At the beginning of October, after The Correspondent’s (very fun!) first anniversary celebrations, I had a conversation with my editor about the direction I wanted to take my beat in.
I’d spent a lot of the past year writing about the subtle ways that injustice is maintained and normalised in our world. I’d written about borders, death and pregnancy-related prejudice. I wrote about racism, the inequality of safety in public spaces and the failures of "global" health solutions in addressing the needs of non-western societies. I’d gotten into unproductive debates with members and Twitter users. I was tired of talking about the problem.
So I wanted to focus on solutions; the ways change is already being made and discrimination is already being dismantled. I wanted to think more constructively and creatively about how we could arrive at a more just future. It was so draining to always be describing the issues; I wanted to find inspiration by foregrounding practical progress.
Then, the #EndSARS movement – or perhaps moment? – happened in Nigeria. Before my eyes, the governor of my home state and president of my country colluded to murder young Nigerians demanding that the right to life be protected. On 20 October 2020, as we watched people in Lekki die on Instagram Live; as other people were murdered outside our view in Mushin and Alausa and God knows where else; as our government and military and police issued lie after blatant lie about what they had done, despair draped itself over my mind like a cloak. The collective trauma was staggering. I certainly lost my balance.
Now, weeks after those heartbreaking events, having spent the past two weeks combating violent rhetoric from my fellow Nigerians against members of the LGBTQ+ community to which I belong, I realised I’m tired again. I’m drained again. The very thing I had said I no longer wanted to do, I was doing again. Describing the problem. Defending my right to not be gaslit about the problem. Asserting that the problem is indeed a problem, whether or not those who benefit from it agree. Hoping that these assertions and argumentations will transform the hearts and minds of some of those who benefit from the problem. Feeling defeated by it all.
I didn’t want to keep doing this in October, and I don’t want to keep doing it now. I’ve realised this is easier said than done: the temptation to defend one’s humanity, or the humanity of others who are also marginalised, is very great. When people are always trying to erase or minimise or bracket who you are and what you’ve experienced, it’s hard not to expend energy rejecting that. But it’s also so unrewarding, after a while.
I know that I’m human. I know we all are. Anyone who wants to believe that human rights are negotiable, or reducible, or whatever, will believe those things. I have decided that it is better to work to change the world around such people, so that they have to catch up, than to try to change the minds of those people.
So, starting with our final book of the year at The Other Shelf, Minna Salami’s Sensuous Knowledge, I’m shifting my focus away from reacting to violence, and towards propagating ideas of new ways of being. It’s not easy to take my eyes off the problem. Reacting is easier (well – that’s not at all easy, actually, but it comes more naturally). But focusing instead on the solution is so much more generative. So much more inspiring. And ultimately, so much more powerful.
As I prepare my mind for this shift – coincidentally, in time for a new year, I invite you to join me. More than joining me, however, I’m asking you to support me. I get so many messages, emails and responses that remind me that the world is as full of goodness as it is of everything else: members reaching out with insight, encouragement and even tangible support, like with donations to communities being evicted or young people organising protests.
I’m asking you to please keep doing that. Continue to point me in the direction of transformation; progress; powerful ways of being that value life rather than denigrate it. Help me keep my mind trained on the ways that the world is changing, rather than the ways it is staying the same or getting worse. Help me remember that realities are multiple, and we can choose to focus on the beautiful realities that help us live rather than costing us our lives. Help me remember that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
Till next time,