“If you’re white, you’re all right; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re black, get back!
This is a book that dwells more into racism in America. After the Nigerian education system was cut short by ongoing strikes in the universities two lovebirds Ifem and Obinze together with their friends applied for scholarships to America and the struggles began.
Unlike her friends, this was Ifem’s first time in a foreign land, a land where she had to use fake passports to secure a job. It even got worse when she had to satisfy a man’s sexual pleasures and this led her cutting off communication with her boyfriend back in Nigeria. Then in the wake of all the racism that was going on she started a blog Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks by a Non-American Black. Here she communicated her mind out, got jilted and praised. Moreover because of it, she was given the opportunity to address students at conferences about race issues.
From one work to another, sleeping on the floor at her Aunty Uju’s small house who multi-tasked different jobs to support her son Dike, life just threw lemons to her face; because for survival one had to be an American, biracial, Hispanic, Asian but not African. In her blogpost American tribalism she narrates the four kinds; class, ideology, region and race as the common drivers of tribalism in America that are alive and well.
Downtown in Princeton, she met her Nigerian counterparts as hairdressers who would not fathom why she had not let go of her kinky hair. Afro hair, the kind that takes long for a comb to go through was unknown and even not narrating the benefits of natural hair helped. Been a black American neighborhood she could barely understand the slang and surprisingly she never ever dreamt of adopting the accents from America.
“His knee is bad because he is knee grow!” This was the ill treatment Obinze got while at England where he also used fake IDs. He quickly made friends at work but as soon as they realized his fake documents he was deported back to Nigeria. It is at the airport where he met other Nigerians waiting to be deported and all they could say “ah this na my second time. The first time I come with different passport. Na for work wey they get me o. E get one guy wey they deport, him don come back get him paper. Na him wey go help me.” This were the lucky and this made Obinze jealous as he didn’t have their savior fair.
Her blog thrived well in the times of Barrack Obama as he vied for the presidential seat. She wrote about him, his wife and when he won she celebrated. To her this was a change, a change for America-to curb racism.
Ifem survived, shut down her race blog and decided to come back to Nigeria. Obinze on the other hand, made it big as he became one wealthy man, married Kosi not because he loved her but because she was there when he felt the urge to marry and together they had a daughter, Buchi.
Life back to Nigeria was different as everything had changed making her join a Nigerpolitan club where returnees from America would hook up and discuss of what they missed, got herself an apartment, got work as an editor for Zoe magazine where she quickly resigned even before she started. Her passion was more into writing and for this she had another blog this time round talking about her home country and called it “The Small Redemptions of Lagos.” Her love for Obinze saw them getting back in touch as coffee dates turned to lunch, dinner and more of love making; Obinze decided to give Kosi a divorce with the ultimatum of providing all their needs.
That is just a sneak peak of how tales unfold to and fro in Nigeria and America; requires a deep concentration as one might get lost from chapter to chapter. Metaphors in this book require some cracking mode to unleash the experiences unfolding. When I read this book, trust you me I got buried in Ifem’s loathe for America. Does this happen today? Her blog post depicted so much hate and allow me to share some insights…..
“In America you don’t get to decide what race you are. It’s decided for you.”
“In America, racism exists but racists are gone. Here’s the thing: the manifestation of racism has changed but the language has not….”
“They tell us race is an invention, that there is no genetic variation between two black people than there is between a black person and a white person. Then they tell us black people have a worse kind of breast cancer and get more fibroids. And white folk get cystic fibrosis and osteoporosis. So what’s the deal, is race an invention or not?”
“When you want to join a prestigious social club, do you wonder if your race will make it difficult to join? If you do well in a situation, do you expect to be called a credit to your race? Or to be described as different from the majority of your race? If you need legal or medical help, do you worry that your race might work against you? If you take a job with an affirmative action employer, do you worry that your co-workers will think that you are unqualified and were hired only because of your race? Do you worry that your children will not have books and school materials that are about people of their own race?……”
“Sometimes they say culture when they mean race …diversity means different things to different folks….”
This is one kind of a book and it got me thinking if Ngozi got such a treatment in her life since writing comes from experiences. Does playing the race-card ever happen to you? Are you despised not because of color but other factors that make you think that is racism? Let’s get chatty.
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