True talk? Unknown to many British-Nigerian parents; they are the cause (and not media propaganda) of why many of our children are not interested in our culture or the continent. This is a throwback article I wrote last year but I wonder how many British African parents would change their answer this question in light the recent ‘Brexit’ 2016 vote. Now please don’t get carried away with the title; this does’t just apply to British-Nigerian Parents but also the parents from the wider African community (as some of the comments below of those that disagree and agree with this point make aware).
Will African diaspora’s become more inclined to travel home as British identity in Europe becomes more questioned? We’ll have to wait and see. I believe so. The question of whether our children born and raised in Europe are not interested in Africa because of parental chit chat and experiences is a divisive one as some of the reader comments below (from the Facebook post) highlight.
“Agree with some of the points in the article. It’s very common to hear of Ghanaians in the UK who are careful of Ghanaians in Ghana, Nigerians careful of Nigerians (both in Nigeria and here haha) and so on. There are many here who have had negative experiences of home coupled with African men and as a result; share with the younger generation that neither Africa or African men are a good choice and you must be very careful… poignant read!”
“That’s not true. Majority of British born Nigerians travel home love Nigeria and make efforts to travel home. The ones who don’t like nigeria are those it was used to threaten as punishment for bad behaviour or those put off by how aggressive ppl back home can be sometimes when they get something wrong through no fault of their own. My kids are into Naija movies and music. They’ve travelled home and enjoyed the experience too.”
I’ve certainly seen, met and heard conversations right from secondary school in London, barbers and hair salons, market corners and events about people’s experiences back home and how this shapes a lot of the perceptions of young people growing up. What controls the circumference of your thinking will control the diameter of your thinking.
I’ve certainly benefitted from visiting and living in East and West Africa. But prior to; it was what I saw and heard out of the mouthpiece of mainstream British Media and local conversations that shaped my thinking. I know i’m not the only one.
So just for those that didn’t have the opportunity to read and disagree; Here are 5 common factors in parents contribute to giving a bad of image of their country outside their country:
1) If my parents say:
“We’ve had terrible experiences back home. No chance.”
Whether it is because one has fled from civil war, famine and other terrible experiences. Many African parents in the UK dislike home and transfer this knowledge onto their children. Before I went to Tanzania and Nigeria for the first time – I was certainly anxious because of the many things I heard from both the mum and dad – some of these things were not even mentioned to me but I heard in various conversations on the phone, at the local black barber shops in Newham and even during the secondary school banter amongst black British students in the playground.
2) If my parents say:
“You know how our people are. I don’t trust them.”
It’s the age old saying that a prophet is despised in his home country. It’s also an age old misbelief that everyone trusts their countrymen. Some people are sensitive to trade with and work with fellow kinsmen of the same country and tribe. I’ve heard many Kenyans here say they don’t like to work for Kenyans just like hearing the few Yoruba spokesmen complain of the difficulties of working with Yoruba people back home. Is this a practice of Self-hatred? Or a common practice amongst people of all culture and races? Regardless, it still feeds into the ears of young people alike and may resent us from not only our own country but our own people.
3) If my parents say:
“I’m a proud African!” (But don’t ask me questions as why I don’t live there)
It’s usually a 1st generation African migrant problem: To go home or not to go home? Whilst many 2nd and 3rd generation black migrants in the UK question what it means to be British – the concept of #BlackBritish is becoming more and popular amongst the younger folks. Added to this; there are some parents that do acknowledge the fact that the longer they go on speaking before their kids about the ‘wonderful things’ of Africa away from Africa; the more their kids will interpret that to mean ‘I love home enough to stay away from there and I hate London enough to still want to live here.’ In more simple English; if one proclaims his or her love for Nigeria (before their children) in mere words – then the actions ‘of not living nor wanting to live in Nigeria’ will speak louder. Not desiring to return home is more than enough to illustrate that our parents (in particular those who migrated from Africa to the UK) endeavour not to return.
4) If my parents say:
“Home is where you lay your head”
Peter Tosh once said “If you’re a black man; you’re an African.” However; there is still this colonial belief that the land of the ‘mzungu’ is better than home – regardless of how they treat us here. The Hausa elders in Niger say ‘Zaman gida ti fi tafiya’ (Staying at home is better than travelling) – I’m not too sure where that proverb will be sandwiched between our parents that may interpret this proverb and ‘home’ to mean the UK or Africa. I guess it’s the personal concept of where one calls ‘home’. Not that there is any shame if one chooses to call home the UK or Scotland or anywhere else – but whether one feels any guilt if the continent or African nation that they born and brought up in is of no sincere cultural or personal to their children.
5) If my parents say:
“I don’t speak my language with my kids because I want them to improve their English”
Fela Kuti once said in a famous song titled: ‘Mr. Grammarticalogylisationalism Is the Boss’ that: “The better oyibo you talk – the more bread you go get” which means (the belief that Africans have that one can only advance in this life if they fully appropriate the English language and culture). And that seems to be the underlying factor in why many of our African parents (here in the UK and Europe) are comfortability forfeiting thier mother tongues at the expense of their children’s ‘English’. And whilst it can be argued that it is not a bad thing if they want their children to excel at this language – does this act as an expensive cultural currency exchanged for their children’s linguistic heritage and appreciation for African culture and languages?
*** If there are other there suggestions that you’d recommend as to how parents contribute or don’t contribute to ‘negative’ stereotypes of our countries; feel free to comment below or contact me via Twitter: @AfricanCB or Facebook: /AfricanCultureBlog