“What’s your name?” Uju
“Your English name?” Still Uju
“Why don’t you give yourself one?” I like this just fine
“You can be Anita, Isabella, or Melissa” No, thanks
“Why?” Because it isn’t Nigerian
“Is that your natural hair?” Yes
“Why didn’t you braid it, or use extensions?” I am not bothered by my looks, you shouldn’t be
“Why?” Because I love my hair
“Are your nails natural?” Yes
“French tips will look good on you, with a bit of color” No, thanks.
“Why?” Because my nails are fine
“Your skin is so beautiful” Thanks
“You look like a black American” I’m a black Nigerian
“But you’re more brown than black” Call me black anyway
“Why don’t you speak funeh when your cousins come home” It’s not my accent
“But they won’t understand you” I don’t understand them either (not true)
“They’ll say you’re a bush girl” This bush is home. I’m teaching my cousins to be more African
What’s the African craze to conform to Western standards? I wonder if we are so ashamed of who and what we are, that the first chance we have to leave home, we become someone else.
They say racism is gone, but is it really? Or are we free men who have been genetically impaired by years of ancestral white-black slavery, that we are stuck in a cesspool of Western indigenization? Now even back home people want to be American/British Africans.
I got a call from a total stranger who picked my number off my facebook page some months ago. For the first few minutes of our conversation I had my jaw hanging open, so I asked, “Excuse me, what’s your country of residence?”
“Seuth Erfriceh” he replied.
I hung up and spent the next couple of minutes pondering why a South African based Nigerian who hasn’t spent up to a year there would be speaking like an American. That’s just pitiful. I’m sure there are a lot more out there who do the same.
My question, is this sudden change borne out of a need to blend with the society we find ourselves to gain acceptance, or is it out of a feeling of inferiority? I can’t say I have much of a problem with the former because people have a choice to do what they wish if they feel it will make their life better. However, in such a situation I’d most certainly live fully African than be plagued by a loss of identity at some future date; something the Westerners would most certainly call depression.
If it’s the latter, then—this might be a tad judgmental—shame on you. Shame on you for feeling less than beautiful; for thinking your bronze skin is less attractive than the pale white. Shame on you for thinking that your kinky hair must be constantly substituted for more silky strands. It’s quite OK to want to switch your style, but when that becomes an absolute necessity—up to the point where no one knows what the real you looks like without all that ‘layers’, we have a problem.
We don’t always have to bend to society’s Wills, we are society. If we start a trend, it picks up from there. If the rest of the world thinks us queer, tell them we are beautifully quirky. If our brothers, our own African family expect something more ‘refined’, tell them to take a dip in the Atlantic.
There is only so much one can hold on to in our ever industrialized and globalized world, but those basic culture—our delicacy, dressing, names, speech– ourselves in its most primal form, the things no one can take away from us but ourselves, lets grab on to it or we lose everything. Be African and proudly so.