“The way Africans see themselves has been influenced by the way the Western world sees Africa. For the longest time. And I for one, am not someone who needs validation from anyone”- Burna Boy
One Chinese kid asked me, “where are you from?”. It was 2016, I was in China, we were waiting for an elevator at the mall.
Such an innocent question, maybe?
My mind worked at the speed of light, to come up with an answer, “Měiguó”. America in Chinese.
Of all the things that I still remember about China, that day at the mall is vividly imprinted in my mind.
For years I asked myself why I had said America, for years I was mad at myself for saying America, for years I tried to understand the thought process that led me to answer, America. And why I felt confident and good to look at that child’s eyes and lie.
Growing up in Tanzania, Africa, I’ve seen the images that NGOs put of us (Africans), and they have made me feel less than. The West loves and dignifies our elephants and lions than they do our people. I watched a documentary recently and a person said, “we just study to get visas and leave the country”. Many Africans are dying on their way to Europe. We are made to believe that life is good in the West.
The reason I answered America, was because I thought that child would look down on me, a person coming from Tanzania, Africa. I have heard stories of how people respond to knowing you are African, and we can all stop pretending now, they either pity us or ask us weird questions, but the reaction from them after knowing that you are African is never normal or something that makes you feel proud to be African. The West doesn’t really know Africa, and they spread their ignorant knowledge of Africa, for years as an African I secretly felt ashamed of being one. For years I wished I wasn’t born here.
Then I watched news and joined Twitter, learned about African countries’ history and traveled. Apparently, America isn’t an example. The Western countries have not “arrived”. For some reasons they have made us believe that we are the pot of struggles, the origin of hardships and the only place that people suffer. The reality is every country in the world is not perfect, this blue dot is filled with countries that are struggling, people that are struggling and suffer, it’s a mess everywhere.
I have lived long enough to see through the lies of the movies from America, and how far from reality they are with how the world really is. The West loves to romanticize struggle in Africa that they turn a blind eye to the struggles in their own backyards, to the extent that many believe that their countries are so perfect which maybe a reason that they struggle to believe the injustices that are taking place in their countries.
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Africans, we come from a unique continent, we are resilient, historically we have been through hell, people and our resources alike, it’s amazing that we are still here, building and moving forward. We are capable, powerful, rich, abundant, talented and with all the resources that we need to build the Africa we want to see. We have areas that need work but so is every country in the world.
We are not less than, what they think of us is none of our business. It speaks more about them than it does about us. Why do you want someone to be less than you for you to feel better? Insecurity at it’s best, probably you aren’t better. Topic for another day.
But dear African, What do you think of yourself? How do you see yourself? That matters more than you think it does. It shapes your view of yourself and your world view, it shapes your ideas as well. And in my case, it shaped my response to that child.
Also Chinese kid, I’m from Tanzania, Africa. I wouldn’t want to be born anywhere else, I’m forever grateful to be a Tanzanian, forever proud to be an African.
(This article was originally posted on Medium)