Facebook founder and the 5th richest man in the world, Mark Zuckerberg visited the continent a few weeks ago. His trip took in visits to Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. His visit to Africa was, according to a statement released by Facebook, an opportunity to “better support tech development and entrepreneurship across Africa”.
The locations and companies he visited certainly confirmed his intent as he visited Nigeria’s answer to Silicon Valley in Yaba, Lagos, meeting with over 50 local startup managers and developers and touring a coding camp for kids. In Kenya, which he dubbed the “world leader” in mobile money, he visited Nairobi’s iHub, one of the more famous African innovation spaces and he was noticeably impressed about the sort of technological advancements that are being made on the continent.
Work was not all Zuckerberg did however. He had time for his customary morning runs through the streets of whatever city he visited and he even had time to sample local delicacies, notably remarking on how “delicious” he found Nigerian Jollof, thus stoking the flames of the never ending “Jollof Wars” between Nigeria and Ghana. This was not the only battle his visit rekindled however. Contrary to some foreigners’ beliefs and some Western media’s erroneous reportage, Africa is not one country but a continent of 55 countries, thousands of cultures and languages, and believe it or not, incredible rivalry among them. Thus the visit from Facebook founder, the most popular social network in Africa, to two African countries was bound to lead to some very friendly rivalry. Even before he left the shores of Africa, the Ghana-Nigeria Jollof debate had restarted and hashtags like #KenyavsNigeria began trending where social media users from the various countries could defend their country’s honor while slighting their rivals. But what was a friendly – I hope – rivalry between the countries soon saw the infiltration of one of the oldest – and most disturbing – slights in the book: insults made at how black the skin of residents of a particular area or country usually is.
The disdain for the relatively darker skin tone of Ghanaians and Kenyans is not a new slur by Nigerians nor is it limited to Nigerians alone. Even among Ghanaians and Kenyans themselves and all across the continent, disparaging people based on the fact they have a darker skin tone is a common jibe and there is this perceived – and erroneous – view that lighter is beautiful; lighter is better; lighter is a sign of better living. This attempt to denigrate a group of people based on the color of their skin, anywhere else in the world, would be considered racism but it seems we think it is okay to spurn our “brothers and sisters” about their skin tone since “We are all Africans”. A blogger I follow refers to the phenomenon as being “Blackish” perhaps as a nod to the eponymous American sit-com and laments the “disease” that causes us to search for even the minutest of differences amongst us even when we are so alike, in order to establish our superiority. As much as I would prefer not to mention this, it seems skin tone problems of the past – dating back to colonial times – still affect us today and there is still the belief that whiter or lighter is better. If we still subscribe to notions like this, should it then be a wonder if more and more people – men as well as women – today increasingly make use of bleaching creams and chemicals to lighten their skin?
Sometimes, some of these jibes relating to skin tone, accent or even proficiency at speaking English, may seem like harmless jokes but there are millions of people who are seriously affected by this problem; people who may have grown up thinking they are the wrong sort of black, who grew up hating their color or accent or their hair because it wasn’t the accepted or mainstream version and if we continue to perpetrate this damaging view, we will raise a new generation of people who would still be bound by shackles that our forefathers fought to break.
As we continue to show the world that Africa is not a hotbed of crime, poverty and war but a hub of incredibly diverse, talented, creative people, cultures and nations, we must do well to jettison these divisive affectations and remember that no matter what shade of black we are: ebony, taupe, café noir, charcoal, gray, onyx, jet or chocolate; every black matters.
Article source: Ferdinand Senam Hassan
Image Source: CNN & Pinterest