What has been the most unexpected part of my experience as an African woman/student in the United States? - by Anthoinette Ba-Innimayeh
MY SWEET AND SOUR ALIENNESS
Upon receiving my visa in Ghana and finding out that I would be flying out to the United states in five days, it was all excitement and anxiety. Having experienced all my life what is usually referred to as “Murphy’s law” or “bearer of the guinea fowl head” in my culture, I was ready for anything that could possibly go wrong or right in reverse of the controversial “law”, even though I maintained my usual optimism as I embarked on the journey which will turn my life around dramatically. After landing in this country, the reception was warm, beautiful, and boosted my anticipation for a problem free stay. However, three major things flabbergasted me; the generosity of some people, the conflict of inequality, and the misinformation of the general public here about the part of the world where I hail from.
Firstly, I was awed by the bigheartedness and generosity of my three host families. The fact that they let me in their homes for free and took care of me like family. Friends of these families offered one or two forms of assistance as well in the form of warm clothes, school supplies, a new phone and paying for the bills and paying for conferences, trips and many more. I would never imagine getting this kind of generosity in my country. All of that created a comfort to my initial anxiety of how people will treat me. I am still awed every day when I think about how some people can open their hearts and home to a total stranger. I least expected that much but I am forever grateful to them for making my life easy.
However, it only took a few weeks to discover how dirty, or infectiously sick I was to some other people. The kindness I received earlier almost blinded me to the contrasting stigmatization of my nature (being black and African straight from the land). By being avoided and waved away like an insect, I worried about my ability to deal with that. I must reconcile with my inner pain and anguish to remember that I have been through worse. And, to try to focus on my big goal of achieving that for which I was brought out here to get. It was devastating to find that people would not rent out their places to me. Those who did spoke in a demeaning language to me, cheated me and called me derogatory names and titles in languages they never imagined I would understand.
Besides that, I am astonished to know how, misinformation, misunderstanding and the luck of realistic knowledge most people I have encountered have about cultures across Africa. People are still holding on to events and the knowledge of the 1800s and early 1900. forgetting that, a lot has happened since then and things have changed drastically. The over reliance on the Western media and misunderstanding from those who even took trips to parts of the continent is appalling. In October this year, I was invited by our social science department to deliver a lecture to over two hundred audience consisting of faculty and stuff members. During my lecture, people could not believe the facts and statistics I cited about my country Ghana. Basic things like pictures of the average Ghanaian amazed them. I imagine that people need to do more than just rely on the media because propaganda sells more than being honest in mass media.
Moreover, some of the most misinformed and hateful people I experienced are people of my very own kind- African Americans. I have been told things like “ y’all African smell, you don’t shower good…. our men don’t like y’all because y’all don’t do your hair or wear weaves and y’all don’t look pretty”. I refused to be offended because I know all these things being said are the least of my priorities but on second thought, why is this coming from my own kind?. Those, I will imagine are with us in this era of modern racism and inequality. Now to tackle the bigger picture of racism and inequality in this country, black people would have to do an internal cleaning before having any expectation of racial equality in regard to people of other skin coulors and us.
Over all, it has been sweet and sour as I would not have expected perfection anyway. I am glad that there are some people to look up to and appreciate being here because of their efforts to add beauty to being real humans in a world we share. As for the people making my stay here regrettable, I would say it is all right. After all, this world and this life was not meant to be perfect. I still have some more time to spend here it is my hope for grace and strength to be better than being a sadist to others when I could easily make a better impact. love wins always.