I’m white. I’m Australian. I’m female and according to the social implications of the negative stereotypes around me my Nigerian boyfriend (now husband) is only with me because I am useful. I am status. I’m apparently rich, I apparently have power, and apparently I have influence. This might be a bullshit idea for you to stomach but it’s true in the minds of many, not just Africans but European, Australasian, American or Arctic cultures too.
Racism is alive and prevalent in the world and I’m done with denying that it exists. People are more than willing to avoid talking about race but to talk about differences in colour, culture or societies is some sort of –ism and it always has a negative connotation. We’re so afraid to refer to someone by their colour or race, we have to ensure we’re always politically correct but if we do not belong to that culture we’re not allowed to talk with any authority about it otherwise we run the risk of offending someone.
If more people gave themselves the permission to talk about what they know of foreign cultures we would no longer have the racial divides we have today. It is my understanding that we are more inclined to listen to, and therefore believe, the words of our fellow kinsmen than we are someone from another culture. For example, westerners are more inclined to believe what I have to say about African’s than they are Africans themselves. Why, because of stereotypes!
We all have preconceived notions and ideas of other cultures based on what our society and media have taught us.
Consider the stereotypes you know about the African continent, do these top your list: poor, war, famine, poverty, HIV/ AIDS, malnutrition, low education, corruption/ greed. Notice that they’re all negative attributes but what if I told you that African people are innovative, creative and intelligent people who are at the forefront of art, culture, technology, science, medicine and other industries?
Africans have been telling the world these things for a really long time but no one believes them. Why? Well, because they’re not like you; you cannot assimilate to them. For the eons of history African countries have been portrayed negatively, not because what is happening isn’t true but because no one is reporting the positive aspects of the countries too. Let’s face it. We love disasters, we feed on drama, our western media networks thrive on things that scream “poor me” but happy, successful stories do not sell. No one cares. Africa has been banking on the negativity because of the western NGO influences but now when there is success western countries do not believe it’s possible, or worse, attribute it to western involvement rather than their own abilities.
Chimamanda Adichie is my favourite African author, not just because of her writing, but because of how she speaks of her people, the culture and being African. She spoke on TED about stereotypes and about the danger of a single story, that is only one view of something when in reality people, countries and their cultures are multi-faceted, she explains:
If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals and incomprehensible people fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and aids, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.
After watching the speech I wrote an opinion piece because it fuelled my desire to understand more, to be an active voice. In it I wrote:
We could ignorantly affirm that it is the role of the Africans to tell their story differently and that it is up to them to paint a different picture but I beg to differ. It is the western media’s ignorance that has caused this severe imbalance and it is the responsibility of the western media to help correct it.
As a writer who loves a Nigerian man I want to be a voice that discusses what I learn of African people, their culture and lifestyle. I want to help correct the wrong impression and stereotypes that the western media have made.
I’m learning a lot from Sanni and his friends about Africa but mostly I’m learning how to be a better person because of the way African’s think. This more than anything else is what I wish to illustrate in my writing here. To be clear, I do not intend to be an authority on all things African, that task is being fulfilled more than adequately by Africans themselves. What I do want to impart is the wealth of knowledge I am gaining about being an African man’s western woman and how being white does play a major part in how I view the world.
Some might think that using the terms white and black, caramel, or other, is derogatory and blatant racism but it’s not. I have absolutely no hate towards people of other cultures. I have dated people from many cultures, lived in western countries, China and at the time I met Sanni and started this blog, also lived in Cambodia. I’ve got friendships with people from all walks of life. Anyone who wishes to claim that I am a racist has totally missed the point of my message.
The point is that I’m white and that means I view the world from a western point of view. Try telling an Aboriginal Australian that they view the world as a White Australian and as far as stereotypes go you might just get stabbed. There’s a good reason why colour divides cultures and that’s because people are meant to be different. I personally love how culturally diverse western countries are. I think it’s important to maintain and promote the variety of our cultures. It’s especially important that we study, understand and teach each other about those other cultures because only with education comes acceptance.