Discrimination in Africa?
Whew! this week was tough. It’s coming to the end of this year yet there are still a lot of aspects to catch up on, from course works to notes and some necessary social activities.
It was just like yesterday when this semester began. Now we are counting down to Christmas and praying against another covid-19 lockdown.
Earlier this week, an incident happened that was infuriating and would be the subject of what I’m writing about.
Like most universities, the employability department regularly conducts events aimed at preparing students for life after university. This could be CV clinics, job fairs, or in this case, having an alumni speak at a workshop.
This workshop was of particular importance to my friend and I, as it was aimed at sharing what we can expect after our LLB. So we went for it.
The issue occurred two days after.
The media team took some pictures of the participants who attended. We were the only international students in attendance, so it was very surprising to see that the only picture used, (out of 9 pictures of local students that were posted on the university’s official pages) was very unflattering.
The issue wasn’t that it was a single picture of us that was used (as we honestly would have preferred not to be posted), but that among the numerous pictures that were taken of us, it was the most unflattering image that was selected.
This particular picture painted a view of two very uninterested and dishevelled students, which was in contrast to the other local students who looked cheerful and interested in what was said. Was this the true situation? No, it was not.
To say I was upset would be putting it mildly.
What was clear to us was whoever selected those pictures had an apparent bias that led to such a choice.
Discrimination is a topic that is generally talked about by people. It comes in various forms, the most popular being racial discrimination. However, not much is said about prejudice even within Africa, especially towards immigrants.
It is commonly assumed that the oppressed cannot be racist and discrimination is the preserve of white people and the powerful. But genocide and ethnic cleansing in Africa have put the lie to these assumptions. Virulent attacks on immigrants and refugees testify to the fact that those of us who have been discriminated against know how to give those whom we consider the “other” — and an economic threat — the same if not worse treatment.”Rhoda Kadalie writing in Business Day
It never occurred to me that I would experience this within Africa. There is a general dislike for Nigerians (which in some cases is understandable) which I prepared myself for, but to experience discrimination based on the colour of my skin within a predominantly black skin continent was something I had not expected.
This experience as unpleasant as it was, reminded me of other situations where segregating words and actions had happened to me.
A consistent example occurs while boarding the public transport. There have been situations where people of a ‘lighter skin tone‘ would not want to share a sit with you. You can see the reluctance on their faces when faced with the option of sharing a space with me (or another foreigner), with others opting to stand instead.
Sadly this behaviour is done by both the uneducated and the educated. One would expect that with an education and exposure to a different way of life (as some studied abroad), a certain level of empathy would be shown. This is not so. Rather it would seem that it’s the skill of subtly concealing this bias that was learnt.
Concerning the incident, my friend who was the calmer one offered to speak to one of the media team and a promise was made to take it down.
This has not happened up till now.
Having lived here for over a year, I have become impassive to experiences such as this. One of the perks of human nature is our ability to adjust to things, even unpleasant situations.
One day, hopefully I would be able to share tips on how to deal with such situations. Or maybe the prejudice would end among humans and there won’t be a need for such.
I know, don’t roll your eyes, it’s a false wish.
One thing is certain, a lot more has to be said about discrimination within Africa.
Have you experienced prejudice within and outside of Africa? You can share in the comments section.
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“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”Herman Melville