What Does Black Freedom Mean When White Power Structures Remain?

Children in the Nigerian civil war
Emeka Ochiagha
May 21, 2021

What does it mean to live in the afterlife of slavery? Words like “freedom” and “independence” mean very little if power structures remain the same. It can feel like running full speed in the same place, with anti-Black violence on replay! How can we break the cycle?

The Igbo people understand this feeling. The British colonized them and grouped them with other African tribes to form the country of Nigeria. Britain’s preferred Northern tribe became the governmental leaders so that Nigeria would be easier to control! 

The Igbos started an independence movement – but it would face resistance.

The Northern elites didn’t want independence. They complied with the movement – as long as the old structures and systems remained the same. It kept them in governmental power and allowed the British to keep control secretly.

The Igbos reluctantly agreed to the terms – but soon realized that the oppression remained, even with the Europeans “no longer in the picture!” Wanting true independence, the Igbos separated from Nigeria and renamed their land “Biafra.”

But with secret help from the British, the Nigerian government declared war and brought Biafra to its knees.

If white power structures don’t change, white power remains. The history of the Biafra War should make us question the way we think of Black American freedom – and our supposed “emancipation” from slavery.

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