Being an African in America Circa 2014

by Mary Shorun

I am a Nigerian who has been living in America since I could spell the words “puberty” and “adolescence;” I am therefore more than qualified to dish out some words of wisdom:

  1. Understand that you are inferior.

As an African, you must know and admit that you are from an inferior part of the world. Your Africa is nothing but a collection of vast, vehement shantytowns. At the core: a handful of government structures sparsely punctuated with two or three dilapidated high-rise hotels and a few filthy, ill-equipped public clinics packed to overflowing.

You all are a bunch of half-naked animists running around jabbing metals in cows’ jugulars, drinking cold uncooked blood. You hunt and kill the animals running around in your backyard. You are poor and wretched and are searching for a better life. You need more kind folks like Oprah to keep doing the amazing work they’re doing. They built a school for all African kids. This is why you are here, in America. America will heal your soul and help you attain superiority.

  1. You should be uneducated.

You shouldn’t speak correct English or be enlightened at all. In Africa, there is not even conventional or reliable transportation service, and certainly not universities and/or libraries. When you speak English, you ought to say something like this: “Me very sick, oga!” You must roll your “r” and occasionally misplace “r” and “l” so that your “Cliff” will sound like “Criff.” After all, most of your women hang out with ginormous lip plates and your men have dry donkey bones jutting out of their nose. What about the bare-breasted women with huge sagging breasts and prominent buttocks?

  1. Change your accent. Americanize it.

You can start by adopting a name that sounds very American — do this by changing “Tolu” to “Tool” or “Tobi” to “Toby” or “Kemi” to “Kemmy.” You certainly don’t want customer service agents saying “pardon me?” every time you talk or ask a question. So you have to emphasize your “r” and make your “t” sound like “d.” Example: “Can you marrrrket (market) me some wadorr (water) please?”

  1. Get American citizenship.

It is by force. And please don’t get this twisted — Permanent residence does not equal citizenship. If you’re a resident, you can’t vote for Obama. As a resident, you may also need a visa to tour Dubai or Milan or Paris; they won’t even let you “sponsor” your parents or spouse(s) for gree n cards unless you’re a citizen. So you must get the American pali in every way possible. Arrange a mushroom marriage at the courthouse. Propose to that oyinbo after a few hobnobs.

  1. Don’t go “home” to visit, at least not in 2014.

These two countries especially rhyme with Liberia: Algeria, Nigeria. Therefore, you must avoid travelling there or mentioning those countries in any conversation lest people start avoiding you for no known reason. If going home is inevitable, your exit and return must be kept from becoming public knowledge.

  1. Accept (or don’t) that your health is not anyone’s primary concern.

First of all, if you visit an urgent care facility during or after a minor illness, expect the physician’s assistant to give you a ten-page form to fill. This form will include questions like: “What countries have you visited in the last five years?” “Have you had a fever or body temperature more than 102 in the last three years?” “Have you been exposed to anyone from Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone?”

And no, you are not being asked to fill these forms because you have an accent; it is procedure. In the unlikely event that you’re uninsured and hospitalized, understand that nobody will exhaust all available treatment measures on you. How dare you hope America will use its taxpayers’ money to cater to your health?

  1. Stop deluding yourself into believing everyone is equal.

Yes. In America, all men truly are believed to be created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. America holds that truth to be self-evident, as it is emphasized in their Declaration of Independence. But who do you think will be called for a job interview first after applying for a position: you, Ahmed Yusuf from Nigeria, or a Jeremy Fox from Cleveland?

  1. Africa is a country.

Don’t look confused when some Americans ask you, a Nigerian, if you know the King of Zamunda, or a “Maputu Matobo” from somewhere in Southeast Africa. You all are from Africa, a small country with a population of about 300 people.

  1. You were born to fight.

Your Africa is incessantly ruptured by ethnic warfare among gun-wielding hooligans shooting sporadically into the air with AK-47’s and perpetrating senseless genocides. Because of this, all Africans are fighters, except for folks from some place in Africa which was run by that nice Mr. Mandela. May his soul rest in peace. Therefore, do NOT raise your voice in arguments, and please, do NOT yell when you’re overexcited. You might just end up in jail if the law-abiding citizens around you witness your sudden emotional outbursts.

      10. Don’t be offended.

Realize, and sorrowfully concede, that most non-Africans who read this write-up will be too myopic to recognize the sarcasm therein.


Image:  Mark Rain

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Olu July 5, 2020 - 1:13 am

Kemi….. Nice write up here. Pls reach out to me. Olu

Anonymous September 25, 2017 - 8:23 am

Mary Shorun… Glove Love Day Essay Champion. Where on earth are you.. like you deactivated your FB account, all efforts to reach you have proven futile. This is your old-time FB friend. Bankole Kolawole

Kola February 6, 2016 - 3:24 pm

Good read. I understand the satire and the comic. One fact though – permanent residents can sponsor their wives and children, just not their parents or siblings.

Mary February 6, 2016 - 7:00 pm

Hi Kola, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes I agree that green card holders can sponsor spouses. But don’t they make it so hard though? Hard and long. They can even sponsor siblings. You just have to wait for years. Also, thanks for understanding the humor in this piece!

Olufunke July 7, 2015 - 12:52 pm

I currently live in New York and I would say this is 120% correct. My journey started from Nigeria when I registered for the TOEFL and GRE somewhere in Ikeja, got admission and came in to study. I noticed that during my study I was practically the second class citizen. Lets face it, there is basically no equality. Yes there are a handful of people who will come around you and all that but in reality, you always have that feeling.

I then changed my name from Olufunke to “Olu” and I changed my accent and all. One thing I also agree with is no body gives a rat’s ass about your health or anything about you. You have to learn to stand on your feet and get things done for yourself. It’s not like in Naija where you can just breeze into and aunt’s house and stay fro three months and when you are leaving, they will ask you .. Hahan.. Shey o tin lo ni yen ni. Ba wa shere die si now. Here… If you try that… You know what I’m talking about…

That being said though I think it’s more of an internal thing. One should have self worth and know who she is. Stand up for yourself and remember… When you are in Rome, behave like a Roman!

Mary July 9, 2015 - 10:49 am

Olufunke I so love your comment. You echo the sentiments I had when I was writing this piece. Lol @ Aunt’s comment after you stay for three months. It’s so true though. When one of my friends started overstaying her welcome in my apartment, I was like “oya wa maa lo now.” It wasn’t my fault. But my bills were piling up. Groceries and everything. This place doesn’t know friendship or “familyship” o.

SAME SAME February 25, 2015 - 8:50 am

Spot on!

Mary Shorun February 25, 2015 - 10:15 am

Thank you!

Dynmma January 13, 2015 - 1:47 am

Loved this, so funny.

Mary Shorun February 25, 2015 - 10:17 am

Lol @Dynmma I’m glad you saw the humor.

Lamide December 30, 2014 - 6:18 pm

nice writing skills Mary. As Oprah would say “Excellence is the greatest deterrent to racism and sexism”. I think Africa needs alot of young people who are exposed and also willing to step out there to create platforms to rebrand our image.

Kola December 28, 2014 - 6:53 pm

I don’t know. While i understand that this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek/satirical, there’s something about it that feels slightly off to me.

I agree that a lot of non-Africans are uneducated about Africa but it’s not because they are myopic or inherently bad. It is because we, as Africans, have failed to present ourselves to the world in a way that is constructive and beneficial for us.

FYI: kudos to you on taking the time to write this. It always makes my day to see that Africans, regardless of where we and what we say, we still care about the place we call home

Mary Shorun January 5, 2015 - 8:04 pm

Hi Kola,

Thanks for leaving a comment. I agree that the non-Africans I referred to in the article are not inherently bad, but really, it is ones responsibility to educate oneself. Ignorance should not be a way of life for these people. Please listen to/watch Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” if you haven’t already. Thanks again!

seyi December 25, 2014 - 6:44 am

Crazy as ever… But you are just so right and on point!!!!

Mary Shorun January 5, 2015 - 8:04 pm

Thank you Seyi!!


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