“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America…But the minute you step outside, race matters.”.
-Chimamanda Adiche, Americanah.
I often say moving abroad is a life-changing experience because you experience what it is like living in another country while navigating your new environs with people that are different from you. It will be a disservice to blog about living abroad and not talk about the challenges of fitting in a new society which includes culture shock, lack of diversity and the most prominent of all, racism.
The news of the racial injustice and police brutality George Floyd suffered shocked North America and the rest of the world. People went out to the streets to protest to let the government know that they have to fight this injustice that the black community faces. As all this unfold on social media and the media, it has caused me to reflect on what racism is like as an African living in the diaspora.
As a Nigerian and now someone who now identifies as black, I have always felt that I did not understand the struggles of indigenous black people (black Americans, black Canadians, black British etc) as we have completely different experiences. I grew up in a solely black country where racism is majorly non-existent. While they, on the other hand, had ancestors who were slaves and were maltreated in the hands of slave owners. Having moved away from home, now I have to understand things differently as a black person because of systemic racism.
Racism exists where there are people of different races living together. Systemic racism is present in every sphere of life – wealth, workplace, education, political representation and even in medicine. Systemic racism in medicine occurs when doctors do not treat give adequate medical attention to the minority people. Research shows that minority people are more likely to die than get good treatment compared to white people. Even when it comes to blood donation, a black person or someone who has had sexual relations with a black person is less likely to be allowed to donate blood.
People are wondering why Africans living in Africa are protesting and I say that they have every right to protest. You may not experience it now but the moment you travel with your passport, you are no different from how black Americans are being treated. I have not had a lot of racist experiences but the few I have, I definitely remember them. I have been profiled because I am black and hold a different colour of passport. Black people are hardly seen as equals to their white counterparts. A lot of black people fight every day to erase the stereotype people of other races perceive of us.
As someone currently living in Canada, the question is does racism exist in Canada? The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau answers that Racism exists in Canada. It is often disguised as Canadians are “nice” and “polite”. You experience this as a black person when you walk into an interview and their expression changes or an apartment is no longer available because a black person has shown up. Racism forces people of colour to engage in tactics that will at least get their foot in the door which includes changing your native name on your CV to an English name, “wearing professional hairstyle“, embracing Canadian lingo, etc. Studies show that white-sounding names get more callbacks than black names on a resume.
Going forward, we all have a part to play, every single race and ethnicity. I love how Patriot’s Act, Hassan Minhaj breaks down why it is important we all play our part. In the episode, We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd, He says it is important to look at the entire picture of how George Floyd was killed. It was an Arab American (minority) who called the cops on Floyd. The white police officer with his knee on his neck was helped by other police officers including an Asian man (minority) and filmed by a black person (minority).
I do not think mass mobilization is efficient to tackle racism, we need the government to hold everybody accountable for racial discrimination and hit the Government where it hurts by supporting black businesses. AllthingsAde compiled a list of black businesses to support, check it out here. The government needs to amend its Human Rights Act and follow the steps of Germany by signing an anti-discrimination act that bars public authorities from discriminating against people based on their background, race, religion etc.