18 Apr

It is imperative for me to define who I am and where I stand in the scheme of things and what my place is in the global grid of the human conversation. This is very important to me because it provides a sense of clarity of what I should or should not do or say and the grey space between these two ends. Also, the world is evolving rapidly before my eyes, stones have become fluids and iron beliefs have become malleable by the heat of diverse opinions. For a budding traditional scientist and creative like me who thinks that one plus one has always been two, it could be maddening and stressful to navigate this fluidity that looks like a certain ideological war against established cultural variables. So, to keep myself grounded on what matters and to avoid the shafts, I am looking at how I got here, the journey that made me who I am.

I grew up in a setting, a community where there’s no defined class, brutal gendering and race and racism. For class, we had those who were always richer but they didn’t exclude the less fortunate. We attended the same parties, the same school, bought stuff from the same market and have access to things that are common and available to all. There was no socioeconomic demarcation as informed by class. Everyone knew every other person, and we were all equal indeed. 

For race: there was nothing like racial differences and colour separation. Everyone was brown, tanned, dark skinned or something like that. I only saw people of a different skin tone on television and in the movies. And based on our classification, everyone with a skin tone lighter than the average we are familiar with is an oyibo, and that means white, be it an eastern Asian or mixed. And based on the relics of colonizations, we were meant to believe somehow that fairer skinned people are better. So, even though I didn’t grow up having them around, there was that tiny tingle at the back of my mind trying to remind me of that lie. A lie which I am conquering everyday.

With regards to gender, the roles were very specific, sort of like set in stones. Boys were boys and would become men and girls were girls and would become women. My people encourage industry and as such it’s alright for women to be wealthier than men. And in the community leadership echelon there are roles created for women and the community leadership would have to listen to them. It’s the unwritten law. 

It was tough trying to navigate that because from my background I have always believed that the worth of a man is not based on his wealth and so people shouldn’t be disrespectful of others just because they’re not as financially fortunate.

These are the three components of my identity that are somehow being challenged in the course of my journey. As I move from the rural community to the city and then to the west. The concept of class  based on socioeconomic status was the first I encountered. It was tough trying to navigate that because from my background I have always believed that the worth of a man is not based on his wealth and so people shouldn’t be disrespectful of others just because they’re not as financially fortunate.  That is a very tough challenge in my country and other part of the world as well because people respect money more than anything else.

And as I traveled to the West now I have to deal with the challenge of race and sexuality. I grew up hearing of story of colonialism, discrimination, segregation in the US and South Africa. I read two books, A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela and The Story of My Experiment With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi. I also read a little bit about Martin Luther and Malcolm X. So, I knew the situation of Racism somehow. But I really didn’t get to experience its deplorable impact personally growing up. That is a good thing. It’s just few years ago now when I moved to the west that I begin to see its manifestation, and its deplorable indeed. Now I’m learning to deal with it also in the same sense that I dealt with the socioeconomic situation with the principle, that it’s the content of a man’s character that matters, and not the colour of his skin, nor the depth of his pocket. In a couple of instances, I had had to really be strong, so that these racially motivated foolish expressions do not get to me. In another instance, a Nigerian girl  discriminated against me in Nigeria in favor of a white dude. In France I was arrested at a shop for complaining against the bad services that company was offering, my salary was slashed in half because of my nationality, and I incurred anger of a waiter for buying food for a hungry white man. In the UK, I had to fight with a factory and threatened to report them to an employment tribunal before I got treated fairly. And once a white boy aimed an empty botle at my head and it hit its target.

Looking back at it all now I’m happy about the life I had lead, the support of my family and the privilege of growing up in a rural community where everyone is treated equally irrespective of his financial standing and skin colour. I’m kind of confident, brave and I do not have the fear of people in power and money. This is a good thing and this is who I am and I am proud of my identity. And because I have the belief that I could belong anywhere I want, I am not afraid going to places really.

* The email will not be published on the website.