Nana Poku was proud to be an Ashanti; he paraded himself as the grandson of the Ashanti King as most Ashanti men did to the hearing of people from other ethnic groups. He considered himself more ‘Ghanaian’ than those who hailed from the North. It showed in his swagger and his gesture in public gestures. He seized every chance he got to scorn people he thought hailed from ‘inferior tribes.’
Whenever he crossed paths with a Caucasian, he left no stone unturned to please him/her. In his mind, showing them the ‘Ghanaian hospitality’ would earn him some favors and when he finally set foot on their homeland, he would be accorded the same generosity.
He always dreamed of walking on roads covered with snow, posing for a photo in his jacket and gloves and posting it on Facebook and Instagram, checking himself in at the airport on Facebook for everyone to know he’s abroad and marking himself safe after some sort of attack.
Nana Poku would laugh at his colleagues who got their visas bounced and would blame it on the heaviness of their names on the white man’s tongue. Compared to the others, he had the right height, look and accent to pass for an average Ghanaian, traits the embassy officials would trust to be truly Ghanaian.
His auntie in the States sent him an invitation to visit and luckily for him, his visa application was approved. Finally! He jammed to Sarkodie’s song, ‘Borga’ the whole journey back home. He was going to the white man’s land and officers would call him ‘sir.’ #IWasHereSome. He was in for the shock of his life.
For someone who thought so highly of himself, he felt gravely insulted that the owner of a shop he entered, watched him warily and trailed him as he walked between the shelves. Did he think he was going to shoplift? Did he look like a thief? Did he know who he was?
On the bus, he realized that even old people didn’t want to sit beside him. He suddenly became self-conscious of himself. Did he have a body odour? How could he, when he indulges in one of the most expensive designer colognes?
He couldn’t believe that he, a proud Ashanti man was being treated like a lesser human being out here. If he was being treated like this, then what of the ones from the other tribes? He chuckled in spite of himself. But he would soon learn that, ethnic groups meant nothing in the West. All Africans were considered Blacks with no hierarchy. Unbelievable.
He had heard stories and seen online videos of blacks who were ‘misunderstood’ and subsequently shot by white police officers who thought their lives were in danger but he didn’t give it much thought until he experienced it himself.
An old friend had taken him on a ride around town and for old times’ sake, they decided to ‘jam’ in the car to loud music. They were both having so much fun that they didn’t see a cop signaling them to stop. Before they realized, a cop car with its siren on behind them. Nana’s friend swore in panic as he pulled over.
Nana seemed calmer than his friend as he was used to how such encounters ended back at home. Just show them your license; in case you didn’t have it on you, slip some notes into their hand and drive off. Of course, bribery wasn’t tolerated here but as long as the officer saw the license, they were good to go. Unfortunately, his friend appeared not to remember where he had left it.
It all happened so fast. All that he could remember was the officer shouting that his friend leave his hands where he could see it and a blink of an eye later, a gunshot.
“Awurade gye me!” meaning ‘God save me!’ were Nana’s first words when it dawned to him that this might be his last day on earth. He began to tremble as he saw his dear friend bleeding and still. He was ordered out of the vehicle and pushed onto the ground.
It was a nightmare happening in daytime. Fortunately, his friend survived but he was still shaken up by the incident. He cut his stay short and booked a flight back to Ghana the next week.
“I didn’t know these white people could be so inhuman!” he would say to any ear willing to listen. Then a friend brought his attention to how he treated his fellow Ghanaians who were ‘unfortunate’ not to be Akan.
“You are here calling the white man racist but you are ethnocentric in your ways. If you would look down on your fellow man with same skin color based on tribes, what prevents the white man from looking down on us as well? They don’t care if you have royal blood flowing through you. We all look like monkeys to them. If you want them to respect us as their equals, it should start with us. Treat your Northern brothers and sisters the same way you want the foreigner to treat you. You can’t eat your cake and have it.”
Nana bit his cheek in shame as he pondered over his friend’s words. He now understood how badly he made others feel by his words and actions. He promised himself to be a better person. If he couldn’t love his fellow black person, why should he expect one with another skin colour to do so?
It was time for a paradigm shift.
© Josephine Amoako 2017
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