If there is one thing that I’ve learned in life is that people have opinions about EVERYTHING. Politics, people’s comments on social media, people’s posts on social media, countries, people, continents, this platform…etc.
When I left home for America, I remember the first thing that people said to me, most of the time, was “Wow, you speak so well!”. At first it was flattering, trust me. I would call my mum and thank her for forcing me to read so many storybooks when I was younger because she always insisted that that was the easiest way to build your vocabulary. Then I noticed a pattern that left a weird taste in my mouth. That ‘wow, you speak such good English!’ was always followed by ‘And you are from Africa? That’s amazing!’. Unconsciously, I would cheerfully respond with ‘Yes I’m from Kenya’ because I was not really used to people saying that I was from Africa. The continent is really big you know!
Amongst other things, I remember a colleague in school asking how I could afford tuition for grad school in America. I know she meant well, because school is really expensive. When she asked me that, I asked her why, She said that she had seen some of the advertisements that international aid agencies make to ask for foreign aid in Africa. When she showed me an example of said advert, you know, the ones where they show kids in Africa, naked, covered in dust and dirt, flies swarming their faces in such excitement, no sign of civilization e.g a road, bus even bicycle, I remember thinking ‘How horrible! This is what they show people about Africa?’. I don’t deny that poverty is real in certain parts of the continent but can you imagine growing up identifying a place that you have never been to with such pitiful images?
I do not claim to know everything. I’ve lived in Africa but I haven’t been all over the continent. However, if I see a generalization of Africa and I know that it’s false, best you believe that I will talk about it.