Main purpose behind Africans inability to talk about race but Blacks do
Being African is different from being Black. If you are an African, it means you do not get to know anything about your past, except that you know that your grandmother died due to malnutrition or any of those simple propositions your parents tell you to remind you that you are a product of a particular genealogy through ejaculations. Why is this? History has been excluded from your school curriculum, since the beginning of your primary education, because you are expected to see your ancestors as carcass of what seems to be of value and white men as the originator of what and where you are today. So you just go to the exam hall and tick the box that says Mungo Park discovered the river Niger, even though when he came to the town, women cooked his meals with water from the same river. However, Mungo Park is white and everything a white man sees he names.
You are African and you don’t get to learn history in school because, today political leaders see themselves as failures. Old people don’t want their young ones to know of their failures. Old men can bear no shame. Yakubu Gowon could not imagine his great-grandchildren learning that the regime he led orchestrated the pogrom of Igbo people. Obasanjo, too, could not bear the guilt of relearning that he was a commander of the army that attempted a pogrom. Therefore, here we are, living in the shadows of our fathers fear and for that, we do not get to learn history except if it is the history of America, history of Britain or the history of the transatlantic slave trade as explained from a very Eurocentric perspective by a European.
Being African is quite eccentric. You don’t get to be annoyed with your past because you don’t know it. Africans will not have time for race discussion because there is no time. The little time Africans have, they have a lot to fight already: bad roads, epileptic electricity, no salary, corruption, sex trafficking, climate change, bad leaders, terrorism, the other person at the neighborhood who they don’t like because he/she just bought a car, patriarchy, poor water, poor healthcare… among others. So talking about racism, with all these problems, is quite subtle. Neglect, therefore, becomes Africans ally when it comes to issues related to race.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s sublime novel “Americanah” tells a lot about Africans and race. Ifemelu does not identify as black, but just African, when she is in Nigeria. It is until she gets to the United States of America that she realizes that there are boundaries to one’s personhood. Being African is different from being Black. Being African means that you live in a geographical place marked as Africa or furthermore, you came from the continent but you now live somewhere else, though your roots are in 0Africa. That is what makes you count as African and even though your British accent is fluent and you barely know that in your mother’s town they speak another language different from English, you count as African. So of course, African is different from being Black. Chimamanda Adichie emphasized the strangeness of transforming one’s personhood from being African into Black through Ifemelu in one of her blog posts:
Dear non-American Blacks, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican, Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”
With those lines above, Adichie systematically appraised the fact that anywhere you come from in Africa, when you get to America or Europe or any country that is dominated by pink (conventionally called white) people, for the pink people you have no longer any heritage that qualifies you as African. You have been initiated into the class of former Negroes. Because for white people, it is a privilege that you get to be in their country; to enjoy all the luxuries of their good government, who albeit, corrupt and poke-nose in other countries’ affairs, yet, still take good care of their citizen’s welfare, unlike the government of African countries, that all they do is steal and launder money abroad.
African leaders are not concerned about a lot: epileptic electricity is never an issue for them to tackle; bad road is normal since they get to travel in luxury cars. In Nigeria, people no longer buy newspapers; the problem is everywhere for them to see: if you turn your face to the right side, you will see bad-roads, turn it to the left you will see a senator sharing radio for members of his constituency. Despite all these socio-political absurdities, Africans, due to insensitivity, are yet to develop resentments, excluding few who read books outside of school curricula.
Africans do not talk about race, Blacks do.
One does not get conscious of the self as black until one gets to America or Europe. This is because Africans don’t care about race. Even though Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a negation of another story that attributes Africans as irrational, and Wole Soyinka’s poem Telephone Conversation is another, we opt to know that these writers were not conscious of their Blackness until they came into acquaintance with white supremacy and how it diminishes being Black. In other words, their reaction to racism was not born through intuition but through acquaintance with Race.
You will think you are just an African, but you will transmit from being African to being black when you travel to a white dominant country who psychologically initiates you to the class of former Negroes. So, please, after transmitting to black, while walking in pedestrian areas, don’t put your hands in the pocket! A cop might have a reason to blow your brain cortex with a pistol. And (s)he will have justifications. Justifications like self-defense. Some white cops may think you were bringing out a gun when they say, show me your hands. Pink people expect every Black person to be a rogue.