Defend Truth


Trump will win again: Perhaps it is time for African Americans to come home to Mother Africa


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

‘I can’t breathe’ is a rallying cry from black America, a desperate cry for help. Just like black South Africans cried for help during our dark days of apartheid, our African American brothers and sisters are crying out, and we must help them.

I can’t breathe!

These were the last words of George Floyd before white police officers snuffed the life from him in Minneapolis in the US. This murder led directly to the riots, protests and violence we observed over the last few weeks. Why? Because black people have had enough of this racist and bigoted country.

With the Covid-19 pandemic also contributing to the devastation and black people dying disproportionately in the US, it’s no wonder the words have a double meaning, I can’t breathe. The shortage of ventilators and medical assistance due to its warped health system also means I can’t breathe.

No wonder the riots are filled with such violence, frustration and anger over job losses (almost 40 million at last count): in a way, it is economic suffocation, economic violence against a people, they cannot breathe.

State violence disproportionately directed at blacks means more unarmed black men get killed by the police, more black men are incarcerated in their country, and more black kids grow up without their fathers and indeed with continuous violence in their respective communities.

I can’t breathe is a rallying cry from black America, a desperate cry for help. Just like black South Africans cried for help during our dark days of apartheid, our African American brothers and sisters are crying out, and we must help them.  

The misery and despair are often wallpapered over by the flight of fancy Hollywood motion pictures, which is how they want the rest of the world to see the US. We fly around in Starship Enterprise, visiting far away quadrants in space, or better yet, solve cases with the various NCIS teams, the glorious FBI and the thin blue line. New York’s finest will always catch their guy and we’re always rooting for the good cops. But alas, this is fiction at its best, the counter-narrative is far worse than we think, the bad guy in reality is always black and more after than not, ends up dead.   

“I can’t breathe” is a culmination of so much going on in the US today, and you know what’s the most unfortunate thing of it all? Donald Trump will win in November 2020. The “Bradley effect” will yet again rear its ugly head. The average American is not going to be truthful with the various pollsters, they will not admit their fears and indeed in some quarters their racist held beliefs, and so they will say I am not voting for Trump. But in reality, the fear of succumbing to the demands of the minority begs the question, where do we draw the line? Must we bend over backwards for these blacks?

The thought I always had from the moment Trump was elected was that he was an idiot with no intelligence: The truth is, the village fools are large swathes of the electorate. This is the president that wants to invoke the largest and most destructive military force on the streets of the capital, wants to invoke militia groups to come to the defence of America. If ever there was no leadership from the presidency in the US, it is now, it is shameful. As for the riots and protests all over the US, it was Martin Luther King who said “in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”

To my fellow African Americans, it was Keith Richburg from the Washington Post who in 1997 in his book about the Rwanda genocide, Out of America – A Black man Confronts Africa, asked: “Are these really my people? Am I truly an African American?”

The answer, Richburg finds after much soul-searching, is that black skin is not enough to bind him to Africa and that he is an American first, foremost and singularly. To those who would romanticise Mother Africa as a black Valhalla, where blacks can walk with dignity and pride, he regrets to report that this is not the reality. He has been there and has witnessed the killings, the repression, the false promises, the horror.

And in his darkest night of the soul, Richburg looks into his own family’s past and concludes: “Thank God. Thank God my nameless ancestor, brought across the ocean in chains and leg irons, made it out alive. Thank God I am an American.”

In contrast, I wonder what Richburg would say these days after that dreadful period of slavery he refers to, as if to romanticise it, what he would say about the civil rights movement and indeed the BlackLivesMatter protest to this day? Would he still be so coy about his ancestors making it to those slave ships? It has literally been centuries that the black man has been fighting to breathe in the US, to be treated as an equal before the law as the US constitution and Declaration of Independence claim. 

Perhaps now it’s time for you to come back home, to Mother Africa. It’s not a perfect continent as you know, but at least you’ll have your dignity and humanity back. DM


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