Son to a doctor of engineering and a social livewire of a mother, being proud of who I was never seemed to be a problem, whilst I was in Africa that was. However, in the suburbs of Manchester where most people did not look, sound or even behave like me, these principles drilled into me whilst growing up did not seem to have the same effect.
Being an African in this part of Manchester, I was a minority even amongst the ethnic minorities so you can imagine what that looked like: often the first to be mocked because of my name, accent, and essentially anything regarding Africa. I felt isolated and did not have anyone to turn to that could understand so I kept to myself. Just for clarification, I am not coming out here singling out Manchester, calling its people racist, that is not the purpose of this blog. I am just regurgitating my experience as part of a bigger message.This is innate in the human culture to mock something one does not understand.
As I got older, I came across fellow African children who had also created their coping mechanisms in dealing with the foreign land we had found ourselves in, these varied from the genuinely ridiculous (i.e African kids pretending they were Jamaican as this was the accepted form of black during this time) to just outright worrying. An example of the latter comes from my secondary school where a girl was possessed with the idea of bleaching her skin because she thought she was too dark and not pretty enough. I often think back to that time with regret as wish I or any other person had summoned the courage to tell her how much of a natural beauty she was but I was not as culturally appreciative as I am today.
Through just broader reading I discovered that in 2008, the secondary curriculum was supposedly “revised” so it could teach students 11-14 about the development of the slave trade, colonisation, and the involvement of the British Empire in the slave trade. I cannot speak for elsewhere in the country, but I do question the impact of this because, in 2008, I was in year 8 sat in the corner of my predominantly Caucasian history class watching roots for the umpteenth time knowing once this ended the “Kunta-Kinte” jokes would come at me in all forms.
On the flip side, I am glad this revision did not come to fruition because it would have just been another way for black children to be subconsciously limited and told all their people ever were, was slaves. It may come across as if I am nitpicking, however it is quite deflating to be a people without our genuine history being told, all we ever seem to be doing is fighting for basic human rights or being slaves.
Quoting Femi Akomolafe’s article Questionable black history in British curriculum.“Lack of pride in one’s identity, history, and culture leads to lack of self-worth” this has stuck with me ever since reading it because it is applicable to day to day life that I know.
I will go ahead and use London just for illustrative purposes. Often in parts of London, you see or hear fellow blacks killing one another because the “opposition” was in “my sides” this infuriates me because this is exactly what that Femi Akomolafe was talking about. we are not educated on how we are Kings and Queen and that we came from royalty, therefore, we behave like what we are identified as, slaves. This means we will fight amongst and be prepared to kill one another for things we do not own because we feel others presence to be a threat to our health.
I feel due to the lack of focus on the greatness of black people we are uneducated on our own and even ignorant at times. That is why we have Africans and Caribbean’ tearing one another apart on social media not knowing we are one people. Therefore, I call for the curriculum to be diversified so we as blacks are actually educated on all spectrums of our history and are given a chance to excel in society.
The unification of the black man could be a very powerful thing for society that is why it is time to wake up, support, educate and love one another.