Blogging 109 … Word Travel: combating prejudice 

travel

Mark Twain’s quote from his book, The Innocents Abroad, rings true.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

My travels overseas have shown me how little people know about Nigeria and the African continent and revealed my prejudice and penchant for stereotypes. If you never travel and watch only one TV channel, you may conclude that Europe is awash with refugees, America with gun violence, the Middle East with terrorism, and Africa with war, poverty, and disease.

But hopping on a plane, train, or bus and going miles and miles away from home can be expensive. However, we’re not limited by budget if we can read. Literacy and internet access provide cheaper alternatives to confront narrow-mindedness.

Like most of my friends, I remember travelling to faraway places as a girl through the books I read. The writers stimulated our senses as we journeyed with them, so we were familiar not only with the sights, sounds, and smells of places, but also with their peoples and culture. We lived in Mallory Towers and were Famous Five detectives.

What we enjoyed was a kind of unilateral intimacy. But now, the internet has not only made content readily available, but also fostered greater connection. In his book, Platform, Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt says that social media has taken connection to a whole new level. It makes possible bilateral intimacy—engagement. This means our virtual travel experiences are richer since we can confront a writer’s bias as well as ours in conversation. We can also give feedback and receive more insight from the contributions of others.

To me, one of the coolest things about blogging is the opportunity to travel—to journey along with readers to their worlds in the comments they leave behind. Every time I write, even on a subject I’m an authority on, I learn from the myriad perspectives readers bring. Sometimes I pour my jumbled thoughts down just waiting for readers’ comments to make sense of my thoughts.

It’s difficult to approach most topics with an ‘empty’ mind because our minds are usually already ‘full’. But if we’re willing to engage, we’ll see that we don’t have to agree with another viewpoint, sometimes all that’s needed is, “Oh, I see where you’re coming from; I’ve never walked that road before.”

Blogging has made travel—broad, wholesome, charitable (and uncharitable), views of men and things, possible for me.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/sign-places-travel-information-429419/

 

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

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

As a girl, I spent time in front of the mirror, preoccupied with what I saw; my hair, my face, my body.  As a woman, I spend less time in front of the mirror. I’m mostly satisfied with what I see.  Writing this paragraph for Holistic Wayfarer made me realise there are many mirrors in my life and the important ones are in my soul. I’d like to know, when you look at the mirror, what do you see?

A Holistic Journey

Race. The colour of my skin, the flare of my nostrils, the texture of my hair, the S of my backside. I am none of these; I am all of these. Race. My mother is caramel, my father pure chocolate, and I am hazelnut. They taught me that education and excellence would open any door. I believed it; still believe it. Race. Raised in Nigeria, I live in The Netherlands. I temper the directness of the Dutch with the verbosity I think Nigerians inherited from the British. Race. When I look in the mirror, I see a girl, a woman, a lover, a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, a mentor, a coach, a writer, a warrior — all I have been, all I now am, all I will one day be. When I look in the mirror, I see me. What if my father were Australian and my…

View original post 303 more words

Race, Ethnicity, Prejudice, and Attitudes

Race

When the first strains of light filter through my curtains, my mind leaves my dreams to form coherent thought. I do not think of race, I rarely do.

I am aware of the colour of my skin. How could I not be? My foundation is a blend of mocha and caramel, my blush dark rose, my lipstick red, because I can pull it off. I am aware of the colour of my skin. How could I not be? I hug “white” people loosely and blow three kisses on either cheek, so I don’t stain them with my brown powder.

But when we get down to work and play and life, beyond enunciating my words with care and observing cultural nuances to accommodate the diversity in my world, I am Timi, a person with much to offer from the height of my intellect to the depth of my experience, and the width of my achievements.

Nigeria has at least 100 ethnic groups. In the state where I grew up, the evening news was broadcasted in four local languages, but I listened to the official English version because I didn’t understand any Nigerian language. My parents hail from two different minority ethnic groups and my friends from the unity school I attended reflect the federal character the federal government emphasized—Amina from the north, Ronke from the west, Chidinma from the east, Asabe from the middle belt, Onome from the mid-west, Ibinabo from the Niger Delta.

So, I did not wonder about race or racism when I moved to The Netherlands. Neither tribalism nor sexism in Nigeria, had clipped the wingspan of my dreams or that of my mother before me. We had defied the boundaries of other “isms” with who we are and what we believe, that excellence would eventually inspire people and remove barriers.

Since language, ethnicity, and race bonds people, and language in particular is like Super Glue, I sometimes find myself on the outside looking in. The English, Moroccans, Surinamese, Dutch, Africans, Turks, Americans, etc, live and socialise within their enclaves. Among the Africans, subdivisions exist for people from south, north, east, or west Africa. More subdivisions based on country, and even more subdivisions based on ethnicity within a country exist. People tend to gravitate to what is familiar and comfortable and inadvertently perhaps, exclude others.

On the other hand, many have moved beyond these confines and discovered that diversity makes for a rich tapestry and the threads of that tapestry are equal in value no matter their colour or ethnicity.

I suppose expat life abroad insulates one from common racism both in the way it is meted out and received. Once I was with a friend who drove a car with diplomatic licence plates when the police stopped us. I watched as she answered the police, with the slight arrogance of one who has options.

I am aware that underneath the bridge that connects me to my better life lie the souls of men and women who died constructing the bridge. I am grateful that although Twelve Years a Slave makes me uncomfortable, after the credits, I can shiver, shrug, and enter my normal life. Racism is real, but it is not my default setting. I choose not to see it in every slight.

Prejudice has lived in human hearts for so long it has become a gene. I remember when I drove my son and his playdate home after school. They stumbled into this conversation after falling in and out of several others.

“My mum says I can play with black people, but I can’t marry them.”

I spied her cute blonde bangs from my rear view mirror. The longer locks framed her oval face and cascaded down her shoulders. I gripped the steering wheel tighter.

“But I don’t want to get married now,” my son replied.

“Oh good,” her giggles light like feathers, carried no malice.

I relaxed my grip as I realised it had never crossed my mind to date a white man. It was the unspoken taboo. Everyone in the town where I grew up knew that only certain types of girls did.

Often when people speak of racial prejudice, they talk as if it is unidirectional, forgetting the prejudice, which also lies in the hearts of its victims so that if power changed hands, new victims would emerge. Is this the real fear that makes one race dominate another—get ‘em before they get us?

Knowledge and courage may be antidotes to prejudice. A desire to investigate the world beyond our nose and the guts to live in peace in it.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

p.s. My blog sister Holistic Wayfarer, who has written several eye-opening posts on Race, inspired this post.