My great grandmother was a farmer
She was a medicine woman
She was brave.
My grandmother never spoke English
She was not literate
She raised her children through a war.
My mother is a broken women
She holds both magic and rage
She never shows love.
I would like to think that I am good with words
But I keep everything inside
I feel empty sometimes.
So most you all have already seen the viral video where Chimamanda Adichie shuts down her white male cohost on the topic of racism and white privilege. Her co-host (he who shall not be named) was discussing DJT and completely denying any ounce of evidence or reality that he had said anything that was even the slightest bit racist or inflammatory. Adichie handled the situation with the upmost poise, intelligence and grace along with a fabulous eye roll. She quickly stated in no mixed terms with all the receipts in hand incidences of racism and racially biased language that was used by DJT throughout the course of his 18-month campaign. But more importantly, as a Nigerian woman, she positioned herself to speak truth to power and publicly spoke on issues of racism and white supremacy.
We often don’t see African women from the continent in popular culture openly take “radical” political positions. I think so often Africans, especially those of us who are still located on the continent, find it difficult to identify and align ourselves within black liberation movements that are going on across the diaspora. Growing up many of us received intense messages tying success to high educational achievement, assimilation and for the most part, remaining publicly apolitical. This compounded on much of the history we are taught regarding social justice movements is about those who are direct decedents of the transatlantic slave trade. This makes for a lack of language on how the African experience is both different and connected to that of the rest of the diaspora. As Africans there is very little readily accessible literature on how the effects of colonization (forced nationhood, religious and linguistic indoctrination) reverberates and traumatizes us on a physical, emotional, psychological, political and economic level. As Africans we don’t examine this reality in our schools or even in our homes, thus leading to a disconnect as we begin to see the rest of the diaspora engaging in the struggle for liberation (i.e. #blacklivesmatter).
As a Nigerian American woman I didn’t grow up learning about my own people as having a legacy of colonial resistance, much of what I learned regarding liberation was either nonexistent or about the American Civil Rights Movement. Which at the time was both liberating to see people who looked like me take strong stances, but at the same time distancing, because I knew this wasn’t exactly “my” history.
This is why Adichie’s viral moment strikes a particular core with me. Her confidently inserting herself as an African women in the fight against white supremacy and racism is inspiring and I hope encourages more Africans, especially African women, to become vocal in resisting oppression. We don’t need to be divided by country or histories as Black people. We are all here collectively experiencing an injustice that is rooted in resource extraction, colonization, exploitation and slavery that still exist on the continent and across the diaspora. So thank you again Chimamanda for being fearless, for speaking truth to power and for being unapologetically black.
Photo Credit: BBC