“Nobody can make you inferior without your own consent”-Eleanor Roosevelt
Bishop David Oyedepo once said, “When you think enough, you will realize that what you have is enough”. Don’t ever allow people to make you believe that you are empty simply because you don’t carry what they carry. People will always trivialize what you have by making you believe that what they have is superior to yours. In fact, the modern way of bullying is intimidating people into believing that they are lesser beings just because they are different from us. It is appalling how this form of brainwashing has turned many into modern slaves. The popular Tele-evangelist, Billy Graham summarily captured this demeaning trait in human nature in one of his daily devotions when he said, ”To hate, to discriminate against those who look different, who talk different, who have different national backgrounds, or who act differently from the dominant group, is a universal trait of human nature”. One of the phenomena that has suffered great abuse and distortion is the black heritage. We are in an age where the black heritage has been liquidated on the platform of ‘westernization’.
‘’I’m afraid you’ve sold your own land to see other men’s. To have seen much but own nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.’’ The excerpt was lifted from one of the plays written by William Shakespeare: ‘As You Like It’ and it vividly describes the lifestyle among the blacks and Africans. It is poignant that we have sadly given and negotiated too much of ourselves away just to look like others!
Tim Fargo said, “If you want to improve your self-worth, stop giving other people calculator”. Africans and blacks have sold themselves cheap just because they are ignorant of their worth. There are so many issues that are stifling the black heritage, but the object of this piece will border just on the prevalent five: The ‘inferiority’ of the black skin, our victim’s mentality, our lopsided reward and value system, our open disregard to local contents because of our strange consumption pattern, and finally, our inability to document and preserve historical facts and artifacts.
Don’t ever allow people to judge and pass demeaning verdict on you just because you don’t have what they possess. The African continent has been bullied into believing that it is several years back in fashion, culture, and tradition. The problem of the African continent is that we seldom celebrate what we have. They’ve made us believe that our skin is not ‘tush’ enough and it needs to be bleached. We have furiously and irredeemably bleached ourselves beyond ‘redemption’! They’ve made our women and young ladies erroneously believe that they don’t look scintillating until they wear foreign ‘hairs’(mostly Brazilian hair).
Francois de La Rochefoucauld once said, “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.” They’ve succeeded in making us believe that we are shabbily and ill-cladded until we are in suit and tie. They’ve made us look like savages just because we stick to our local dishes. They make us believe that we sound so local because our communication style and voice intonation is different from theirs! I have visited some black homes where the native language is prohibited and communication is only done in foreign language. In my own side of Africa, I remember vividly in my high school, how I had to pay penalties when caught communicating in my native language. What a tragic loss to our heritage! Fredrick Douglas said, “I prefer to be true to myself even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence”.
Acupuncture has been part of the Chinese culture for decades and it has never lost relevance. Why must Africans and blacks believe that we need to lose so much of who and what we are just to fit in into the definition that the world has given us!
The first point that is seriously burning within me is the issue around the black skin. Africans and blacks everywhere have been psychologically battered and manipulated to believe that their black skin is inferior, and I believe strongly that the level of ignorance that is ravaging the black heritage and culture needs to be urgently addressed before the victim’s doomsday. When I see people paying for bleaching creams, I pitiably get angry because they are paying for their ignorance.
We should stop buying into the myth that a lighter skin means a better life. It is a blatant lie; your mind and not your skin should be the object of enlightenment. It is appalling to the length to which Africans and blacks go in bleaching their skin to look like the white man but will never go any length to upgrade the state of their mind! Gwyneth Paltrow once said, “Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin.” We are living in a world where being natural is no longer fashionable, what a monumental psychological loss!
I think we have gotten to an extreme end where we urgently need to help Africans and blacks to redefine beauty. Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” I believe strongly that we need to be tutored on the philosophy of acceptance more than that of recreation. William Shakespeare in one of his legendary plays, ‘Hamlet’, said, “God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” So many times, people are beautiful, not in looks but just in the way they are!
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” The problem of bleaching is more than just cosmetic; it is culturally destructive. It encroaches on our culture, values and heritage. To put it emphatically, bleaching is an insult to, and abuse of the black heritage. The search for self-worth is not a skin phenomenon; a healthy self-esteem begins by finding what is indestructible inside, and then letting it be. The level of bleaching among blacks is appalling to the extent that some have bleached themselves to the point that they’ve forgotten how they naturally look like!
I have at various fora campaigned that skin- bleaching problems are more than skin deep; in fact, it permeates deep into our values and mentalities. It is a cover-up for a deeper psychological problem of unhealthy and low self-esteem. Skin bleaching is one of the ravaging sicknesses plummeting the black heritage, making it more devastating, damaging and destructive than the scourge of malaria and HIV put together!
We are actually fighting to free ourselves from modern colonialism; it is actually a classic case of colonial mentality in the post-colonial world. Colonialism didn’t end that long ago. As Africans, we freed ourselves and won our independence, but psychologically we continued to view ourselves through the lens of ‘whiteness’. In the face of acute self-degradation, we must not allow our sense of self to be distorted through a white lens. It is not the dark skin that is the problem; it is our dark, jaundiced and uncultured way of thinking. Skin-lightening/bleaching is a problem, but it’s only a sign of much deeper inter-related issues: self-hatred, a race-based identity crisis, and the internalization of Western-created cultural ideas that are inimical to the mental health of black people.
This dangerous act of bleaching is tunneling deep down to the psyche of our blacks. We are not good enough, we are not beautiful enough, so we now bleach, and wear other women’s hair, and now we are beautiful. So, so sad. We are destroying God’s Perfection! I am imploring Africans and blacks to desist from this ‘heinous’ crime against their skin. Stop bleaching away your intrinsic beauty; celebrate your natural skin. Your melanin is a gift and not a curse. When you bleach, you are insulting your Creator; bleaching is a shame! Let us stop bleaching our skin in order to fit into some imperialist beauty standards.
Stop spending too much time distorting yourself so that the world can notice you. The truth is that the world only notices people that have decided to be themselves. Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.
The second critical aspect worth realigning is our insatiable and voracious appetite for foreign and imported goods. We need a major shift from our ‘destructive’ preference for imported goods to the detriment of our local contents. The level of inferiority complex amongst black consumers is so demeaning to the extent that we’ve added toothpicks to the list of our imported goods, something that can easily be made locally. We have become a victim of our lavish preference for western goods to the detriment of our indigenous goods. Our wayward, impulsive and senseless consumption pattern have helped to kill our own indigenous manufacturing sector.
The revolution in the Japanese economy was initiated by strong patriotism of the citizens to their local goods and their belief in the superiority of their local content. We need a form of social reformation that will produce Africans and blacks that will be patriotic to their local content and goods. We also need consumer orientation policy to educate the populace of the need to be patriotic and supportive of their local content. The economic waste of huge foreign exchange on foreign goods has decimated the growth of African nations, and crippled their manufacturing sector. Africans have been driven into a deep abyss of debt and tangent of oblivion because of lack of frugality in the way we squander our foreign exchange almost on foreign goods. This irresponsible, ostentatious and extravagant lifestyle needs to be tamed for Africa and the black communities to rise!
Our leaders and political office holders squander foreign reserves in medical trips to foreign lands when we have the capacity to ‘heal’ ourselves! Our leaders are always holidaying away in Dubai and other foreign resorts when we have captivating indigenous tourist sites that are linked to our roots. Our excessive, uncensored and unpatriotic consumption pattern is killing the nation. The way we consume is central to the growth of our economy; it also affects the way we are perceived in the eyes of the world. How we consume, and for what purposes drive how we utilize our resources, create products, and produce pollution and waste.
The third issue I will like to address is that of our victim’s mentality. John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) once said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’’ A victim mindset causes people to focus more on what they can get rather than what they can give. It is a recipe for recurring frustration and failure. In his famous book that I greatly recommend for every responsible mind; A NATION OF VICTIMS: The decay of American Character, Charles J. Sykes succinctly and painstakingly chronicled the growing abuse of victimhood, examines the erosion of human society, emphasized the decline of individual responsibility, and offers hope in the prospect of a culture of renewed character.
Most Africans and blacks are thronging out of their native country to Europe, Asia, and America for the wrong reasons because of their victim mentality. They have this belief that their fortune is in a strange land far from home! It is sympathetic to know that most African youths have become economical fugitives and global liabilities as a result of their meaningless pursuit of treasure and fortune in foreign lands.
People with victim’s mentality are easy to notice: They always believe that their problems are not their fault, and always see themselves as victims of life situations. They believe strongly that someone or something is responsible for their predicament. They are not capable of being honest with themselves and accepting responsibility for their lives. They are unable to see how their own steps, actions, inactions, and negligence have brought them to where they are presently. They always arouse self-pity coupled with an insatiable appetite for entitlement. When we are hooked on excessive need for validation and attention from others, it diminishes the self-awareness of our true ability.
The next thing I will like to talk about is our reward and value system. Our reward system has become archaic and obsolete in the modern world. In the western world, they have designed reward systems that celebrate and uphold the virtues of excellence, commitment, dedication, and responsibility. There is an institutional fault in our reward system as we have often rewarded mediocrity over excellence. This is the core reason why corruption is more prevalent among Africans and blacks. Our corrupt leaders have meticulously designed systems to reward people with no intellectual value. The only thing that rewards most in Africa is politics as many villains, miscreants, touts, and moral outlaws are riding on the heels of politics to siphon the wealth of the nation. We need to redesign a reward system to reward people that are solving problems and adding values. In Malaysia, teachers are paid more than any other worker because the government understands the value that teachers are adding to the communities. They believe strongly that teachers are mind and nation builders. That is why Africa is gradually losing some of her intellectuals, nurses, teachers, and medical doctors to more rewarding foreign systems. People call this ‘brain-drain’ but I will like to call it ‘value-drain’!
As a fall-out from our poor reward and value system, our leaders have become agents of mass corruption. Corruption has rendered our structural institutions impotent; our education and health sectors are in dilapidated shambles. The citizens are now the victims of a deteriorated health and education sectors while the leaders ‘elope’ with their families abroad for the best of educational and medical attention.
The last thing worth underlining is our inability to keep historical facts in writings and museums. There is nothing that reconnects a nation back to its roots than understudying its history. It is poignant to note that modern civilization started in Africa (Egypt to be specific), the first form of writing called Hieroglyphics emanated from Africa; the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt is such an architectural masterpiece that it has become one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The art of medicine in Egypt can be vividly seen in how they embalm their dead in a way that is still awe-inspiring to the modern medical world. We have lost much of who we are simply because we have not been celebrating our history. Many artifacts of black origin have found their ways to foreign museums where they are now much cherished!
The black race might have gained independence many years ago, but we are obviously in dire need of mental emancipation, and Bob Marley had in a prophetic way delivered this message succinctly long time ago in one of his songs, ‘Redemption song’. As much as I believe so much in globalization and its attendant advantages, I know that Africans and blacks cannot live in isolation from the world, but we must never lose our identity in a bid to fit in into the world’s definition. The black heritage can still shine if we cultivate the habit of celebrating what we have.
To all the blacks and Africans out there, let us debunk the elitist myth that Africans and blacks cannot fare better without western interventions. Let us look inward and celebrate what we have. Let us preserve the rich legacy of the black heritage which is gradually becoming an endangered species! I sum this up with a stanza from Chara Nyashia Sanjo’s poem (Beautiful To Be Black): “It’s beautiful to be black, it is the colour of strength and pride. I will say it out loud. I don’t have to hide. I love me, and the color that I represent…… If I wasn’t black, I wouldn’t be me”.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “When you learn how much you are worth, you will stop giving people discounts”-Anonymous
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