Below are tweets by Nigerian writer Luvvie Ajayi that I compiled together.
We’re all so ethnocentric and we think our history is taught to everyone else. It’s not. Africans aren’t taught about the Middle Passage in school or about slavery in the U.S. We don’t get lessons about the Civil Rights Movement in Nigeria when we got the Biafran War to learn about. Nahmean?
Much of the tension between Africans and African Americans exists because we don’t talk enough about our uncomfortable relationship. I didn’t know a thing about African Americans being slaves when I was growing up. I thought everyone had a maid and driver like I did. I didn’t even give the United States extra thought because I was comfortable in Nigeria. I was GOOD. I thought all Black folks were. I was 9. I never identified as “Black” growing up because Black was the default where I was from. Racial politics is something I learned when I got here.
Many Africans who come to the U.S. do so when they’re FULL GROWN. That means you won’t be immersed in studying black history and whatever biases you already had will probably stay because who will teach you otherwise? Certainly not the bogus ass mainstream media.
"Akata." It’s a word that some Nigerians use to refer to Black Americans. It’s ugly. I don’t use it. That word epitomizes the terrible stereotypes that Africans have about African Americans. Many young Africans don’t know what it MEANS. They participate in dehumanizing a people w/o even knowing it. They use it because they’ve heard it being used so casually that many don’t know that it’s derogatory. Passed down prejudice. It means "wild animal."
Africans who come to the U.S. are statistically more successful than African Americans and they think “if I could do it, why not them?” Again, it goes back to not knowing how slavery wreaked havoc on these people who are our skinfolk and kinfolk. We do not understand. It’s coming from a place of “pull yourself up from the bootstraps because I did” when there’s 400 years of damage folks still gotta fix.
I want Black folks in the U.S. not to hate us for the ignorance we carry. It’s from our lack of knowing. Teach us. The same blood runs through our veins. Many of yall look like my cousins. I can’t see Black folks in the U.S. as anything BUT my peoples. I credit the classes I took in undergrad for really opening my eyes. Many of the Africans in the generation above me don’t get the chance.
It is up to those of us who are young to let our African parents know some of the things we know about the history of those we sold. We sold you to those white folks. We are/were kings back home. I want to think we didn’t know they’d do this to you. :-( And those some white folks ransacked our own nations and drew arbitrary borders that are causing wars TO THIS DAY! The weird thing is that Africans and African Americans have the same villain, who’s tried to take our culture from us and rob us blind.
I hope we can have these types of convos in person in a room, fish bowl style. There’s a lot of hurt on BOTH sides.
When I came to the U.S., I had a STRONG Nigerian accent. I learned to hide it by imitating how my classmates spoke. It’s mostly gone now. I was in a new school—public school—for the first time in my life. I was the new kid FIRST TIME! When teachers would look at my name, then at me, then down at the list again, I sheepishly raised my hand and say “that’s me.”
The teachers would BUTCHER my name beyond recognition without even TRYING and students would say “MON” after every sentence to me. I felt like a foreigner… that is when I learned to hide my Nigerian accent. It worked. Kids would ask me, ‘Do you have lions in your backyard? Do you wear clothes?’ I didn’t have a quick enough comeback. I wanted to reply with ‘GIRL I HAVE A DRIVER, A MAID, MY OWN TAILOR AND HAVE NEVER DONE MY OWN DISHES!’ But alas… I was there, wasn’t I?
I learned doubt when I previously had very little. At 9, I learned that the world might not be my oyster, after all. It was humbling. We left Nigeria because my mom wanted us to do out higher education here because universities kept striking and all’at.
There’s 2 chapters of my life: in Nigeria and after. I grew up in privilege over there. Here? We started over. The fact that I have one foot on the continent of Africa and one here. I feel like a literal African American, having understanding of both. To be able to trace my lineage back as long as I want is a privilege. I’m sorry for those who were robbed of it. :-(
What can we all do to heal? What can we all do to really come together and realize that we’re fighting the same struggle, after all? My story isn’t extraordinary. It just is. However, what I’ve learned is that sometimes, we gotta drop the pain at our feet for rest. I’ll be back in Nigeria next month. Usually when I go, I’m silent on social media. I want to bring you all along w/ me this time.