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“People in People” — An Article by Okpara Uchenna

What do you know about the inhumane spite gladly shared like a rumour of fresh air by people of the same race, the human kind? The soaring rains of rippled violence have spread generously like fire lit in a very dark place, and has dropped on fathers, mothers, daughters, sons and the unborn.

Those who sought asylum and those who scoured for the greener pastures saw nothing ensconcing, and nothing emerald. What they did see: an upgraded version of tumult, tired breaths, garnets, and imminent deaths. And they saw something else. Wait…

Mankind reflects not just the whole, but the individuals that make up the whole. An individual is not an outright entity, but a looking glass-self by way of interaction; ergo, an existence of that image. And like the oxygen we breathe, a plethora of pictures surround us. How then did prejudice set in on them?

History and conception: superiority and aggression to difference nurtured in the womb of discrimination and envy, and birthed by the need to dominate would open the windows of death because conception is anything but sweet.

History and death: the 12th of May, 2008, and north-eastern Johannesburg and capital of Gauteng province saw citizens of Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique sent to Belize. On the 30th of May, 2013, in Port Elizabeth, Nasir Mahmoud Good became Stephen (the Christian martyr) on his knees as a group of South Africans launched their stones. Reason: xenophobia and the need to dominate. And this need for domination eclipsed the value of human life; that is, immigrants and persons like them were less deserving of both the basic and secondary needs of life that include shelter, job opportunities and family. Will these happen again?

History and repetition: similar act, different face, and a little name tweak. 17th of July, 2014: Eric Garner’s chest compressed to the point of loss. April, 2015: Walter Scott sent to a cold, quiet asylum by shots. Even in May, 2020, racism managed to steal the spotlight from the virus when it came for George Floyd in the frosty, sealed lungs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reasons? The need to flaunt a supposed superiority, to dominate someone who is you, who is different.

The other thing they saw—difference. They looked up and saw themselves. They were not the same. And then, they were all of us. All of us are different.

History and us: the weapons of sexism, tribalism, colorism, classism, religionism, racism, chauvinism and other brands of bigotry and prejudice aimed at those left in history (those mentioned and the majority unmentioned) could very well have changed direction. History and us; because it could have been us.

The heart which wouldn’t beat as intended except prompted by the nervous system and the brain, pumps blood through an intricate vesicular interconnection. The blood pumped by the heart is spread by the cardiovascular system and then, it circulates through the digestive system, and gathers nutrients the body absorbed from eating. The digestive system relays these nutrients to the skeletal one for building strong bones that combines with the muscle to get the body to move, to work. Is synergy not a result of different parts combining like the body systems, organs and tissues intertwined in function and purpose? So why should that fact—the fact that we are different—be our peril?

But here I am. Here you are. Here we are. We would not be here if our distinctions came in the way. The walls of our separate identities have formed bridges. We are connected and like the body systems, tissues, and organs, our beings are unique, peculiar, different, and not separate (what you go through, I go through; what you carry, I carry) and we are unfettered by our differences. Our different faces have formed one race but the walls neither fell nor broke, they only transmogrified.

In the umbrella of undividedness, we are unbroken in parts, neither hit nor flustered by the rains of violence (where would the violence even come from?), unbiased, and unable to distinguish black from white, man from man. For this reason, let us wear our diverse identities and statuses like crowns, shake off the muds of disparity, and return to the throne where congruity rules.

In the likeness and oppositeness of our being, we thrive, we live, we love. And as we find our person in another, let altruism, humanity, and oneness, become our race, gender, religion, colour, culture, nation, tribe, and social class.

From Malawi: Mwana wa mnzako ngwako yemwe, ukachenjera manja udya naye (your neighbor’s child is your own; his/her success is your success too).

From the people of Swahili: Unity is strength, division is weakness.

From the Bondei people of north-eastern Tanzania: sticks in bundles are unbreakable.

And from the Zulu people of Southern Africa: Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (I am because we all are.)

We are the hearts and brains of the human race. And when the ugly head of history pops up again, remember that the brain works because the heart beats and the heart beats slowly or faster because the brain works.

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