I remember how irritated I use to get at the ignorance I came across in this world due to my own experiences.
Mainly, when people who don’t come from my beautiful land will look at my skin and say “wow!, are you from Africa?” and continue with more unofficial FAQ’s from your “do you speak Swahili” and “are you related to Nelson Mandela?”. In retrospect, I see different realities in this ignorance. Firstly, yes people need to learn to read a little more about the world, including Africa. But mostly, these people see us Africans as a unit, one people. So why do we not see ourselves this way?
Recent xenophobia attacks have us divided, from “South Africans vs. Zimbabwean, Ethiopian, Angolan, Nigerian, Somali (and the list goes on) entrepreneurs and expatriates” to other African countries boycotting South African products each causing detriment and greater stigma to our society. We create the idea that all South Africans are full of pride and ignorance, while South Africans (specifically those that are part of any activity surrounding the xenophobic attacks) believe that the problem to their community is foreigners have come on their home soil to create employment and employment opportunities to their own, not necessarily benefitting the people in the community – identifying these foreigners as a group of people who did something similar in the 1800’s.
We have all come to a point where people who were in joint oppression, and jointly sought their way to their country’s freedom are at a Mexican Standoff, each believing that the other is the enemy. How did we get here?
Looking at our basic fundaments of what makes us African; our culture and values, one aspect that we chose not to spill into our new world of freedom is basic teachings of humanity and unity. This I believe, is our need to create a new identity free of colonisation and oppression. In seeking our own identity we forgot that this was a journey we were to take with our neighbours.
Look at our basic general education system, and page your mind through the history subject. Did you learn about how your country achieved its independence? Did you learn about the many African countries that kept your heroes as expatriates, did you watch documentaries of other African nationals speaking of their contribution to your own country’s freedom?
We learn mostly about the history of our own country, celebrate our own achievements because this is us creating and nurturing our own political identity post colonization – however we learn less about our African heroes that have assisted us directly or indirectly. It is a culture practiced to this day – just see how we haven’t applauded doctors and nurses from East Africa taking pages from their lives to help eradicate Ebola.
One of the greatest challenges we have in extinguishing the xenophobia wildfire is simply to sensitize each other about the African climate – specifically reading more about what is going on in our 54 nationed continent. As with knowledge, brings empathy and with empathy unity, Therefore becoming the unified Africa and not the illusion we have carried thus far, because we’ve carried the burden of the illegitimate unity and has fallen greatly on our backs in xenophobic attacks.