Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie On Police Killings In America: ‘Language Has Escaped Me’
David Levenson

In an interview with The Atlantic’s contributing editor, Mary Louise Kelley, last Wednesday at the Washington Ideas Forum, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie addressed why she had not posted to her blog, “The Small Redemptions of Lagos” since November 2014 – a few months after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The blog is in the voice of Adichie’s Americanah protagonist, Ifemelu and continues where she left off in depicting the “various observations about American Blacks by a Non-American Black.”

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“The blog in Americanah – I wanted it to be funny. I wanted to poke fun, because I think many of the ways race manifests itself in this country are actually quite funny so I hoped that people would laugh,” Adichie explained. 

“I think what’s going on now just doesn’t give me room for humor,” said Adichie in reference to the pervasive violence Black Americans face when encountering police. “I think that I’m so emotionally exhausted by the murders that I don’t think I could find any space to wrap humor around what’s been happening in the past one year, two years.”

“It’s not just that you shoot a man who’s unarmed, it’s that you handcuff him when he’s clearly dying. There’s something about it that’s so unforgivable inhumane and to think that his race is part of the reason…I really do think that one of the terrible things about racism in this country, is there’s a sense that blackness isn’t really seen as fully human in many quarters,” she said.

“I think that’s why these things happen. I think that’s why a man who is dying is handcuffed; that’s why a boy who is dead is left of the street for hours. It make me wonder: What’s happened to that part of us that is good?”

When asked if by Kelley if she would ever be able to find a way to write about it, the author replied, “Many times I’ve wanted to and I’ve started. But I almost always feel that language has failed me. So I don’t know.”