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The black heritage as an endangered species

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“Nobody can make you inferior without your own consent”-Eleanor Roosevelt

Bishop David Oyedepo once said: “When you think enough, you will realise that what you have is enough.”

Don’t ever allow people to make you believe that you are empty, simply because you don’t carry what they carry. People will always trivialise what you have by making you believe that what they have is superior to yours.

In fact, the modern way of bullying is intimidating people into believing that they are lesser beings just because they are different from us.

The popular tele-evangelist, Billy Graham, summarily captured this demeaning trait in human nature in one of his daily devotions, when he said: “To hate, to discriminate against those who look different, who talk different, who have different national backgrounds, or who act differently from the dominant group, is a universal trait of human nature.”

One of the phenomena that have suffered great abuse and distortion is the black heritage. We are in an age where the black heritage has been liquidated on the platform of ‘westernisation.’

“I’m afraid you’ve sold your own land to see other men’s. To have seen much but own nothing is to have rich eyes and poor hands.”

The above excerpt was lifted from one of the plays written by William Shakespeare, As You Like It, and it vividly describes the lifestyle among the blacks and Africans.

It is poignant that we have sadly given and negotiated too much of ourselves away, just to look like others or probably to fit into some imperialist beauty standards.

Tim Fargo said: “If you want to improve your self-worth, stop giving other people calculator.”

Africans and blacks have sold themselves cheap, just because they are ignorant of their worth.

There are so many issues that are stifling the black heritage, but the object of this piece will border just on the prevalent five: The inferiority of the black skin; our victim mentality; our lopsided reward and value system; our open disregard to local contents, because of our strange consumption pattern; and our inability to document and preserve historical facts and artifacts.

Don’t ever allow people to judge and pass demeaning verdict on you, just because you don’t have what they possess.

The African continent has been bullied into believing that it is several years back in fashion, culture and tradition. The problem of the African continent is that we seldom celebrate what we have. They have made us believe that our skin is not ‘tush’ enough and needs to be bleached. We have furiously and irredeemably bleached ourselves beyond ‘redemption.’

They have made our women and young ladies erroneously belief that they don’t look scintillating until they wear foreign hair (mostly Brazilian hair).

Francois de La Rochefoucauld once said: “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.”

They have succeeded in making us believe that we are shabbily and ill-cladded until we are in suit and tie.

They have made us look like savages, just because we stick to our local dishes. They make us believe we sound so local because our communication style and voice intonation is different from theirs.

Fredrick Douglas said: “I prefer to be true to myself even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false and incur my own abhorrence.”

Acupuncture has been part of the Chinese culture for decades and it has never lost relevance. Why must Africans believe that we need to lose so much of who and what we are just to fit in into the definition that the world has given us?

The first point is about the issue around the black skin. Africans and blacks everywhere have been psychologically battered and manipulated to believe that their black skin is inferior, and I believe strongly that the level of ignorance ravaging the black heritage and culture needs to be urgently addressed before the victim’s doomsday.

When I see people paying for bleaching creams, I pitiably get angry, because they are paying for their ignorance. We should stop buying into the myth that a lighter skin means a better life. It is a blatant lie; your mind and not your skin should be the object of enlightenment.

It is appalling to see in Nigeria how people are addictively desirous to bleach their skin to look like the white man, but will never go any length to upgrade the state of their mind.

Gwyneth Paltrow once said: “Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin.”

We are living in a world where being natural is no longer fashionable. What a monumental psychological loss.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

The problem of bleaching is more than just cosmetic; it is culturally destructive. It encroaches on our culture, values and heritage. To put it emphatically, bleaching is an insult to and abuse of the black heritage.

The search for self-worth is not a skin phenomenon; a healthy self-esteem begins by finding what is indestructible inside and then letting it be. The level of bleaching among blacks is appalling, to the extent that some have bleached themselves to the point that they have forgotten how they naturally look like.

As blacks and Africans, we freed ourselves and won our independence long time ago, but psychologically we continued to view ourselves through the lens of ‘whiteness.’

In the face of acute self-degradation and liquidation, we must not allow our sense of self to be distorted through a white lens. It is not the dark skin that is the problem; it is our dark, jaundiced and uncultured way of thinking.

Skin-lightening/bleaching is a problem, but it is only a sign of much deeper inter-related issues- self-hatred, a race-based identity crisis and the internalisation of Western-created cultural ideas that are inimical to the mental health of black people.

The second critical aspect worth realigning is our insatiable and voracious appetite for foreign and imported goods. We need a major shift from our ‘destructive’ preference for imported goods at the detriment of our local contents. We have become victims of our lavish preference for western goods to the detriment of our indigenous goods.

Our wayward, impulsive and senseless consumption pattern has ‘helped’ to kill our own indigenous manufacturing sector.

The revolution in the Japanese economy was initiated by strong patriotism of the citizens to their local goods and their belief in the superiority of their local content.

We need a form of social reformation that will produce Africans patriotic to our local content and goods.

We also need consumer orientation policy to educate the populace of the need to be patriotic and supportive of our local content.

The economic waste of huge foreign exchange on foreign goods has decimated the growth of African nations and crippled their manufacturing sector. Africans have been driven into a deep abyss of debt and tangent of oblivion because of lack of frugality in the way we squander our foreign exchange almost on foreign goods. This irresponsible lifestyle needs to be tamed for Africa to rise.

The third issue is our victim mentality, which is a recipe for recurring frustration and failure.

Most Africans and blacks are thronging out of their native countries to Europe, Asia and America for the wrong reasons because of their victim mentality. They have the belief that their fortune is in a strange land far from home.

It is sympathetic to know that most African youths have become economical fugitives and global liabilities as a result of their meaningless pursuit of treasure and fortune in foreign lands.

People with victim mentality are easy to notice. They always believe that their problems are not their fault and always see themselves as victims of life situations. They believe strongly that someone or something is responsible for their predicament.

They are not capable of being honest with themselves and accepting responsibility for their lives. They are unable to see how their own steps, actions, inactions and negligence have brought them to where they are presently. They always arouse self-pity, coupled with an insatiable appetite for entitlement.

When we are hooked on excessive need for validation and attention from others, it diminishes the self-awareness of our true ability.

The next thing is our reward and value system. Our reward system has become archaic and obsolete in the modern world. The western world has designed reward systems that celebrate and uphold the virtues of excellence, commitment, dedication and responsibility.

There is an institutional fault in our reward system, as we have often rewarded mediocrity over excellence. This is the core reason why corruption is more prevalent among Africans and blacks. Our corrupt leaders have meticulously designed systems to reward people with no intellectual value.

The only thing that rewards most in Africa is politics, with many villains, miscreants, touts and moral outlaws are riding on the heels of politics to siphon the wealth of the nation. We need to redesign a reward system to reward people that are solving problems and adding values.

In Malaysia, teachers are paid more than any other worker, because the government understands the value that teachers are adding to the communities. They believe strongly that teachers are mind and nation builders. That is why Africa is gradually losing some of its intellectuals, nurses, teachers and medical doctors to more rewarding foreign systems.

The last thing worth underlining is our inability to keep historical facts in writings and museums. There is nothing that reconnects a nation back to its roots than understudying its history.

It is important to note that modern civilisation started in Africa (Egypt to be specific). The first form of writing called Hieroglyphics emanated from Africa. The Pyramids at Giza in Egypt is such an architectural masterpiece that it has become one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The art of medicine in Egypt can be vividly seen in how they embalm their dead in a way that is still awe-inspiring to the modern medical world.

We have lost much of who we are simply because we have not been celebrating our history. Many artifacts of black origin have found their way to foreign museums.

The black race might have gained independence many years ago, but we are obviously in dire need of mental emancipation.

Musician, Bob Marley, had in a prophetic way delivered this message succinctly long time ago in one of his songs, Redemption song.

As much as I believe so much in globalisation and its attendant advantages and know that Africans and blacks cannot live in isolation from the world, but we must never lose our identity in a bid to fit in into the world’s definition.

To all the blacks and Africans out there, let us debunk the elitist myth that we cannot fare better without western interventions. Let us look inward and celebrate what we have. Let us preserve the rich legacy of the black heritage, which is gradually becoming an endangered species.

I sum this up with a stanza from Chara Nyashia Sanjo’s poem, Beautiful To Be Black: “It’s beautiful to be black, it is the colour of strength and pride. I will say it out loud. I don’t have to hide. I love me, and the colour that I represent… If I wasn’t black, I wouldn’t be me.”


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