To Live in America

American flag

At the height of a restless phase in my life, I lived in The Netherlands at the time; a friend asked if I would be interested in relocating to The States. I replied that I had a teenage son and he is black. It had been years since I visited America. Where did I get the idea? Think of a country that you have heard of but never visited. What picture comes to mind? Now, ask yourself why.

Yesterday morning, during my ten-kilometre trek, S, who is black American talked about the recent racially motivated police shootings in her country. There were times we slowed our pace subconsciously to match the heaviness in her heart. She made the stories more than news I followed on social media, still they were not near enough. I shared her sorrow the way I do when I hear of bombings with casualties somewhere in the world—pain, anger, helplessness, and resignation.

My plan was to rest after the walk and then complete the short story I had been working on for my blog. However, when I sat at my desk to finish the story about two women and a boy called Yellow Pawpaw, desire had fled from me. Since writing is 80% discipline and the plot lay pencilled on post-its around my desk, desire was inconsequential. I battled feelings of irresponsibility. Do you sleep when your neighbour’s house is on fire? At least not with both eyes shut because fire is greedy for oxygen, sucking oxygen wherever it finds it.

But I had not written about the fire in my backyard either. Is it not hypocritical to write about what you do not know, a phenomenon miles and miles from you?

Here is what I know. I think about America the way I do because of what I see, hear, and read. Despite the negative portrayal of Nigeria in the news, I do not buy into all the hype because I have lived in Nigeria and interacted with Nigerians.

I write in general terms, why do white people feel threatened by black men and why do black men feel anxious around the police? Is it not unreasonable to tell people to overcome their fears when we keep feeding them fearful images?  The notion of independent thought is a fallacy. You believe what you see or hear all the time and under pressure, act it out.

So, would I relocate to America?

I should know better because I am familiar with the power of the pen or images to shape opinions and the insidious ways narratives are concretized. But fear is an irrational thing.

Perhaps, it is time for a new kind of summer blockbuster. Aliens can take a break from invading the earth; they have not succeeded so far anyway. Humans can take over IMAX screens to confront problems in our communities that resemble chewing gum stuck to the heel of shoes—messy, sticky, and tricky, and we should make superheroes of the men and women who bridge the divide.

Am I for real? Will such films require jaw-dropping special effects or guarantee millions at the box office? Why change a winning formula?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Advertisements

49 thoughts on “To Live in America

  1. The wife and I really love this blog and appreciate the creativity and imagery you provide. If you ever decide to take this blog to the next level by offering a Mobile App version I would love to be of service for an extremely low price, we appreciate the hard work you have put into this blog and wish you all future success in business and in life.
    Thank you for your time, it is the most precious thing we all possess.
    -Jacque’

    Like

  2. I think racism is everywhere. Living in America is just like living in any place that isn’t your motherland. You may not feel accepted by most people, but there are majority of people that still accept you just the way you are. That being said, there is no place like home

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post Timi! Reading the above comments was wonderfully thought provoking. I hope that one day we as a civilisation can overcome and rise above the fear, to understand one another,learn to except our differences and live in harmony. Greed & Power definitely need to be addressed? There are so many issues to address? When my family migrated to Australia many years ago, I, as a white person experienced racism. I came from a different culture! I didn’t speak English when we arrived and the school yard became a tough place. People need to learn and be educated and that takes time. I am sure that new migrants, refugees are experiencing many difficulties no matter what their cultural background is. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Certain experiences either make us or break us. In my case it’s made me who I am today. Your post reminded me of the movie with a younger Edward Norton – American History X. If you haven’t seen it check it out? 🙂

        Like

  4. I didn’t notice this piece until now, lively.

    The racial dialogue does appear to me…more polarized than here in Canada. But Toronto does have some of the same passion in debate since it has the largest black community. The issue of carding by police there comes up…despite the fact they have their first black police chief.

    In Vancouver, there are now some prolonged discussion on wealthy Chinese nationals from China buying real estate and driving up prices.. And the criticism of some, comes from long time citizens who are both Chinese descent and others.

    I could go on. But thank goodness the dialogue against Muslim CAnadians is not furious, so grossly wrong as it shows /inflamed by the media in the U.S.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s important that all citizens of a country feel as if they can exist in that country without fear of being targeted because of their race, etc. It seems that when tensions arise we are quick to retreat behind racial lines …

      As for the Chinese nationals, they are not Canadian citizens are they? Would legislation take care of this issue?

      Like

      1. I believe Vancouver has had the province help them draft legislation on Chinese nationals who buy homes but don’t occupy them at all. Meaning foreign owners. Then there are Chinese nationals who use their children who are Canadian, to occupy..which is fine. The issue is foreign ownership who drive up prices but they don’t live in Canada to contribute to economy, society in general, etc.

        It’s a complicated issue.

        Then in Richmond a suburb of Vancouver by the airport, it’s 60% Asian Canadians which isn’t a problem itself. It’s more on non-Asians hearing and seeing nothing but Chinese signs…

        I agree 110% of not feeling targeted….due to race.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. On the other hand, it’s not unreasonable to fear things that are fearful. True, people go to work and then home again every day without being stopped for driving while black. On the other hand, the knowledge that it could happen, that it does happen, has to weigh heavily on a person. I’m white and not vulnerable to that particular form of attack, but I’m vulnerable to others and know the weight they put on a person, even if when it’s other people in my categories, not me personally, that they happen to.

    Someone I know–a black Londoner living in absurdly white Cornwall–said casually a while back that she’d never want to visit the U.S. because of its rampant racism. (I’m paraphrasing–I can’t remember her exact words.) I was struck by the comment, because although American racism is hardly news to me I see it still from the inside, which is to say I can forget to see it as shocking. It’s always been there. I forget how it can shock outsiders, and they remind me to be shocked myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your comment reminds me of something someone said: privilege is invisible to those who have it. It seems that you’ve trained or continue to train yourself to be sensitive to the issues others face. We could borrow a leaf from you.

      The people who maintain that this bias does not exist or is being over hyped need to look again . . . and be shocked.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. For all it’s faults, I like living in America. I’ve lived all over this country and in Israel, and right now, where I am, is a happy place. Madison, Wisconsin is 250,000 people – a small city or a large town, depending on ow you look at it. We’ve got tall buildings but also cornfields and cows within a few minutes’ drive. The scenery here is beautiful, and we’ve got plenty of Starbucks.

    I wish Americans were less xenophobic in general, and more accepting/tolerant/AWARE of other nations’ cultures and situations.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like your description of your town: We’ve got tall buildings but also cornfields and cows within a few minutes’ drive. 🙂

      You can’t judge an entire country based on events in certain areas, right?

      Enjoy living in America! Yes, there’s room for improvement.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Right now, in the US, a lot of intelligent people are staying away from the ‘race wars’ conversation because they are afraid of being attacked and labled as a racist. Which is very unfortunate because “facts” that simply are not true are being propagated.

    I feel like America has become a “politically correct” state of parroting, finger-pointing and tribalism. And, as others have been quick to point out, the media is doing a fantastic job of highlighting every flaw of the police and everyone seems to be blaming white people.

    I’ll let the latter absurdity sink in for a moment.

    This is not to say there isn’t racial profiling, police brutality and racism. But everyone seems hot on blaming each other for something we cannot change – our skin tone. I hope America wakes up and realizes that we are being pitted against each other by the media. Because normally everyone goes about their lives doing their thing, but poverty is eating away at our country, and interestingly, we are not looking at that, but swallowing spoon-fed half-truths by the news.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Perhaps people need to learn to have conversations again…

      Your comment reminds me of some of what Trevor Noah said on The Daily Show – The Fatal Shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile:

      “The hardest part of having a conversation surrounding police shootings in America, it always feels like in America, if you take a stand for something, you automatically against something else … for instance if you’re pro-black lives matter you’re assumed to be anti-police and if you’re pro-police, then you surely hate black people …”

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Very thought-provoking post, TImi. You might come for a visit and see if you like the country. There have been a lot of tragic shootings, yes. But they don’t happen everywhere. There are great places to visit and great communities in which to live.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “… But they don’t happen everywhere.” I know that. My rational mind certainly knows that.

      Ah, but when you’re on the outside looking in, it is amazing how the images you are fed colour your perception, especially subconsciously.

      What kind of images can change the narrative….?

      I’ll come for a visit at some point. Thanks.

      Like

      1. The sad part is that tales of heroism and generous communities are not as widely broadcast. When a hurricane hit Houston (a rare occurrence) and the power went out in my parents’ neighborhood, the neighbors all shared what food they had with each other for well over a week. You don’t hear stories like that.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Derick, you said it all. Gosh could that police be so scared of those women? Will that reaction and unpropotionate action of theirs solve the underlying issue or just fuel an ‘isis’ like scenario? I may be going too far with my thought but hmm, what am seeing on TV and hearing with my ears… sound and smell no good 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    2. According to The Washington Post:

      “Possibly the most poignant thing about this photo is that if you look just below where their hands meet you can see a literal divide in the road,” wrote Lauren Francis, a particularly keen-eyed commenter. “Simply a random crack in the earth, but boy it speaks volumes.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/11/graceful-in-the-lions-den-photo-of-young-womans-arrest-in-baton-rouge-goes-viral/

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What is happening in America right now is breaking my heart. I was working on another piece as well and it was slow going but I wrote a piece instead today in about two hours about the horrors playing out in America. It is not overblown and the tension is real. Things will get worse because of the shootings in Dallas. Having said that America is sill a wonderful country with many beautiful people of all colors races and creed. Things are not as bad as they have been on the past. Like President Obama says we have a foundation to build on, but things must change. You would be most welcome here in America, Timi and if you ever decide to come I offer you my personal protection.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You are not alone in your heartbreak. Many Nigerians have friends and family (Americans of Nigerian descent), in America. We are the same race as black Americans. Moreover, America is the leading nation of the world. We share your heartbreak … remotely or acutely.

      I read your measured and well thought out piece. I could feel your heart.

      The challenges appear daunting; the issues multi-faceted. Still where there is a will, there is a way. How the latest round of police shootings or police killings are handled is key. I pray for wisdom and courage for the authorities in America.

      Would I live in America? Under the ‘right’ conditions. I’m mindful of the ‘real’ statistics and the fact that people die every day, everywhere, some without gun violence.

      Thank you for your offer of personal protection 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. we Brits watch in amazement … the availability of guns in the way that they are is such a problem. I am surprised it has taken this long for the confrontations to become as it has.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. America is like anywhere humans live, a mix of good and bad, intelligent and ignorant, kind and fearful. Martin Luther King saved us from a bloody race war. My grandchildren are experiencing a different world than I did and most of them really are indifferent to the color of people’s skins. If we can manage not to let a war start between us until that generation is in charge, we may have a chance to live in reasonable peace.

    I have to admit, even though my family raised me to believe in equality, I didn’t have much opportunity to know African Americans with education and talent. I took my children to help me work at the NAACP office in the sixties so they would see me working for black people, including cleaning their office, not just see black help in white homes. As adults all of them have had African American bosses and co-workers. But at my age in a rural southern town, my experience has been narrower than theirs.

    One of the best parts of blogging for me has been connecting with Nigerians and people of all races and nationalities who are smarter, better educated and more talented than I am. I keep hoping the internet will play an ever increasing part in broadening our connections and experience of other races and nationalities and religions.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks for sharing Eileen. It’s encouraging to hear that your grandchildren are having a broader experience with mixing with people of different races and are indifferent to the colour of one’s skin.

      You get the point I’m making that if our perception of others who are different from us comes from the media alone, it might be skewed. A simple case in point: if I were to happen upon a group of young black men in sagging jeans, hooded sweats, and gold chains, my instinctive reaction would be fear. Why? Media and film. But if I had lived around them, interacted with them, and found them to be just normal teens, I wouldn’t be afraid.

      We can use the internet, which is another form of media, as a force for good. I also enjoy the connections I’ve forged through blogging and the greater insight I’ve received as a result.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Instead of attempting to educate the public, the media now panders to their desire for vicarious excitement in order to compete with so called “reality” TV and the Internet. But, unfortunately it’s what sells.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Happy Sunday Jill!

      I wonder sometimes about how we complain about the media and still devour the content they serve us! I am still learning how to “analyze” content.

      Yes, there’s plenty good news in America too!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I find this post curious, Timi. You seem to be criticizing the whole of America without wanting to come out and say it in so many words.

    You ask, “So, would I relocate to America?”
    A related question might be ~> how many Americans would I relocate to Nigeria?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d hoped someone would comment as you’ve done Nancy. I “seem” to be criticizing the “whole” of America… country profiling, if you like, and on the basis of what? News reports and movies I’ve watched that show (perhaps not even accurately), just one part of life in America.

      Isn’t that what we do when relating to people of different races and ethnicity? React or engage them on the basis of what we’ve subconsciously perceived from media and film, which in this context is likely negative.

      Yet, I don’t have this problem with Nigeria because I’ve lived there. When I watch negative news reports about Nigeria, I have a “proper” perspective …

      Btw, I think America is a great country.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. That’s not what I do, Timi . . . but it is what many do.

        And negative spirals beget negative spirals. We create our reality by the thoughts that we think. If we are in a dark and gloomy place in our mind, that darkness is reflected back to us. If we are full of light and hope and peace and joy, that is what is reflected back to us. Most of the time anyway.

        Imagine you are in a bad mood because you feel misunderstood and unappreciated. You are walking around “in America” [or any place else] with a frown on your face. Life feels like one big chore. Because of the scowl on your face no one smiles at you, which reinforces your view of “America” as a negative place filled with negative people.

        You scowl some more. Your energy level continues to drop. You feel worse.

        This downward spiral (of your own creation) continues until something or someone snaps you out of it ~ causing you to switch from negative thinking to more positive thoughts.

        Contrast the previous example with walking around “America” [or any place else] in a good mood. You smile at the people you meet. They smile back. You feel your positive energy reflected back to you, and it makes you feel even better. America is a wonderful place, filled with wonderful people.

        We get what we give.
        We see the world behind our eyes.
        We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. ~ Anais Nin

        The more we meet people as and where they are (without pre-judging them based on stereotypes about national origin, race, sex, religion, etc.), the faster we’ll make progress . . . Here, There, and Everywhere.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I hear you Nancy.

          Racial profiling doesn’t quite work that “way”.
          Unfortunately, we cannot ask the dead black men who walked around America with a smile on their face (did the right things), and yet ‘nobody’ (the police who killed them), ‘smiled’ back.

          I feel that we aren’t fully aware of the prejudices we habour (and every last one of us have them), until we come under ‘pressure’. In this piece I highlight the media as a catalyst for creating and maintaining prejudice. It isn’t the only catalyst.

          America is a wonderful place, filled with wonderful people. I agree. I know quite a few.

          Liked by 3 people

The conversation never stops, please join . . .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s