Nearly everything about this article makes me want to chew on walls or, better still, on the author’s face. As I read, I am just thinking no, no, no, no you bloody well don’t.
The byline alone makes me want to hit someone. “It is becoming both easier and more difficult to experience the thrill of being an outsider”, the article says, confidingly, as if I should understand.
Okay, I’m not stupid. I know I’m not the audience here. The audience for this article is privileged white people who occasionally condescend to bless the natives of India, Thailand, Kenya or Argentina with their presence and their foreign money.
That phrase alone, “foreign money”, means so much to me: pale hands, crisp money. Good money. Lots of it. It pays for this idiot of a man to gallivant around the world being strange and feeling thrilled at his strangeness, at the novelty of it. To seriously say that it is easier to be a foreigner in African countries because there are people there that have never seen a different face.
I know what he means by a “different” face. He means himself. And I want to laugh, honestly; does he imagine that white people are not shown on TV in Namibia? And I want to cry, because he means to dine on the shock of someone marvelling at the paleness of his skin. This is what happens when you are privileged: the everyday reality of others is your delicacy, to be cultivated, to be savoured.
I want to say something to this man. I want to sit him down and slap him in the face and say, get the fuck over yourself. You are not foreign. You will never be foreign anywhere. No matter how “different” you feel, there is a sizeable chance that everyone you meet has seen someone white like you, on the TV, in a crowd, from a distance. This is what your heritage has gifted you, you fool.
In America, I am foreign. My hands are brown. I come from somewhere with just as many factions and divisions as exist here, only compressed into a smaller land mass, then magnified by the lack of resources. In Lagos, I am foreign, if also familiar. There are a lot of Igbo people living in Lagos, Igbo people just like me, with their actual homeland a couple hours away. They are foreign, as am I; I was raised never to forget that Lagos is on Yoruba land, and I never will. Not because it is history, not because it is a truth, but because there are still people who would rather give the jobs they have control over to people from the same tribe, the same township.
And of course, when I come here, the only reason people don’t ask me where I’m ‘from’ on first seeing me is because Africans that look like me were enslaved here for years. This is the comfort my skin color buys me; let me assure you that it does not buy much else.