See the problem with the title of this article? Anyway, I’ll just go ahead and make this post hella general, treat Africa like a country and maybe even write in ‘’African’’ at times.
Let me just throw this out there. I hate the movie ”Coming to America” with a passion. I strongly believe it contributed to setting the basis for bullshit regarding the things assumed about Africans.
Context: When I arrived in the US in May 2005, I was freezing. I was an 18 year old fresh from Senegal. My flight to San Francisco connected through New York; I remember this warm Ethiopian man at customs telling me to do my best, get good grades and turn my F1 student visa into a green card, like it was the ultimate gift I could give myself. He was older so I said respectfully “I will do my best, thank you Sir’’ with my slight French accent. He handed me my passport back and I was wondering what a green card was. My brother picked me up from San Francisco Airport and asked me why I was not wearing more appropriate clothing. Well, I had never been to SF and I thought California was sunny. I thought California was Hollywood.
Note: Africans have different perceptions of heat.
Note: I was bitter because I wanted to study with the friends I grew up with, free of parental advisory but instead ended up living with my two big protective brothers and going to an all women’s college. We all made plans to apply to the same schools and live together like an episode of Friends.
I was also bitter because I was the first out of our class to leave Dakar. My classes started earlier so while I was hitting Econ 50, my friends were still home getting the best out of Dakar summer. Summer in Dakar was everything back then. I was younger and I did not care about sweating in clubs. I am still young but my idea of fun is more of a Netflix and chill (literally relax) type, that’s if we had Netflix in Senegal. Laugh out Loud.
1- “Where are you from?”
I was from Senegal when I first arrived. “Where? ” “Sé – né- Gal, West Africa”. By 2006, sophomore year, I was from Africa because I got tired of giving the geographical coordinates of Senegal. Believe me you get tired of talking when you represent by default a whole continent. By 2008, I was occasionally from Oakland, I had dreads at the time and I wore vans a lot. I did not shake my dreads as often as I should have but I was doing good pretty good looking Oakland, well some days more than others anyway, which leads me to my next point.
2- Blending in
I shamelessly tried to blend it, not because I was ashamed of where I came from, proud African alert here! I was just tired of explaining. Even my Africa is not a country it’s a continent sweater did not suffice. I really should have known because on orientation day, while I was in line to register, this white woman wearing the white woman uniform came to me and said:
– I am curious, where are you from
– Oh I’m from Senegal
– I’m sorry where?
– Senegal, West Africa
– Omg, that’s amazing, I’m sorry though, it must be hard to communicate with your family
– Euh *French accent I can call them on the phone, I don’t understand what you mean’’ (I responded very innocently, my definition of respect evolved a lot since then)
– Omg I am so sorry *brisk walks away from me
I was so confused and clueless. It took me days to figure that she probably thought I came to America swimming and that I left a note in a bottle to communicate with my family. I wish I was the person I am now. She would have gotten a very appropriate answer.
There is a long list of uncomfortable conversations I had with people from all races. Out of the interesting questions I was asked in college, my top 5 are:
- “Are there prisons in Africa?” No, what for, we been fighting the prison industrial complex forever and only God can judge.
- “Do you wear a chastity belt?” Of course, I am surprised it did not ring when I passed through security.
- “Is your mom royalty?” I mean she is the Queen of my heart…
- “Do your parents own diamonds? I don’t see how you can afford school otherwise.” Looka the flicka the wrist, Looka the flicka tha wrist
- Black woman: “I am so glad we (African Americans) made it to the US, I mean think about it, we coulda had AIDS if we were still in Africa” BishWhet ?
Did I mention the fool/wench derivative who started clicking her tongue at me? I was so confused because I had actually never heard that before. Later I understood she was mimicking ”African language”. Is national geographic responsible for this? Fuck you then National Geographic. I later found out it was from South Africa (Xhosa)
I eventually slowly adjusted my accent to the crowd I was hanging out with. I dropped the French accent that was not very strong to start with, thanks to my high school teachers. I actually really want my accent back, because it highlights my cursus but I altered it so much that I may have reached the point of no return…..
End of Part 1.
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