African man in Ukraine:Don’t blame them,Take no offense; laugh it off!
Before coming to Europe, Ukraine, I had listened to Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk on “The danger of a single story.” It had not occurred to me that I was going to experience this personally.
How true it is that many people, have only a single story regarding Africa, and sadly use that to break the dignity of the African man. Because of what is broad-casted in their TV networks, they only know of the hungry, poor side of Africa. The white man assumes the African is poor in all aspects; but I believe we can change this by painting Africa our own beautiful colors. We must not settle for the average white man’s definition of Africa. Yet still we do not have to be offended by their definition of us, because nobody showed them the good side of us, and we have the power to show it to them. Being in the diaspora is a huge opportunity to Market Africa and let the world know of our greatness.
I’ll share with you some experiences of an African man in Ukraine. They will tickle you, others will piss you off.
I remember one of the leading African pastors in Ukraine once saying “As an African in Ukraine, you are a walking museum.”(Free of charge). This is not far from the truth. Some Ukrainians will request you to take a photo with them, and will be so grateful if you accept. You see, it is great to be black. You get necks turning. Only God knows what goes on in their minds.You will be asked why you are black and if this gets you off guard, you’ll stammer. A mother was once explaining to her daughter that we were painted black while holding on the wall, and that is why our palms are like theirs. Some guys were so shocked that we have the same color of the tongue too. This curiosity is just normal, I asked my mother questions too when I saw a white man for the first time.
I was walking by the street the other day and on seeing me, a kid in disbelief got his sunglasses off ( the shades would be lying you know). He hurriedly tapped on the mother “Mama, mama, what is this?” The mother answered “It is a person.” He still wasn’t satisfied. “See her face is black, and oi oi see the hair!…” The mother was amused. So was I, and this called for attention.
A man was asked “Hey, what happened to your tail? Did they cut it off before you took your flight? ” They were told we were monkeys and have tails. My friends in class kept asking if it is true monkeys are always roaming about the streets and people sleep in trees. They will be so excited to see you eat bananas, they eat bananas too. Some will point bananas at you. (If they do this to you, take the banana and run. ha ha ha, don’t try this )
I remember when one of my classmates told me that he saw a video of Kenyans walking naked and begging for food, he expressed it in a way that made me feel I was stinking poverty. Out of the love I have for my country,and continent, I said “Well, that was probably from one part of the country, not the whole. And as for begging, I also meet some white people by the street, begging for money, and I think it is the same in the whole world, there will always be beggars.” He was tongue tied.
Because of our skin color, they call us “Black chocolate.” It can be irritating at times, depending on how the party takes it. I have a great friend from Nigeria, Christiana; who got an answer for that. Anytime they call her “Black chocolate”, she answers back “very delicious!” and that keeps them shut.
You will find cases where you enter the metro and the next person stands up when you take your sit. It feels bad, but its okay, instead of taking offense, make yourself comfortable. You could thank them actually, you are going to sit freely ha ha.
My friend went to do a moths shopping. An attendant moved to her “Is everything okay?” She said yes. The attendant went ahead “are you able to pay for all this shopping?” Ouch!
In a graduation ceremony, the African students clapped as their own were being crowned then it was heard “Come on, this is not a zoo!”
After scoring everything in a unit, the lecturer with disbelief walked to the dean’s office to confirm that an African student, who’s is studying in a foreign language, would be top of class. It is just impossible to them, for an “African” to be that smart. Let us show it to them!
It is good to give a seat to elders in a tram/bus. So my friend is tired and takes her seat. A young woman forces her to stand up or “Go back to Africa!”
There are countless of experiences to share; you can name them all. Knowing who we are alone is enough to deal with this when we are in the diaspora.
Just take it easy on them, I doubt they would treat us this way, if they had the good side of us in mind. It is not their wish I assume, and we should not blame them. Make fun out of it, laugh it off, and given an opportunity, let them see the better side of us.
It is also a life lesson for us, to always find the other side of a story, any story. Flip the coin. Don’t use a single story to make a general conclusion.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
By Liz Ekakoro:Diaspora Messenger contributor