There’s this story my mum likes to repeat, occasionally. It never gets old. Best told in Ibibio, of course, but I’ll try my best.
A young local pastor was preaching about the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And quite enthusiastically so.
“They tore his clothes. Slapped him. Knocked him. Even spat on him. They made an ugly crown of thorns and put it on his head. Oh, the pain. Then they gave him something bitter and poisonous to drink before they hung him on the cross. And he quietly endured all this. What a savior”.
Suddenly, from the back of the captivated audience, someone interrupted. It was the village drunkard.
“Okon, bét isee. Afo amaa ‘ba dó?” he slurred.
[Translation: Okon, wait first. Were you there?]
To the church, the pastor’s reply to this vital question was more important than the original story. So they waited. And after some hems and haws, the discomposed pastor found his voice.
“No. But that’s what the bible says and…”
“Then preach as if you’re reading from the bible and not as if you saw it happen.”.
The thing about reporting hearsay. Amidst the excitement, ‘app’ becomes ‘apparition’ and ‘cock’ morphs into ‘crocodile’. Too often, you come back to eat your words. But who cares about rational thinking? The grapevine must be fed.
But, this one you’ve gone further to become prosecutor, jury, and judge on the matter, Okon, were you there? You’re rallying people to come out with pitchforks because of a post you read on Facebook. Facts, you don’t have but if there’s an African man in the story, he must be the villain.
Society is crawling with too many injustices that we can fight at once. Hastily condemning people based on popular stereotypes is one of them.
Aren’t we fast becoming proponents of single stories?
Is this all activism or is there an unconscious need to have an “I told you so” moment lurking somewhere in there?
Are we trying to rid the society of one injustice just so we can replace it with another?