Like children sired in the same dark womb, Nigerians raised their voices in emotive sympathy towards the ‘free walk’ of George Zimmerman after allegedly killing Martin Trayvon. Just having streaks of dark patches on our skins is enough to bind us together and so evil done to one is evil done to all.
It mattered so much because it was America – the land of the free and the brave. Why did such happen? Citizens are supposed to be free spirited. Everyone was equal before the law or at least supposed to be. It mattered so much because DSTV channels followed the proceedings methodically and got our hearts glued. Not so much in the same way when bombings occur in our own enclave Nigeria. Our voices become tempered when bombs chop off many black skins in North Eastern Nigeria. Our voices are at best laced with pious platitudes like “It’s well” or “God help us”.
Studying the analysis folks did, the overwhelming theme got skin colour poking into my face. The victim – victimizer analysis was more about skin colour than the technical details of the prosecution and defence techniques at the law court. What if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon white, would he have walked free? This was a question that ran the gamut of so many conversations.
To be racially profiled is indeed a painful experience. To be snarled at just because of one’s skin colour can be quite humiliating. Most of us have gotten the skin colour preferential (mis) treatment and it’s not a sweet pie to swallow.
Young and ready to take on the world after my university education, I found myself outside Nigeria for the first time in 2006 on an all-expense paid one year internship programme in Italy. I had heard many tales so I was ‘pre-armed.’ My bag received special searches at airports (I made sure I clutched them close so nobody dropped anything incriminating in it). The customs men peered intently into my eyes as if they were reading whether I’d desecrate their country or not before stamping my green passport.
I was approached by policemen who regularly asked for my passport. My first Italian words were “Signore,passaporto per favore.” At least they were respectful enough to add “please”. I always had my passport ready to flash it like a referee in their faces. At one of the airports while in transit between cities, while sitting cross-legged and reading a book, I was approached by the same policeman twice within an hour of waiting for my connecting flight from Milan to Cagliari. On those two occasions, he requested for my passport as if thinking he’d fish out a fake one on me.
No thanks to the company which gave me pocket money in bills of 200, 500 and 1000 euro. Wherever I went to buy groceries or some stuff, my money was constantly screened under the ‘purple fluorescent bulb.’ Somehow I felt I wasn’t supposed to carry the bills or there was something itchy about a young black man carrying such heavy bills around.
One evening as I strolled leisurely, I turned into a street and saw an aged woman walking about fifty meters from me. As if wind blew a whiff of my perfume, she turned and saw me. Reflexively, she clutched her purse, quickly crossed the road to the other side and increased her pace. I laughed so loudly to her utter amazement or bewilderment, whichever one it was.
….. to be continued.