This week, last year was historic because it marked the first Black Lives Matter protest on May 26th, 2020. The protests were in regards to the unjust killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, and against the countless police brutality acts on African American people in the country. Several countries including Denmark, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Australia also took part soon after the first protest in Minneapolis broke out.
I moved to Liberia on Nov. 19, 2019. Since then I have actively visited historical sites where slave trades took place as it had a historical significance to the place. One of the places was an island called Bushrod Island where African-American slaves were brought to be set “free”. However, because of terrible conditions, thousands ended up dying of malaria. The locals still feel tormented by what their ancestors went through in America after 200 years which tells a great deal about the ordeal they faced.
When the news of the BLM protests was broadcasted here, there was a dolorous look on people’s faces; it felt like the lit candles of hope were being blown out. I entered a store where the shopkeeper usually had a beaming smile for her customers, but after the incident her face was so stoic it reminded me of a mannequin. I could feel their disappointment in learning how African Americans were still facing injustice after supposedly many years of independence.
The look of dismay covered everyone’s faces, but it was most noticeable on the neighbourhood kids who played during the daytime. Before the incident, I would hear laughter, cheerful voices, and carefree smiles, but after those incidents, all I saw was an emptiness in the air where no amount of distraction would be sufficient to fill the gap. They sometimes came to play with frustrated looks on their faces that slowly turned to saddened expressions. Even children were aware of what was happening in the world.
It was heartbreaking to see that people had to go on about their days like they usually do because they did not have enough support to even form an international voice which could strengthen the protests in America. It made me aware of how this helplessness is nothing but common to them. Their struggles and adversities are overshadowed by the constant publicity of their corrupt government, and they have no choice but to comply with the bare minimum they are provided.
The fatigue by this injustice is so evident that some people have just become insensitive and have given up on speaking out. They ignore the topics of protests and rights because the people who do speak out face further hardships. However, there is always respect for the ones who have fought and spoken out, and recognition for those who have tried to shed light on the problems that people face.
As a non-African, living in Liberia has taught me that amidst misfortune people still look onwards with bright smiles because they hope for a safer and happier future that gives them strength. Thus it is only right that I share a small fraction of their struggles in hopes by raising awareness.
Although news channels and social media platforms were overwhelming, there was a force of encouragement to hold several people accountable, who were ignored before, for their actions and words. It helped many realize the subtle ways people can be racist, and it displayed the true nature of many through what they supported during the protest.
People are called sensitive for complaining about a lot of things, but if that falls under calling out racists then it is better to be sensitive than being ignorant or indifferent. This is because black lives matter and will always matter.
Bishalakshmi Bagchi is a staff reporter.
Edited by Riya Gupta