While I was in London my housemate in Accra, Ghana was telling me about a domestic problem she was having and how she needed assistance to remedy it. I gave her the number of a gentleman at my old workplace in Accra who did all the odd jobs and bits and pieces that needed to be done. In the UK he would be called the Caretaker, in Accra there is no such title. This role is moderately paid and the position holder is often not treated with the full respect a person should be afforded no matter the perceived worth of their job. Referring him to my friend wasn’t a big thing to me it was simply a possible solution to her problem.
I have just come back from Ghana and on my last day when I was speaking to this gentleman he thanked me for thinking of him and referring him to my friend. I told him it wasn’t anything that needed thanks; what he went on to say has stuck with me and had me turning it over and over in my mind since. He said it in Twi so I shall write it as he said it in English translation ‘when your friend called me I was happy because it showed me you see me as a person. Just because you don’t have a car you are still a person, just because you don’t have money you are still a person, just because you don’t have a big house you are still a person. So thank you very much’. The passion and determination in his delivery showed me how important it was for him to say this to me.
I was speechless, he left shortly after that and I was left reflecting over his words. Ghana is a country of hierarchies, positions and concepts of respect and how one should demonstrate this to another. How this plays out in society is that some people who perhaps do not deserve the respect and consideration of their peers and the rest of society receive it bountifully. Corrupt leaders, politicicans, religious leaders, business people and so on often are treated favourably though their actions are not only heinous but also detrimental to the country, congregation and/ or individuals. Why? Simply put money, power or both. How either is come by is seemingly not of great importance just the fact you have it is reason enough for my diffidence to you.
As I thought of what my ex-colleague had said, I had to think about what moved him to say it. He clearly had been made to feel on a number of occasions like he wasn’t a person, therefore it would follow that he had been made to feel like his life didn’t matter. There is a great deal of attention and focus on the movement Black Lives Matter in the United States as there should be. The apparent disregard for the sanctity and value of a black life in the US is clearly a Human Rights violation.
Conversations lead me to ask do Black Lives Matter to the owners of those lives for themselves and to those who share the same skin tone? I am not referring to Black on Black crime I am rather looking a step further and taking it back to Ghana. Ghana is a great place yet it is a place where almost everything you do seems to hold a certain risk factor. You go to the supermarket to purchase products or to the market and you are hoping that the meat really is fit for consumption and isn’t the condemned meat from some other country which has been frozen, transported to Ghana, dyed, pumped with water to make it look ‘normal’ and then sold on at a premium to the unsuspecting consumer.
There is little confidence in the companies in place to safeguard you as the fear is that the inspector was tipped to let this consignment through. Money is given greater importance than the safeguarding of the lives of those whom you have responsibility for as your job of which you get paid. A similar scenario can play out in the pharmacist with the medicines you buy; in the wires purchased to fit the electricals in your home and on it goes. If people within your nation truly believed your life mattered would these practices be able to not only flourish but be accepted as the norm?
Currently, in Ghana, it is promising to see the people – seemingly all strata’s of society – came together to march against the constant and seemingly endless power outages or ‘Dumsor’, meaning off and on, that is being experienced. The associated dangers of this have been a rise in crime, dangers in the health service, road safety issues and extreme personal discomfort. The people asked the government what they were doing about this problem and demanded more effective actions. I say this is promising because people are waking up to the fact that they deserve more and can make it clear that their needs, their views and their lives matter.
If we bring it down to an individual basis how do we treat each other? If you do not seem of ‘value’ to me, am I dismissive of you? Rude? Do I disregard your very presence until I am forced to have to address you? The quick and easy answer is, no I do not do any of those things, but take a moment and reflect on how you interacted with your house help, driver, street seller, assistant at work, those you manage. Are you aware of your tone and attitude when you interact with them? That is really where it starts. The most heinous crimes in humanity have been able to occur when people stop seeing other people as being as much and as worthy a person as themselves.
If you truly believe Black Lives Matter, all Black Lives then we have to act accordingly to those who are living because when they are dead it is too late for them to know that they had great worth to this planet.