While quite a number of friends restricted social media interactions to observe the holy month of Ramadan, I decided to observe my social- distancing from social media after Eid. Sometimes, it becomes too much. You are overworked at home, over-stressed, trying to stay afloat Covid-19-imposed downtimes, and surviving the enormous challenges each day throws at you. Locked away by the principle of social-distancing, the only time you have actual human interactions might be the few occasions you go for a walk, or the once in two weeks that you visit the store for groceries. Well, we all know that moving your trolley while observing six-foot distance from a stranger does not count for human interaction, so you rely on virtual platforms and social media to stay connected to friends and families, and get updates on happenings around the world.
It has been over two years since I relied on traditional media for news, as news channels have become so politicized and a major tool of propaganda and division. It is no different with print media. I recently visited the store and observed that everything they had on the shelf screamed out obscenities against Meghan Markle. Watching Michelle Obama’s Netflix documentary, I was reminded of the brutal attacks print media launched against Michelle and Barack Obama, just because of the colour of their skin. Social media was a safe space. It was easier to express yourself and be heard all over the world. However, it did not take long for politicians, oppressors, and news houses to begin to exploit it for their own goals. It became the haven of bullies. All sorts of movements and counter-movements erupted and gained acceptance globally, making a mess of one’s social media corner at times. It was easy for anyone, even your best friends, to open a pseudo account and begin to bully you. It was easy for anyone with a large following to establish a lie as a fact. It was easy for all sorts to thrive and fester unchecked. Yet, it is important that people’s rights to free speech remain sacrosanct and uncensored.
However, it is pertinent to know that with rights come responsibilities. Your rights instruct your responsibility to your neighbour, and your community. We can not afford to live and speak recklessly. I took a break from twitter while investigation into the murder of Ahmaud Arbery was ongoing, and while the facts were coming out ugly, the media took upon itself it’s anticipated role of painting the black man a criminal who deserved to be shot by the white self-appointed officers of the law. Sometimes, I wonder what goes on in inter-racial marriages and friendships when evil events like this happen. How do they manage the conversations that ensue, or they avoid talking about it altogether just as Michael Jackson avoided watching TV?
Well, I added a twitter break to my 2-year break from television news only to see Instagram posts honouring another casualty of hate. I sent a message to a friend, asking him if another black man was just killed in the US.
“Yeah it’s around the clock.”
The response hit me like a rock. Nothing prepared me for the realization that a black man is fast becoming an endangered species in the US. If he is not killed for minding his business which includes sitting in his home or jogging by the side walk, he is imprisoned for 37years like Archie Williams for a crime he did not commit, and celebrated by a couple of crocodile tears at a show that probably has people who will readily vote for leaders who have not done anything about racial inequality, and leaders who will lead racial wars, in attendance. People who will lie against the next Archie Williams or shoot the next Ahmaud Arbery clapped and dropped a performative tear. When you jail an innocent man for 37years, you take away his life. If he had a son before his arrest, his son grew into a man without him. It is a great injustice and crocodile tears do not fix it if we do not fix the system.
I propose two ways to fix the system.
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1. Go to the polls and vote a non-prejudiced leader, one who is capable of galvanizing a very divided people.
2. Do a quick assessment of yourself and be a better person if you are a hateful being.
Note that you might have never murdered anyone, but your hateful posts, prejudiced associations, and malicious votes at the polls embolden dangerous people to kill on your behalf. The blood of the slain is on your hands.
The cost of prejudice is human lives.