Dear Ifemelu



Author of this post:

CBS Volunteer 2014/15 Tamara


Dear Ifemelu

I enjoyed reading your story so much, I was with you in your struggle to get a job in America, I was happy when you decided to go natural, I cried with you  when you lost yourself to the tennis trainer and I was jealous of your sincere love with Obinze.  I especially liked the cultural differences between Nigeria and the USA you pointed out – pretty much what I am facing here in Ghana, just the other way ‘round.
Now, one thing that keeps my mind busy is that you said you started to be black in America and you stopped with it when you returned to Nigeria. And that “race” is not an issue in Nigeria. As I said, there are many similarities between our experiences and so I became white when I set foot on Ghana and I know, my colour will change again with my moving back to Switzerland. And that is why I just can’t figure out why you would say race is not an issue here. Well, unless the difference in cultural importance and understanding of race between Ghana and Nigeria is really THAT big.

At least, in Ghana here, race is a huge issue. Compared to my home country Switzerland it is more superficial, though; Ghanaians call white people “the white man” or “the white lady”. In general, they like to talk in black and white and about the differences between “us blacks” and “you whites”. Some Ghanaians use lightening cream to make their skin become clearer, there is even a brand producing these products, called “So White!”. Whether this is a race issue or just some kind of aesthetical thing, I don’t know.  (To be fair, there was a time [or still is?] when so many people in Switzerland used “darkening cream” – if this is a word :D) But; I have never experienced racism here so far. There are advantages and disadvantages of being white in Ghana, but no racism.
Whereas in Switzerland, on the surface race is no issue at all. People try so hard not to be racist that they even fear to use the words “black” and “dark skinned”. Call someone the black man would either be a joke between VERY good friends or end in a petite scandal. But looking beyond the surface, there is still so much racism in that country.

So, Ifem, race IS an issue, at least here in Ghana. But, of course, it is way better and easier to face superficial, non-racist race issues, than the other way round.
Anyway, thank you for some weeks of happy reading and may your love with Obinze last forever.

(Who hasn’t read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie might not understand everything about this post – I recommend the book warmly, not because of the post)








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