It all started around 8 years ago. I visited America – Texas to be precise – with my mother as a rather over-thrilled teenage boy finally getting the chance to see the country – well at least a part of it – he’d always admired and been so fascinated and excited by. It was not long after my visit that I then realised the country I’d so patiently longed to visit was nothing but a disappointment.
There’s a saying, ‘expect little and never be disappointed’. In retrospect, it seemed I had expected a little too much. Arriving with an abundant amount of excitement and eagerness (as you’d expect from a young teen), my mother and I were automatically welcomed by immigration officers who, with their prolonged and somewhat unnecessary interrogations, almost made us miss our connect flight from Newark, New Jersey to Austin, Texas.
It wasn’t until my return to England and a couple of years later that it occurred to me how racial it was of the officers that my mother and I were questioned whilst other non “black” or to be politically correct, non-ethnic visitors were free to collect their bags without being questioned.
Eight years on from my last and only visit to America, it appears the country is in turmoil (whether they – the government and even some of the public – want to admit and acknowledge it or not) due to racial discrimination, inequality and abuse which some ironically seem to think has only just started to happen despite its history dating back to centuries.
Considering the number of protests and rallies that have been held in the past few days and weeks due to the killing of several ‘black’ members of the American public by caucasian members of the police force, however, it seems nothing has been done to try to resolve this ongoing issue even if we all know racism can never die in America let alone the world, but some sort of action can be done to prevent more ‘black’ and other ethnic’s lives from being unfairly taken away.
Personally I feel that protests and rallies only go so far in resolving an issue and that is being heard. However, there’s a difference between being heard and actually being listened to. The most all these protests and rallies have done is inform the world about the current racial crisis in America, but as stated in the aforementioned nothing has actually been done to at least attempt to resolve the issue or issues ongoing.
Moreover, this now brings me to the point of this opinion piece.
Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie mentioned in her critically acclaimed novel, Americanah, (my personal favourite of the year), through the novella’s protagonist, Ifemelu, that “I wasn’t black until I came to America.” I can’t help but seem to think that is the case with all ‘blacks’ not only in America but generally in ‘the West’.
As a very young boy, I left my country of birth (Nigeria), as stated, a ‘young boy’ and came to the country I happen to still reside (England) and out of my wildest imagination and knowledge became a ‘young black boy.’ In my motherland, Africa, mostly everyone in each of its 55 countries, apart from perhaps South Africa, are identified not by the colour of the skin but by their birth name, wealth, occupation or reputation. So you can only imagine how aback I was taken when in social circles I was either identified as ‘the black kid’ or described as the black kid and when at school being described as ‘the boy with the long name’ due to the length of my cultural birth name.
Poet and Classical-Scholar, Thomas Gray once said, “ignorance is bliss where ’tis folly to be wise.” It is without doubt that ignorance is one of the primary reasons behind racism and I for one cannot be an advocate of a nation that freely takes away the lives of ‘blacks’ in an effort to eradicate its race. I simply cannot visit a country that I would endlessly fear for my life due to the colour of my skin.
I simply cannot and will not visit a country in which I would endlessly fear for my life due to the colour of my skin.
Eight years since my last visit and for all the aforementioned reasons I shall continue to count.