My heart beat. My daughter is nine years old, and I wish I could protect her from the brutality of this video.
“I wanted to protect you,” I answered, I was totally surprised by the conversation.
“But mom, you have to tell me these things. I have to be willing to deal with this because I’m black.”
My little girl is already preparing to hate others, simply because of her skin color.
“Is that why we moved to Nigeria?” She asked.
She took a deep breath and tried to answer her questions as honestly and frankly as I could.
I made it clear that the move to Nigeria was partly because I wanted her to grow in a world free of racism, petty assaults, and the mental fatigue that accompanies her, just as I did when I was her age.
A world whose capabilities will not be pre-determined by its race.
A world where you will be part of a majority and not an acceptable minority.
A world in which it is perfectly acceptable and simply belongs – without the need to clarify its source or to justify its existence.
Freedom from racism
I was born in Nigeria in the late seventies and lived there until my family moved to London when I was 12 years old. I wanted to experience freedom from racism that I remembered at the time.
But times have changed. We now live in an interconnected world. Here my beautiful black daughter was telling me that I couldn’t protect her from racism more than I could prevent her from breathing.
My daughter was born in the United Kingdom. She was five years old when we moved to Lagos, and she already had an awareness of her race in ways that I didn’t own at the same age.
I think that when I was nine years old, in the eighties, I lived in a country with a black majority.
The conversations were completely different.
I had no idea about my skin tone until we moved to London in 1989.
From the mockery of “African Bobo”, to more insidious forms of racism. Once I kicked a door at me. On another occasion, a white school friend told me that one of his classmates asked him why he was hanging out with “dirty African”.
I was born into a well-off middle-class Nigerian family, and I grew up with all the benefits that I brought.
But in London, it soon became clear to me that our situation had changed – you are now a stranger, and “the other”, whose daily interactions will be sweaty.
From a college advisor who told me that there weren’t many black journalists, so maybe I should think of another career path, until he was followed up by analysts while shopping in south London, where I grew up.
The one that was really deep – and that hurts me so far, when I remember it – is the time when I was walking my daughter, when I was three, home from a nursery and a white woman we saw a tiger along the road and grabbed her bag tightly in response.
Even with my little girl beside me, this woman thought I would steal her.
There was simply no respite from him.
Everyday, accurate attacks
Small assaults were described as dying with a thousand pieces of paper. It was an almost daily event living in London – a city that sees itself as global, diverse and “above” talks about race.
So, when I had the opportunity to return to Nigeria, I grabbed her with both hands. I instinctively knew that I wanted to protect my daughter from the dehumanization of racism.
England offered me a world of opportunity, but after three decades living in London, I was ready to move on.
Returning to the motherland, as I refer to ideas to Africa, I was allowed to exhale, to relieve a heavy load that I did not even realize I was carrying.
I jumped on the opportunity to raise my daughter differently.
These days she likes to watch Nollywood movies, where heroes look like her, and she imagines herself as the lead woman in her novel, not a partial role in a story written by someone else for her.
For her, every day is the month of black history – it is not excluded for only a few weeks of the year as a symbolic gesture.
She knows that her history does not begin and end with slavery.
Let her know that black history is history.
She has shown that she is ready and can handle these more mature conversations.
The burden of injustice
This unexpected and lively exchange with my daughter made me realize that we as Africans also have an ethnic distinction – because we simply don’t have to deal with race at all.
In a country where everyone is black, your identity is not in doubt. Instead, we have a strong sense of who we are.
I visited the village where my grandfather was born, speak my language and know everything about my culture and heritage.
Black people all over the world whose ancestors were moved from Africa in chains during the slave trade cannot easily claim these lost identities.
Returning to Nigeria has given me a respite from the burden of repression that blacks have carried abroad for centuries.
The burden of being black is no longer realistic – although life is far from perfect in Nigeria and there are identity divisions, mostly on ethnic and religious lines.
But we, as Africans, are not tired of fighting an invisible enemy and treachery, like a coronary virus pandemic that slowly squeezes your life, like the knee to the neck.
My African colleagues, it is time for us to verify our ethnic privilege: the franchise that gives us the mental safety net to move to America and seize the opportunities that African Americans have fought and died for.
Greer writes: “White and even black Americans are often perceived as foreign-born as different and” private “citizens – as hard-working citizens and more productive than their black American counterparts.
But there have also been many deaf responses from Africans, whether in the United States or at home, that have echoed feelings that I have heard many times in the past.
Africans face our own struggles as well, but we often reject the black American struggle, and thus fail to show sympathy.
There have been splits on both sides for a long time.
Far from “playing the victim,” we need to realize that black Americans are the true victims of the ongoing and systemic repression that has contributed to the “we are exhausted” chants that have been heard over and over during the George Floyd protests.
The truth is that your Harvard degree, your career status, and your charming witch will not prevent you from experiencing racism – nor will you be a “typical minority”.
In the same way that white people are required to educate themselves about race issues, Africans must also take the time to get to know this struggle, and understand why African Americans are angry, hurt and tired.
Meeting with the police must not equal the death penalty. However, this is often the stark reality of many blacks, not only in America, but in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe as well.
There is no gradual scale of equality. We are all human beings and deserve the same level of humanity.
Blacks live the article.