As first-generation Africans we shouldn’t forget that we have also forged our own path and created our own culture.
I, for the very first time, saw the possibility of being able to call myself African and believe it. It allowed me to step into a world where being black could mean focusing more on being African than American, or at the very least, to the same degree. Being African was something I could claim as a tangible identity and not an obligatory or obscure label. Being an African-American no longer had to be an anchor to a coiled history bottled within my genes, but a direction I can choose to follow.
I cannot say I did not understand both sides of this argument, so I will simply say this: hold on to the tradition if it does not have roots in some form of violence, misogyny or any other form of bigotry. I come from a very prideful people which is why it is hard for us to admit that we are not perfect and our traditions are not perfect.
The term “Oppression Olympics” was first introduced to me in passing during my junior year of high school when two friends of mine had gotten into a heated argument. The quarrel was about the injustices they face as a result of them being a member of their respective marginalized group. As I attempted to calm both of them down, I began to wonder why some members of marginalized groups feel the need to diminish the residual effects of painful history other groups outside of theirs faced?
Although slavery was abolished in many Gulf states and the Middle East, it seems to have taken a new form through the Kafala system. The seemingly archaic and chaotic system fails miserably to protect domestic workers from physical, verbal and sexual abuses. Most of these women, and some men, are forced out of their homelands in Africa to tend to houses in a foreign land and raise the children of strangers through paid sponsorships.
The post-colonial mindset is real, and colorism exists in places where one may never imagine, at least I didn’t imagine it to be so. I was walking with my group, and multiple times I was called “Obroni” which is an Akan word that means “foreigner” or truer, “white man”. I was called this not because my skin was more brown than black, but because of my curly hair, which stood out to the local people and the typical coarse, kinkier hair which they were used to seeing. They saw the injecting of white man’s genetics into my being from generations past, and associated me with the like, fully.
Among others, the Prime Minister has addressed concerns raised by parliamentarians on wide-ranging issues of ethnic tensions and evictions, the idea of privatization project outlined by the Executive Council of EPRDF and the sensitive issue of the new administration’s plan to end the so-called ‘no war and no peace’ stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The back and forth between the Premier and parliament members also showed the clear divide within the incumbent coalition, EPRDF. As such, EPRDF seems to have two easy to point factions; these are those who support the reform agenda as sketched by Ahmed’s vision and those who attempt to keep the status-quo afloat.
It’s extremely difficult to articulate how rapid things are changing around us but there’s no doubt we’re in the thick of a paradigm shift. We can all feel it, we see it as it’s happening but when it boils down to it, capturing the essence of a technologically driven world is easier said than done. Before you can process how you truly feel about something, unbiased, it’s time to fake give a fuck about the next thing. But truth has always been a collective moral compass or at least it was supposed to be.
So, as I sit here in my dorm room on this Ivy League campus, I am aware that my identity is perceived as a threat. I am aware that I will be judged by the color of my skin and labeled as dangerous due to common historical fallacies. But there’s one thing I always remember to alleviate this feeling of unease – my blackness has equipped me with the tools necessary to surpass this corrupt societal system and to see the light that lies beyond it all. And for this reason, I can hold my head high without a doubt in my mind.