Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the Globe Health Organization (WHO), chastised the world on April 14 for treating emergencies differently based on race. “It’s time for me to be bold and honest about how the world treats the human race,” he stated. “There are some who are more equal than others.” And it hurts me to say this.”
Beyond Russia’s cruel and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, Tedros’s emotional plea mirrored profound unhappiness with inadequate answers to health and social crises. For example, the UN is trying to send help into Ethiopia’s conflict-torn Tigray area – a crisis that the WHO chief earlier described as “forgotten” and “out of sight and out of memory.”
Tedros, on the other hand, should not have asserted that the entire “world” is committing systemic racism while disregarding “ongoing emergencies in Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria.” In truth, it is the West that is so callously inattentive to the several critical issues afflicting Black and brown people.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tedros had a front-row view of the West’s unashamed display of medical colonialism. At a time when 130 countries had not received a single dose of vaccination, the United States, for example, got enough vaccines to cover three times its 250 million adult population. To be more specific, the West considered millions of desperate high-risk people, notably Africans, as undeserving and theoretically expendable second-class world citizens. Tedros is also a former Ethiopian foreign minister, so he should be aware of the futility of just appealing to the West’s moral sentimentalities.
Indeed, choices impacting Africa or the African diaspora are rarely made and implemented only on humanitarian grounds by Western governments. Many judgments are immoral and blatantly lack compassion and common sense, such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s contentious plan to “process” potentially “tens of thousands” of asylum seekers more than 6,000 kilometers (4,000 miles) away in Rwanda. They’re made to appeal to racist prejudices and to appease voters at all costs.
This explains why, in the midst of a devastating calamity in Tigray, the WHO’s chief must implore “global leaders” to show strong and inclusive leadership. As millions of people continue to face unimaginable difficulties as a result of these “third-world” crises, only an organized and comprehensive Pan-African reaction can help combat endemic racism and whiteness.
The demise of Pan-Africanism is regrettable
Anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements around the world have campaigned hard in the past to persuade Western governments to oppose colonialism and apartheid in Africa. They managed to do so in a difficult environment. For example, America maintained close economic relations with apartheid South Africa.
Nonetheless, the mostly British and American pressure groups persisted because of their unwavering dedication to progressive values and Pan-Africanism. The Council on African Affairs, the American Committee on Africa, and TransAfrica, for example, were founded in America to urge independence for African and Caribbean countries, as well as all African diaspora organizations.
Pan-Africanism, on the other hand, is currently in a funk. George Floyd’s killing at the hands of a police officer in June 2020 sparked a worldwide rebirth of old Pan-Africanist actions. Demonstrations were organized in Ghana, Kenya, Brazil, France, Jamaica, and South Africa in response to Floyd’s police killing, amid concerns that “a Black guy is loathed everywhere.” Importantly, the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States sparked protests across Africa, including #EndSARS in Nigeria and #ZimbabweanLivesMatter in Zimbabwe.
Nonetheless, unlike previous Pan-African uprisings, the worldwide solidarity did not last or lead to the formation of permanent support systems or organizations.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an American civil rights leader, had built a positive relationship with Ghana’s founding president Kwame Nkrumah in the 1950s and 1960s, for example.
King and his wife Coretta Scott King traveled to Ghana in March 1957 to witness the country’s independence ceremonies. King regretted the catastrophic effects of slavery and the 1884 Berlin Conference, which established European colonies in Africa when he returned home. He defined Africa as a continent that had “suffered all the agony and affliction that other nations could whip up.”
Nkrumah’s arduous march to freedom inspired King, who saw parallels between African resistance to European colonialism and the struggle against racism in the United States. He also planned to bring the civil rights movement in America to Africa. Malcolm X, the well-known African American Muslim minister, and human rights campaigner, shared this sentiment. Malcolm visited various African countries in the 1960s to meet with African leaders and give speeches.
African-Americans today, on the other hand, do not share Malcolm and King’s Pan-African spirit. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published an explosive report in 2021 detailing chronic abuses of international human rights law against Africans and individuals of African origin. African-Americans, on the other hand, are said to assume that “Africans” around the world do not face the same problems.
Contemporary Afro-pessimist intellectuals, according to Alden Young, assistant professor of African American studies at UCLA, find no shared identity that may serve as a foundation for solidarity between Africans and African-Americans. “Afro-pessimists stress the particularity of enslavement in the Americas and deny the linkage of the struggles of a permanent minority with anti-colonial nationalism in Africa and Asia,” he claims.
The struggle’s not over
Because African American lobby groups are mainly mute on and impervious to our fights with white supremacy, the Biden administration (and others) may purposefully “ignore” situations in Africa. They are, regrettably, insufficiently sympathetic to Africa’s problems and largely follow the official narrative.
“African concerns are relegated to a position of secondary importance by US foreign policy specialists, only relevant when it comes to the US-China struggle or the specter of terrorism,” Young claims. Similarly, African American matters have long been relegated to a secondary status in US domestic policy, with only local, congressional, and presidential elections bearing any significance.
The same dubious strategy that protects white privilege in the United States is being used worldwide. Africans, on the other hand, have not forgotten the African American struggle for equality and social justice. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa proposed that the UN address reparations for the African diaspora in September 2021.
“Millions of Africans whose ancestors were sold into slavery are still imprisoned in lives of underdevelopment, marginalization, discrimination, and poverty,” he stated. South Africa requests that the United Nations address the subject of reparations for slave trade victims on its agenda.”
“Let us all allow humanism to be our guide and unity to be our strongest force,” Ramaphosa concluded, aware that a long and regretful preponderance of whiteness is growing explicitly exclusionary policies, exactly as Tedros so meticulously criticized.
Because he believed in equality for all people, regardless of race, King would strongly criticize unbalanced global responses to humanitarian disasters and advocate for reform. He also promised that Africans will not be left out of the African American agenda. Africa’s star is rising, and the struggle is far from over.
Africa can make a significant contribution to the African American agenda in the future, and vice versa. It is past time for African-Americans to rediscover their love for Africa and channel it into the creation of a more just and inclusive world. African-Americans should work to ensure that America’s foreign policy reflects the fact that Black and brown lives matter as well.