I Am from Africa and I Have Not Seen a Lion
As I listened, I heard something that really stuck with me.
One young man said, "I am from Africa and I have not seen a lion."
I really wish I were looking at my screen when this man was speaking so that I could have given him credit here, but unfortunately, I was not.
He was elaborating on his personal experiences regarding misinformation and miseducation of American's perceptions and expectations about how African's live their daily lives.
As he spoke, I found myself nodding my head in agreeance at the small yet very impactful side comments people make. I felt I not only understood what he was saying but why he was even bringing it up in a dominantly all-Black space the way he did.
Here's what I learned by listening:
- Darker skin doesn't always mean African American
- Africa has skyscrapers, stores, and malls just like us
- Traveling overseas helps us relate to others
Let's go a little deeper...
Many of us American's assume a person with a darker skin tone is automatically an African American.
This is not necessarily the case.
People from all over the world are moving to America for all different reasons.
This man shared that he came to America to go to school, but was met with varied questions and opinions that were outright demeaning to his culture and his continent as a whole. This brings me to my second point...
Africa is more than dirt, starvation, and wild animals.
I remember the man briefly describing Africa as a regular place just like America. As he spoke I imagined viewing Africa from a different lens...
A lens that includes skyscrapers, billboards, and movie theaters. They have cityscapes, penthouses, and know how to rock a fly suit and tie.
The reality is this: Africans are people who live in an established continent. Their countries and regions are separate like the states and regions of the U.S. They take pride in their countries and their corresponding heritage, while also experiencing discord and hate, just like many Americans from different states.
So you see, there isn't an astronomical difference between an American and an African. Yes, our cultures will be different, what we believe will be different, and how we have experienced life will be different. But being different should not mean you are the butt of everyone's jokes when you arrive to a new country that apparently has one viewpoint of you... jokes that perpetuate demoralization and the belittling of an entire people group... of your people group.
Traveling outside America with an open mind to receive knowledge of other cultures is a huge key to unlocking togetherness and a better understanding of all humans.
I am not better than an African simply because I am an American. If I have beliefs that show I do feel I am better than the next person, I need to do work on myself and my own beliefs.
My beliefs about a person don't prove that that person is wrong for showing up how they show up. It could mean my glasses are foggy, dated, or completely incorrect for the job at hand. You wouldn't wear reading glasses to block the sun while at the beach would you? No, you would wear your sunglasses. And if you didn't bring them, it's your fault. So many times in society, we try to make our problems a burden for other people to carry.
However, I can become enlightened if I take a step outside my box of beliefs.
If you are a person who believes Africa is nothing more than dirt, starvation, and wild animals, commit to taking a trip to Africa. Commit to visiting multiple countries in Africa so you can immerse yourself, just a little bit, into their culture and see what happens. I would be interested to hear what you learn from your trip... what beliefs you had that have now been reformed.
I have not yet visited Africa, but I imagine my eyes will be opened. I want to say I am not as rude as the man who poked fun of the African who spoke in the Clubhouse room. I would like to think I wouldn't make a joke like, "Oh, You're from Africa?! Where's your pet lion or where's your dashiki?" But unfortunately, I have been that person.
I was heading to the Philippines for work one month and before I left I asked a Filipino girl about her country. But I think I did it in a very demeaning and belittling way because I feel convicted about that conversation I had! I said something like, "Okay tell me the truth, is the Philippines a 3rd world country? Like, do they have running water?" Thinking back on this, I feel like crud and I am so disappointed that such words ever left my lips. I just told this girl I thought she came from absolutely nothing and is living in the U.S. to escape from that poverty.
Once I arrived in the Philipines, I learned that they do have tons of running water, skyscrapers, huge malls, loads of beautifully giant billboards and so many beautiful and respectful people.
I want to continue to be enlightened. To continue giving myself permission to see how other people live instead of speculating that America is the king of the world and no one else comes close to touching our lifestyles... BECAUSE IT IS AN ABSOLUTE LIE!