I never knew I was black until I arrived Canada. I had always thought of myself as a Nigerian, sometimes even an African but never as black. When I first moved to Canada, I didn’t experience the cultural shock as much as my other African friends did. Maybe it was because of the American movies I was watching and the E! News channel on DSTV. The system was very different but nothing out of the ordinary. I had lots of misunderstanding with friends for questioning my culture. They would complain that my food was smelling funny, or why I did things a certain way that was different from the way they did theirs.
I wished someone would have prepared me for the endless questions that I was always asked. It went from ‘Oh so you’re from Africa?’ to ‘So how are you here? Are you on scholarship or something?’ I also can’t count how many times I have had to explain why my English was so good or how Africa is not a country, and how we don’t have one president.
Leaving your country and your comfort zone exposes you to another side of life. It makes you aware of how other people view your own culture. It baffled me to realize how far the Canadian culture is from the realities of mine. Most people are not educated in any way about other cultures or the things happening in other countries. Moving to Canada has made me realize how strong and powerful the black culture is. I didn’t understand how strong we were back in Nigeria because it was taken for granted. Black people overseas come together regardless of where they come from and irrespective of their gender.
I also didn’t believe racism existed when I was still in Nigeria until I actually came to Canada, and then I realized it was all a lie. I personally have had experiences that could be coined as racism, so I can say for a fact that it is there. Regardless, moving to a completely different environment and culture exposes you to so much more than you can imagine. It offers a new vantage point where you can look and have a better and more holistic perspective.
One take-home-lesson from Jessica’s piece is the realization that most of us exist in our own bubble. We are in an echo-chamber and often hear the same thing repeatedly that strengthens our biases. We know little about cultures that aren’t ours and often work on assumptions. It’s a reminder that we owe ourselves a duty to put in the work, learn about other cultures, and to ask better questions when interacting with Others. She also talked about Black culture which I interpret as pulling towards familiarity. We are drawn to things we are familiar with especially when we are surrounded by other things that look and feel different. It is in these similarities we find our security. However, the caveat is to do this with caution to prevent being stuck in an echo-chamber.
The series continues on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. So do remember to visit on those days as there are more eye-opening contributions and I do not want to enjoy them alone.
Share these articles online, discuss them with real life friends and virtual friends on social media, and above all, I will encourage us all to be civil.
The goal is not to foster hate as stated earlier, but to help us understand the unique interactions of different races in different countries.
How we became racial conscious/aware.
What led to racial stereotypes and prejudice?
Dealing with people of other races and how we can improve on our humanity.
Thank you and join me on this journey as we learn more On Race.
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Cover Photo : Bretculp.com