This post was originally published on VeryLoudYouth.org.
I was not born in Nigeria. But, I lived there for all my adolescent years, and I spent a good part of that time trying to leave. What I do not get now is why.
It is common for many African children, and children in other post-colonial countries, to view life in the West as supreme. My friends and I dreamed of living like the Caucasians on television, and at times, we would see that Americans who looked like us could live in luxury.
We also heard, however, that many Americans who looked like us were poor. I recall an aunt (who had never been outside Nigeria) commenting on the lifestyles of a people she did not know. She categorized these people based on their color and on second-hand news gleaned from the media. Her story was distinctive: these people were lazy, and we were not.
In hindsight, such debilitating stories — supported by an attempt to escape stereotypes — help impair our identity as black people. My five year-old corrects me every time I use the term ‘black’ to describe him. “I am brown mommy,” he coos. I smile. But, I wonder how long his innocence will last. I wonder how long he will consider his skin color just that — a color. Not a people. Not a label. Not a culture. Just color.