for the world, comprised of many non-people of color, to ignore this fact, but these patterns of Anti-blackness possess a universal context that we can no longer ignore. Black lives won’t matter until we start seeing the humanity in blackness. Black lives won’t matter until we acknowledge that no pain is more important than another, that no death is more tragic.