Today being African Freedom Day and all, I thought I should reflect on some moments in my life that made me feel very proud to be African. And what better moments to pick than those moments spent with non-Africans? 😊
There are certain uncomfortable experiences you’ll go through living with people of a different skin tone than yours, a different culture and a whole different outlook on life. Because you are having such a good time, you figure, eh, ama just ignore this. But sooner or later it happens again. Something in you wants to fight and scream at someone in your native language. Then you know you’ve just been thoroughly insulted.
One such uncomfortable truth for me was learning that the rest of the world (yes, am being very liberal with my phrases and terms here) thinks it knows more about all sorts of things than any African ever will. They think that just because they live in a first nation, they’re more intelligent socially, politically, economically, psychologically…you name it….than anyone coming from Africa.
And can you honestly blame me for making this assertion if the people I was meeting kept asking me if we have cheese in Africa? If we have tv’s, if we eat on plates, etc. Some even went as far as to offer me some of their clothes that they wanted to give away to some local charities but “oh dear, thank God I met you before I gave everything away!” The sound you’re hearing in the distance is the sound of my great grandchildren feeling insulted on my behalf.
Somehow, because I am African, I was in need of those clothes. I’m not saying I didn’t need the clothes. I love clothes! I like looking nice so if someone offers me clothes, I will jump at the opportunity.
However, if someone is offering me clothes because they think am a charity case, I will slowly choke them to death…in my head. It’s such an insult when someone who has the fashion sense of Hagrid thinks they’re doing you a favor by surrendering some part of their wardrobe. I met people that knew I was from Africa and possibly didn’t have enough warm clothes for the winter there and they gave me winter coats. It was obvious I needed those clothes, very obvious.
However, if am wearing shoes that cost more than half the stuff in your wardrobe (or when most if not all of my clothes look like they’ve only passed through the washer twice despite being cheap and yours look like they’ve lived through WWI and II) and then you offer me your stuff simply because I am from Africa, then you are insulting me.
And then there were the ones that wanted to teach me about everything…and I mean everything. There was just no way an African would know about the chaotic political scene in the USA or what Putin was/is supposedly plotting in the UK… or, that a human being can eat bread with cheese on it. I mean, how possible is that!? Cheese on bread??? I’m shocked to my tonsils that people eat so fancy here. Please.
So many times I silently listened to lectures about these things without anyone expecting me to make an informed contribution of my own. If they needed to hear something from me, it was to ask me if there’s anything like this in Africa or if I’ve ever heard of that topic at all. And I guess I should be understanding considering these people were meeting me for the very time.
However, if am in a group of people that are all meeting for the first time and you deliberately turn to me to ask me if I know who Kim Jong-un is or whether Hilary Clinton is Republican or Democrat, then lady I will take offence. Why arent you asking the others the same question? Why are you assuming that just because they’re citizens in this particular part of the world then they know everything about current affairs or politics in general? I know who Donald Trump is but I don’t even know the name of the Minister of Home Affairs in my own dame country! Wait, we have such a ministry right? Haha
What is worse about dealing with prejudice in a foreign land is when the object of it isn’t even aware of it…when in presenting their prejudices, they assume they’re being politically correct when in fact, they’re insulting you to your face.
I was not so much insulted by the question of whether we have Netflix in Africa than I was being asked if we had television sets. Until I travelled abroad, I had no idea tv’s or let alone cheese were such grand products that they couldn’t possibly be found anywhere else in the world. The things you will learn when you travel…smh.
The thing about Africans is that from time immemorial, we were constantly taught about a part of a world that was far much better than ours. There was always something wrong with the way we lived so some folks decided to take over our land and forcefully teach us about civilization while at the same time take away our basic human rights.
Yet somehow, we went down in history as barbaric residents of a dark continent. I am not sure about what others think but in my world, forcefully taking over land and all its resources, and then enslaving the original owners of the land and setting your self up as superior to them makes you barbaric. But what do I know? I’m just an African.
Here’s what I learnt: that because of my African background, I am well informed about the world around me more than the fellas on the other side of the fence. Now, am not putting this out there as if it’s a good thing because I think it’s a double edged sword of some sort.
The good side is that if you put an African in a room filled with people that have less melanin than him/her and they happen to live in a country that experiences four seasons in a year, the African is most likely to be the most informed person in the room.
We are aware of our own prejudices. We are also aware of other people’s prejudices against us. We most likely know a lot about your way of life both past and present otherwise we wouldn’t be in the same room with you after travelling thousands of miles across the ocean. And by virtue of us being able to communicate with you in your language and be understood, it means we’ve somehow mastered a part of your world whereas you haven’t ours.
Whether they have travelled there, lived there, heard or read about it, or watched something about it, Africans know more about the rest of the world than the world knows about them. The only time an outsider will learn about Africa is if they’ve come across some old documentary on the Discovery channel, from their aged parents who never even visited the continent, from their teachers who never even took a course on modern African history but somehow they heard about the slave ships.
Others decide to learn about Africa when they want to feel good about themselves…am talking about the ones that are ever big on charities and giving away stuff to some kids in Africa. Just because you give money and clothes to some kid in Ethiopia does not mean you helped a whole continent. We thank you for your kindness but honestly, it wasn’t that much. Calm down.
Unfortunately, as Africans, we are raised to pursue a standard of quality that is not our own. Before the invasion of Africa and its subsequent partitioning, Africans had their own standards of what was good quality and what was bad. However, the coming of Europeans into the continent brought an end to everything that Africans considered good. Only the things touched, invented or ‘discovered’ by the folks with less melanin was good enough.
And that was how Africans were screwed. For many years to come, the average black African lived with the idea that in order for him to be a worthy human, he had to look, act and live like a white person. To this day, there are some Africans that are still enslaved by such ideologies. Some aren’t even aware of the chains binding them.
We have become so corrupt that we think its natural to aspire to live or look like the people up north or west. Our religion, beauty, intelligence, our politics…they will never be good enough unless they mimic our former oppressors.
This standard was set for us and we gladly embraced it. And who can blame us for being in such a predicament? It is after all true that these worlds have produced some brilliant things that have propelled humanity to a whole other level of development and civilization. We started well with our pyramids but these folks propelled us to infinity civilization.
However, just because something is or appears that good does not mean anything else that doesn’t look or function like it isn’t.
I won’t pretend that I like everything about my Africa and the people. There are things I loathe and there are traditions I wish we would do away with. Likewise, I won’t pretend that I like everything about the first nations. Meeting a bunch of uninformed people proudly living in their cocoons with no knowledge of the world outside of theirs left an everlasting stench in my soul.
How is it possible that you do not know basic things about another continent and yet I know everything about your diet and your addictions to sleeping pills?
Like seriously, why would any human being living in the 21st century think Africa is a complete jungle? Why would you think I live with Lions or that I know Adebayo, the guy you met on a flight to Durban is when he lives in Nigeria? I don’t even know who my neighbors on the next street are.
You asking me stupid questions about Africa doesn’t mean you are a nice person. I despise politcal correctness. If you know you’re racist just stay away from black people. You don’t have to make small talk. We will appreciate you for that.
Asking stupid questions reeks of deliberate ignorance. We dont go around asking white American and Europrean men; “do you really have a small penis?” Yes, even us Africans hear some wild things about other races and cultures.
Instead of asking me if we have cheese in Africa, try instead: what do you normally have for breakfast in Zambia? Is it any different from what we have here?
There is also a general misconception that all Africans seeking to live in a first world nation is running away from poverty. Others leave for love, others are enticed by the idea of experiencing a culture different from theirs. Yes, others are tempted by the vast pay grade that a job in a first nation will give compared to the same job back home.
Yes, we love the opportunities that first nations provide but that does not necessarily mean we are coming from a godforsaken place. Yes, we acknowledge your nations are way more advanced than some nations in Africa but let’s face it, when it comes to humanity, the rest of the world has a lot to learn from Africans.
And that for me is freedom. We do still have a long way to go to be fully liberated, but let’s save that discussion for another day. For now, Happy African Freedom Day my pips.