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THE NARRATVE OF WHITE AND BLACK

Yesterday I went to the bank to do a transaction. I had to wire some money abroad to my business school, and considering the fact that the current exchange rate had screwed me over, I was already feeling grumpy. Anyway I got to the bank (which shares a name with a precious stone) and it looked like the entire Africa plus parts of Asia were there to do transactions; it was literally a sea of heads and there was barely enough space to pass through. I told the security man that I wanted to make a domiciliary transfer, intentionally increasing the volume of my voice as I addressed him, for others to hear so that nobody would yell when I jump the queue. The security man however sweetly pointed to the end of the line, which I walked to, defeated.

Anyway, here I was on the queue for almost an hour, keeping myself busy with twitter, when this oyibo man walked in, blonde hair and pale skin in tow, and made straight for the counter, where he proceeded to announce to the teller (loudly also) that he wanted to make a local transfer. The teller proceeded to collect the already-filled transfer form from him.

I nearly exploded with rage at this, but I took a few seconds to calm my nerves, before walking to the counter and the teller, and firmly telling him that he would not attend to the white man before me, seeing as I was here before he came. The teller gave me a scathing look, and I stared stonily back, ready to draw blood, when some people at the queue started shouting at him too, prompting him to back down and collect my own form.  The oyibo man smiled graciously, took his form back and went to the beginning of the line, while I went back to twitter and waited for the bank teller to finish.

Nigerians amuse me. People come to Nigeria to work and earn obscene amounts of money for doing things many Nigerians can do, and then you deify them because they have white skin?! If you live in Port Harcourt as I do, then I’m sure you are used to the siren-blazing, expatriate-carrying and military-manned vehicles that careen about on the roads, nearly running you off the road if you do not swerve. You’d think these vehicles are transporting the box containing American nuclear launch codes, whereas they are probably carrying the housewife of some Dutch SPDC worker, on her way to shop for groceries.

Sad.

I’m a member of a fitness club, and I have a few Caucasian friends who belong in the club with me. When we go for runs or bicycle rides together, the usual crazy drivers in Port Harcourt, upon coming in contact with us, would immediately become courteous and well-behaved, braking their vehicles outrightly to let us run or cycle through. However, try running or cycling alone or with just Nigerians, and the same drivers will nearly run you over, with a healthy dose of insults to go with. What is the difference between the two scenarios? White skin. This is also my experience in restaurants, as the quality of service I get increases twenty-fold when I am with a foreigner, whereas while dining alone, I’d get the usual crappy Nigerian customer service.

This worship of the white skin is a relic of colonialism. But for how long are we going to continue acting this way? For how long are we going to consider something better for the sole reason that it is foreign or from Ala Bekee? Tune into the radio and hear the OAPs speak with a cacophony of accents (I am not talking about Toke Makinwa though) because it is deemed cooler to sound foreign. I was with a female friend at the mall the other day, and we started talking about hair as we passed by a hair shop. I marveled at all the Brazilian, Peruvian, Pakistani and Syrian tresses available for sale at outrageous prices. I asked her a question, “For hair to be deemed beautiful, does it have to be long and silky?” She did not answer. She couldn’t answer. I don’t get it. It is for this idea of beauty in hair that women put caustic sodium hydroxide in their hair and sit for hours under hair dryers so as to achieve the Caucasian standard of beautiful hair. We have bought into the narrative that our hair is not pretty as it is, so we must change it to the western standard for it to be considered beautiful.

This also explains the concept of “black beauty” or “African beauty”. Quite frankly, if I was a woman and you used any of those two terms on me, I’d give you a hot slap. The term “black beauty” is a phrase of surprise, like Black women are not expected to be beautiful, so it often surprises us so much to see a pretty black girl that we have to adulate her. You may argue that this is not your intent, but have you ever used the term “white beauty”? No, because white is always considered beautiful and black is considered…well, black. This also explains the skin bleaching epidemic in Nigeria, as we have bought into the ‘fair is better’ narrative. It is a big shame.

We have to consciously begin to own our story and write our own scripts, while doing away with this deification of white skin. We are the generation that should break this cycle and change the narrative. We cannot continue to allow the West tell us what is fashionable, or to define beauty for us. Many people do not know that the United States of America was a British colony, because after the colonial masters left in 1774, America changed her story and created a new identity for herself.

We can do this too. We can find our own identity. We can change the narrative. And it is our generation who can do this.

Written by Dennis Macaulay


About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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31 comments

  1. I remember just recently, while watching a foreign TV station,I casually told the people watching with me that America was colonised by Britain. I swear, the looks I got could have forced me to have a rethink on whether I was even sure I was sane.
    I agree, we have to rethink and rebrand. We’ll do all that right after I go to shoprite and buy the latest skin toning cream. Mind you, it’s not bleaching, it’s toning.

    • shakespeareanwalter

      Hahahahahahaha!!! It wouldn’t happen to be that skin ‘toning’ cream called Whitenicious, would it?

  2. Dennis, one chilled bottle of Orijin for you and a steaming bowl of nkwobi.

  3. I totally concur Nigerians need emancipation from racial slavery.I base in PH too and have seen much of that in GRA,you white black or indigo I would stick it out to you when you cross the line.Some of our clients who are the acclaimed Caucasian are not so bright afterall,I know many occasions when my senior colleague would put a supposed senior accountant thru his supposed area of expertise# scuffs

  4. When Chimamanda talks, they’ll say she’s being too outspoken. Well, a man has said it.
    I love the “brazillian and Peruvian hair” part. At least that’s another man who thinks they don’t define beauty in an African lady. so why all the stress?
    Well written Dennis.

    • Lol. I was going to mention Chimamanda too. Someone please get this piece across to her, so she’ll know that even men are propagating her gospel. That Black can be Original.

  5. The annoying thing is that this discrimination we practice against our people is not just in deference to the white people. It’s to anyone perceived as NOT black. Chinese, Latinos, Spaniards, even those Indians whose skin colour is just a few shades from being as brown as ours will get deference. As long as your hair is not kinky but curly, then you are an oyibo who should get better service than the average Nigerian. It’s truly despicable.

    • Mt dear, it’s to anyone with accent sef. I used to work with a zimbabwean. Whenever we go to eat or buy something, once he opens his mouth, the service immediately gets better, people start shuffling their feet and smiling shamelessly. It would hv been amusing if it wasn’t just sad.

  6. Biko ooo, one thing I have observed with this post, the picture is very misleading. Here I was, thinking I was going to read a raunchy interracial bondage kinky stuff this morning, you come dey talk of hair, diamond(yes, we know) bank, cycling and bleaching. This is false advertising oh, it is not good ooo.

  7. why do bad things happen to good people! 🙁 I literally just woke up and clicked on the speed dial. .then I saw the image sleep flew from my eyes only to come and read about bank! Mtchew! I didn’t even finish the story before this comment! @anyibaba we go to war!…when I finish the story. lool!
    shakespeareanwalter #sideeye

  8. Niceeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Uhm Dennis does that mean even the saying “black is beautiful” is wrong??

  9. well. .it’s the truth, the sad truth and people are blind to it.esp umunwanyi the whole bleachi…sorry ‘toning’ aspect is done by people who believe respect/beauty depends in the color of their skin(why would I spend money to be all shades of green, red and burnt black when I can apply vaseline and go) as for hair extensions,people have bad hair,people like to live above their means,people just can’t go without a weave,not everyone can maintain natural hair and some guys encourage it too! The Internet is cucuma not helping. I’m babbling now.bye. beautifully written.

  10. I don’t get it. It is for this idea of beauty in hair that women put caustic sodium hydroxide in their hair and sit for hours under hair dryers so as to achieve the Caucasian standard of beautiful hair. We have bought into the narrative that our hair is not pretty as it is, so we must change it to the western standard for it to be considered beautiful.

    I no gree. My very unmanageable hair is better handled by me when I apply caustic soda. I agree with owning our own story and our own definition of beauty but guilting someone for a procedure that makes life easy for that person is just somehow. Our folks used hot combs to fix their wahala. I say it all the time, Convenience is not laziness, Mbok.

    Nice write up, though…

    • Nne chop gbosa. This Dennis wants to come and spoil our parole. Continue with the hydroxide jor, let me continue with my toning.

  11. Nice write up. Your action at the bank was awesome. However, this is where we will quarrel o. The hair matter! The “caustic soda” on hair(lol) is not to achieve caucasian idea of beauty. Its to make it easier to manage. Nigeria is stressful enough without adding hair matter to it. Anything that enables me to comb my hair without crying like a baby is highly welcome!

  12. Beautiful piece…I love the way you spoke up at the bank, that’s very annoying when they do ot to me and then they’ll give you a look like ‘black ppl are so unreasonable’….forgetting the colour of their skin. As per hair, its so expensive to maintain natural hair in Nigeria o. In Abj where I stay, I spend at least 10k at a blow to treat my natural hair but relaxing can be done with 1,500. So u see why we are ‘poisoning’ our hair.

  13. LOOL! Pray tell Mr. Dennis Macaulay, are you white or black? Your name is……. black beauty I guess, no insult intended please.
    Beautiful prose, excellently written, I bow and tremble…. applause, applause, applause ***** ( 5 stars)
    +

  14. Walter, I’m saying how are YOU?

    +

    • shakespeareanwalter

      FEEEEEYYYYY!!! All you MMSites that just take off any-anyhow. Hmmm. DiarisGod is all these hiatus you’re sharing o. Welcome back o jare

  15. Nicely written. I am just speechless. And all the while reading this I just couldnt help but ponder on all this. It is thoughts like these that had me stop using my first name and people- my fellow nigerians- thought I was crazy to make that decision. They still do. And when I told my mum I wanted to go on an afro, she concluded I didn’t want to find a husband and so, banned me from cutting my hair.

  16. Dennis at it again!

  17. Great stuff….but this neo-colonialism is from within. Many of us have this inferiority complex inside of us, and we have to deal with that first

  18. In my “ten-ten” and dancing-in-the-rain-with-pant-only days, whites appear like special out-of-this-world beings; years and encounters have taught me color has nothing to do with superiority.

    They may speak rapid fire English through the nose and all, but a “white man” is just like another albino next door; not necessarily smarter or better, just another person that deserves to be treated like a human being. Dazzall!

    Great piece Dennis.

  19. Dear Dennis Macaulay, I really adore the way you clearly identified this misnomer. A bow for you.

    We need an aggressive psychological primary school syllabus to begin to undo the emotional hormone that has kept us subservient till this very moment I am typing this and beyond.

    It is a sorry sight that everywhere……I mean everywhere in Nigeria white and close-to-white is better. You should see when a close-to-white (his or her hair is the only difference) man from ordinary Trinidad and Tobago walks into a government office like mine, the sense of shame on me is worse than hot water at boiling point. Its so bad that if I dare open my big mouth, I am tagged a bad belle. I cannot begin to explain.

    Anyway we need to do some corrective measure right from kindergarten because the present generation already is not comfortable in their skin, the least we can do is make our child understand her skin is blessed, her hair is beautiful and trendy. All thanks to the all-of-a-sudden discovery which blesses our everly stubborn and super shrinkage hair as trendy and natural enough to top the chart of twenty-first century good looks.

    lemme stop here before I write an epistle

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