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
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