Adejoh Idoko Momoh
The line disconnects a few times and I remember to check my phones balance. I make the decision to go buy top up as the call I had to make was vital to my comfort in Aberdeen. I take a short walk in the cold to a SPAR just off George Street, a middle aged white man in distance says something I do not hear but still I smile at him. He repeats it a second time, this time louder and I hear,
‘No wahala’ I do not understand what he means and again I flash a smile. He hurries and catches up with me, nudges at me lightly and then says
‘This is Aberdeen, not Nigeria’
At this point, I pick up my pace, walk a little faster into the store and notice he follows behind me. He looks at me and says again,
‘Go back to Nigeria’
I ignore him; make my purchase and hurry back home just in case he still follows. This is my first brush with racism.
In this situation my first reaction is a fear that I am alone, this is not familiar territory and if I did start a brawl or some issue about this, I will most likely be on the unpopular side of the discussion, not because my case lacked some merit but because as far as I know people look out for their own.
The fear quickly passes and I feel anger, my first thought is to call the police report the incidence, the man and the store but I reconsider this. First off, I am not with my international passport; seriously who carries his international passport when he is going to a store just a couple blocks from where he lives? And with the rain in Aberdeen, I’d much rather leave this all important travel document at home.
The thought of not calling the police is reinforced by the Micheal Brown shooting, the Trayvon Martin murder, the Abdul Kamal incidence and numerous other cases that go unreported and I remember how difficult it is for a black person to get justice against a white person in a predominantly white country.
Make no mistake; a white man asking you to return to your country is in fact violence, because even when nothing is done to you physically you feel like you’ve been robbed of something. Like someone has unfairly tried to deny you the pleasure of feeling welcome in a country you’ve expended so much in time and energy to visit- this is even worse if you’re from Nigeria and you’ve experienced the rigours associated with getting a visa.
The thing about racial violence and not speaking up about it or making sure there’s some form of closure for its victim is the fact that one experience builds upon another and soon you have a pool of unpleasant memories. As in my case, if I am repeatedly exposed to incidences with middle aged white men at some point seeing any middle aged white man will bring these memories to mind and I may begin to find the sight of said white man nauseating. This in itself is some form of racism.
Racism is a vicious circle, one that goes round and round and sadly is a reality most Africans living or visiting abroad must live with. One thing I have always thought about most Africans abroad is that they continue to pay a price too high for living, whether it’s in taxes or foreign fees and constant reminders that they are foreigners and probably will be for the rest of their lives.
Adejoh Momoh (firstname.lastname@example.org) can be followed on twitter @adejoh