I’m not singing any more

Jackie Wilson Asheeke

The rebellion during a pandemic which has started in the USA is not to overthrow the government. It is to attack institutional racism. It is not to destroy the constitution, it is to make sure it is applied to everyone equally. Those screaming for justice, love the USA; their home. But, the USA they love does not believe it is ok to murder a man with your knee on his neck.

Last week, President Hage Geingob made his announcement regarding the beginning of Stage 3 of the State of Emergency phase-out plan and included a brilliantly worded phrase admonishing the police and security forces in Namibia for being excessively heavy-handed when dealing with the public. That is statesmanship. Donald Trump should take notes.

The Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation issued a very important statement condemning the police murder of Mr George Floyd. I sent that statement to my network of former activists in the USA. They must know that Namibia is on the right side of this issue.

I was one of the hundreds of thousands around the United States that demonstrated for the immediate independence of Namibia three decades ago. Swapo asked black Americans to support their struggle. We did this because justice was being denied. It’s reassuring to see this government, demand justice for the black people who helped them all those years ago.

I have been holding my breath for days as my son and nephews are in the demonstrations going on in Washington, DC and New York. They are black men in America and they have targets on their backs. My son texted me from a protest in the Bronx on Thursday where the police were beating everyone in sight, white, black, Hispanic…whomever. He watched a white male protester be set upon by club-wielding police officers and did not run.

Protestors in Washington were peacefully demonstrating near the church in Washington where the Donald Trump wanted to do an unnecessary (and questionably legal), unscheduled, confrontational, photo-op. These young demonstrators were gassed and suffered flash-bangs and low helicopter sweeps because Trump wanted to pose in front of a church using the Holy Bible as a prop. Trump thinks rebellion in the streets is an episode of a reality show.

In any event, there will be thousands of lawsuits filed (most will win or be settled favourably) in the aftermath of all of this. When reason does not prevail, a hard kick in the wallet is the only thing that powerful institutions and the people who run them, remember.

The lynching of black men is not a new thing in the USA – now, there are different ways of doing it. Take a listen to Strange Fruit, a passionate song by the great Billie Holiday to ‘feel’ my outrage.

The police have always been the hammer wielded by those in power to suppress the advancement of blacks, the poor, immigrants and the marginalized. This is not new. Mr George Floyd is sadly yet another name on the long list of those whose lives were taken by the police in America.

I can never sing ‘We shall overcome’ again. I’m done with that. I shall not remain quiet when white people expose their racism or when blacks roll over and accept being treated as second class.

When people talk about non-violence, this is my thought: “We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us,” – Malcolm X.

I hate seeing looting – it dilutes the message. The demonstrators must organize and weed out the few bad seeds.

That said, I was born at night, but not last night.

I recall the many marches we held back in the day and we took care to sift out the agent provocateurs (government ‘agents’, white supremacist agitators and pro-apartheid operators) and ordinary thieves in the crowd. We identified one or two of the former, who regularly arrived at our events with their prepared Molotov cocktails, crowbars, and fancy smoke bombs in their back packs. I have no doubt such people are in use now. The agent throws the first stones to break a store window or punches a cop and the unpredictable mob mentality kicks in.

Do not divert from the only message. #blacklivesmatter! Anyone seeking to dilute that or sidestep it with euphemisms, supports racism.

The only silver lining is that each time Trump spouts his unhelpful tirades in a time of pandemic and protests against racism and poor policing, a wider cross-section of people are outraged. Finally! Hundreds of thousands of more votes against him will be mailed in or line up at polls in November, 2020 each time he opens his mouth.

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