Grace Demuren ‘22
Both of my parents grew up near Lagos, Nigeria; they are both a part of the Yoruba tribe, which is one of three prominent tribes in Nigeria. While they enjoyed their life in Nigeria, they knew that they would have better opportunities in the United States, so they immigrated here and raised a family together. While I was growing up, my parents integrated the culture and language of their native land into my life, as many immigrant parents do. I have tried to mesh my Nigerian culture with the African American culture I have been introduced to as well, which is a struggle that many first-generation Americans face. For clarity, a first-generation American is a person who is born in the US and has parents who are immigrants, but it can also be used to describe naturalized Americans (immigrants who are permitted to be permanent residents of the United States). While being a first-generation American is quite special, it comes at the price of feeling like you are stuck between a rock and hard place. This is mainly due to the constant pain I feel, caused by S.A.R.S’ harassment of Nigerian citizens and police brutality towards African Americans in the United States.
The movement #endSARS is unlike anything that I have heard of in Nigeria’s political history. S.A.R.S is the “special anti-robbery squad”, which is a branch of the Nigerian police force meant to deal with crimes such as robbery, moto vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling and firearms. S.A.R.S officers are known to abuse their power and profile young Nigerians. They allegedly conduct unwarranted checks and searches, mount illegal roadblocks, rape women, and detain people without a warrant nor trial, which has sparked the creation of the #endS.A.R.S movement. This social movement started in 2017, but it experienced a revitalization with a series of mass protests through major cities and widespread social media outrage against police brutality in Nigeria. Watching It has been incredibly stressful to see the outcomes of these protests; I would often refresh my newsfeed at night only to see if the death toll had risen significantly, fearing that one of my family members would be included. At least 56 people have died during the protests and many more Nigerian citizens have been harassed and assaulted by S.A.R.S police. Seeing the mistreatment of Nigerian citizens has discouraged me from my hopes of visiting Nigeria anytime soon. Even though I am physically removed from the situation, I still carry the emotional trauma from seeing these moments portrayed in the media.
Being a first-generation pulls you in two different directions: the native country in which your ancestors established your past and the new country in which you will pave way for the future of your offspring. Usually, one benefit of this is when one community is struggling, I can find a sense of security and relief that at least the other home is thriving, but now this is no longer the case due to the police brutality that Black people face in America.
At the beginning of the summer, The Black Lives Matter movement picked up in full force as a result of media coverage on George Floyd’s murder, but this was not the only driving force. In 2020, Black people have been 28% of the people killed by police, even though we only make up 13% of the US population. The constant media coverage and protests over the summer made me lose myself. Early in the summer, I rarely left my room for two weeks because I did not feel safe anywhere else. I created a personal haven from the world because everywhere else seemed to challenge my existence as a Black woman. I have dealt with the most difficult parts of my trauma, but I still carry these anxious thoughts around with me every day.
The way that I navigate the world has changed. I am in constant fear for my life and the lives of those I love. However, I am learning not to let that fear take over me. Instead, I strive to be as brave as those who are on the frontlines of protests, fighting in the United States and Nigeria to regain the parts of their humanity that were stolen from them.