Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria- The country with the largest concentration of black people in the world totalling about 185 million people with a small population of minorities – I never had any cause to reflect on my race or to even acknowledge it in the first place. We learnt about slavery and the civil rights movement in the United States but we always dissipated and accepted this information with the point of view of outsiders. Yes, our brothers and sisters were being oppressed in other countries and we truly cared but it didn’t bother us that much. We were kings and queens in our own fatherland.
This coming summer will make it two years since I’ve been away from home, immersed in Canadian culture and I have discovered something shocking but yet so beautiful. Just like Christopher Columbus is praised for discovering already existing lands and cultures, I should be praise for finding the black woman in me. Like Mungo Park’s major, incredible discovery of the River Niger where my forefathers had been fishing and swimming hundreds of centuries before he smelt Africa, I have finally discovered I am black!
The signs were always there. There were hints when my sister would rebuke me for purchasing products I saw advertised on television for “visible results in only 7 days!” “It cannot work for you”, she would say but I always thought she was misinformed.
Suddenly becoming a raisin in a bowl of white milk instead of chocolate milk, you come to the realization of your race which you have been unconscious of all your life and you unfortunately discover that many times, ‘diversity’ is nothing but a marketing buzzword and that fist-pumping really is not your thing… At all.
You know you’re black when you find yourself having to go on your knees and practically sweep the floors with your bottom at makeup stores to find the ONE bottle of foundation stocked to fulfill all righteousness, only to find out that the generic brown shade does not take into cognisance the variations in black skin tones.
I know now that I am black when unlike before when every hair salon around me could cater to my needs, I had to go on endless quests to find ‘The One’ and never forgetting to ask specifically when making enquiries over the phone, “Can you do MY kind of hair?”
I am often amused by my blackness when, in my precious moments of solitude and perhaps noisy reflection on the course of the day, I would have to dismiss the idea of my anonymity because after all, my black feet- the only black feet on the floor- would be recognized from another stall.
It sunk in that I was black when I started to think about and write about race with myself being the subject and not just one of the children of the plantation workers, our distant cousins.
My race has become significant as I begin to share solidarity with other surprised Africans who have also just realized they are black too and feel the need to cling to one another in our minds for ‘safety’.
I understand I am black when you, if you are not black read this and you just don’t get it. It’s alright… Now breathe.