Although I’m very interested in issues of race and will soon begin a blog on race, I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of a precipice in doing so. Race is like a vortex into which everything disappears, objectivity, reason, humanity, perspective, context etc. It’s also difficult to discuss race in a place like Nigeria where race is understood differently to somewhere like the UK or USA.
A lot of black people living in the UK/USA feel racial issues keenly because they live it on a day to day basis. Discrimination in all walks of life from schools to the justice system, the job market and even the health system mean black parents need not only to have to understand and anticipate possible issues for their children, but also prepare them psychologically to deal with all that oncoming traffic.
There’s a lot of contradictory mantra about how race issues affect children – in this case black children but most agree there are issues. These are not usually simple issues though with obvious problems and solutions. There are people, black and white who have vested interests in keeping the issues black and white but as a child who grew up in the UK and has seen a lot, I think it always pays to be open minded not get sucked into the vortex.
People in Africa tend to understand race issues differently. Nigerians have 99 problems but dealing with racism on a day to day generally ain’t one. When they look around, they are seeing Nigerians screwing over other Nigerians at all levels. Their problems are navigating life in a country that is like a rickety rope bridge leading to a mythical promised land. Race issues come way down the list after the price of petrol, power, school fees, putting food on the table, corrupt police etc. When I demanded black dolls at the biggest department store in Lagos – the (black) manager looked at me oddly and said I was the first person to ask for a black doll. I realise that’s not just because I’m alert to race issues, that’s because I’m in a privileged position to be able to devote energy to them.
There are a lot of race questions I don’t have to ask here as a black parent, which is nice. There are black men and women in all walks of life here compared to the UK where blacks are a minority lacking in affluence and power. There are plenty of positive images of black people on display and of course even though there are some white or middle eastern expats here with a more colonial mindset, any negative opinions on black people or Africans are more likely to be expressed by Africans themselves.
Even though Nigeria is a black African country it’s still dealing with the consequences of colonialism and biases in the international media which continue to portray black people negatively. I often encounter Nigerians who do not know African history and tend to naively idolise what happens in the West and believe Africans are innately inferior to the white man. I always try to make sure my sons are well positioned within their world view. I think that’s easier to achieve when you homeschool.