Shades of Racism

by Joan C. Akubue

We have heard the sob-stories of the past: how Colonial masters and slave dealers once plundered our land. We know the black man doesn’t have an easy time overseas and is nearly always treated like a second class citizen, hard as he tries. We are painfully aware, of how much the world holds the Negro in disdain. But what a few of us really know is that racism is not over yet. It still exists on African soil and typically, Africans are on the receiving end of it.

In Nigeria’s corporate world, it is common knowledge that expatriates rank higher on the table of preference than their indigenous counterparts. Many employers (especially in the top firms and multi-nationals) treat foreign workers like demi-gods.

From the way these employers carry on you’d think anyone white was ‘Mr. Know-All’ and blacks are mere orangutans. Fancy a Masters Degree holder from a Nigerian university earning three times less than some import from god knows where. Don’t be surprised to discover that the Chemical Engineers earning tons of foreign exchange in our oil and gas sector are actually just petty technicians who ordinarily wouldn’t stand a chance in their own country.

To make matters worse, indigenes are often at the receiving end of these foreigners’ arrogance and have to watch them constantly receive preferential treatment. As if the tortures one has to endure in this country are not enough!

The other day I saw an ad in one of the leading national dailies: ‘house for sale, only white buyers wanted!’ and I said to myself, ‘aren’t we black folks crazy?’ I mean, people should do well to be diplomatic and discreet in certain regards. Where in Europe or America would you open a newspaper and see: ‘house for sale, only black buyers wanted’? Isn’t it only in this part of the world that foreigners almost succeed in making bona-fide nationals look like illegal immigrants? This is a wake-up call! The days of ‘white only’ bars and buses may be long gone, but various forms of oppression still exist in subtler shades.

I vividly remember when an ex-US president was slated to visit Nigeria some time ago and Nigerians who were lodging in the five-star hotels were practically thrown out. Yep, they were thrown out of the hotels, just so FBI agents and aides would have sufficient room and board. Would anyone do that for a black President? Perhaps our government officials (who have virtually toured the world by now) could tell us if even the Lebanese or Cameroonian government would go to such lengths on their account. I doubt this very much. In fact I’m willing to bet my last drop of ink that they would not.

I know a couple of people who work for foreigners and more often than not they sing the same dry chorus: ‘these expatriates are so arrogant! Who do they think they are?’ And I always say (to them) ‘They think they are lords and rightly so, in a land where many people have no self worth in their soul…’

It’s sad but true. Many Africans are yet to come to terms with the fact that we are as capable as the next man whether he be white, yellow or blue. Many feel some deficiency in our genes makes us scientifically inept. But it’s all politics really. After all, black brains are sending rockets to the moon and configuring the worlds’ fastest computers even at this minute.

We are technologically backward because we are not sufficiently motivated to invent much. The constant sunshine bakes our brains, the vastness of our earth resources makes us vain, the sweetness of our culture intoxicates us to the point where day is night and night is day. Besides, why bother? At the worst we can wait for reparation or foreign aid and still import the western nations’ castaways.

The average Nigerian is remarkably gifted. Add to that the ‘strength in numbers’ principle and you would think we’d have something going on. But truth is we haven’t even got our act together yet. I see no reason why we should complain that our PhD holders are doing menial jobs abroad. If we had eyes, we would see that the government, in those countries, is only looking out for its own citizens and perhaps we would borrow a leaf or two from it. It’s up to Africans who must live overseas to brace up to the challenge of proving their worth. Life is not just about acquiring more degrees than a thermometer after all. When the going gets tough, the tough have got to get going. Some may sound an SOS, but what right do we have to tell Africans in the Diaspora to come back home? “Come back to what?”

All that this young generation has are fragments of a glorious past: stories and fables that our ancestors handed down. We have no future because we had our birthright sold for a mess of porridge. And a tasteless porridge at that…

But let me tell you the most annoying trait we Nigerians have. It is our ability to make noise about our problems without doing anything constructive about them. For instance, what are the people who have racist employers doing about it? Do they have the guts to speak out at the risk of being thrown out? Probably not… There’s a saying ‘everyone wants to change the world but nobody wants to help mama do the dishes’. Many men and women now nurse political ambitions but will not do the little heroic deeds that need to be done. Like I love to say, “Who’s fooling who?” They certainly won’t be getting my vote on the day of reckoning. That’s if my vote counts!

What does it really take for us to find out how the more developed Nations of the world are advancing? Even those who do not have a single natural resource, not one ounce of coal or brass beneath their soil, fare better than us!

Are we not the laughing stock of the world? Isn’t it small wonder that petty technicians strut about our blessed land acting like gods? If you are reading this and happen not to be black, please don’t take it so up-close and personal. If you are a colored comrade, mind that it is not my aim to incite you to commit any hate-crimes, but to think what our fate has become. And to find us a way forward…

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1 comment

Anonymous September 29, 2005 - 6:34 pm

Joan really captured the very minds of young Nigerians like myself who has tasted both worlds and agree with her positive comments. Keep it up Joan cos pple like u are the ingredients that will make a prosperous and united Nigeria in the very near future.

Kaycee Morah

Minnesota USA


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