The tragic deaths of two black men at the hands of police, and then the murder of five police officers in Dallas, happened soon after I arrived here. This was discussed a lot by Sierra Leoneans during my first week here, and as the nearest American, people asked me about it a few times. I wrote a column about some of the things I heard that made an impression on me. Here’s an excerpt of the beginning, followed by a link to the full article:
We’re seven months into 2016, and the United States and the world have already been traumatized by a succession bloody, senseless acts of violence. Last week I was just getting settled into Freetown when the headlines greeted me with news of death: two African American men in separate cities killed unnecessarily by the police, one after the other, and just a few hours later, five police officers gunned down in revenge by a sniper in Dallas, Texas.
It’s been interesting being in West Africa while these events unfolded, and hearing reactions from people here. On more than one occasion I’ve been asked for an explanation for why this happens. Why do police in the United States seem to kill black people so often? The issue has sadly become such a common subject of conversation in the United States, in the headlines and on social media. I hadn’t thought about how inexplicable this phenomenon might seem to people in the rest of the world, and how many questions are raised by its constant recurrence.
The subject came up this past Saturday while I was walking toward a polling station with several Sierra Leone journalists in Lunsar, north of Freetown. It was a clear, sunny day and we were walking between the highway and a ditch on the other side.
One man was curious if this narrative of black people being killed by police was more the result of media bias than anything else. Didn’t police kill white people as well? As far as I understood, I offered, the proportion of black people killed is much higher. One man said he was under the impression that this happens because police fear black people and see them as dangerous. He noted pessimistically that if it’s an instinctive, unconscious fear, it might be hard to do anything about the problem. He worried that these police killings could lead to race war and ethnic fighting in the US.
Read the rest here, or at this URL: http://awoko.org/2016/07/14/sierra-leone-news-chetanyas-view-on-talking-about-american-police-killings-with-sierra-leoneans/