Opinion: Black lives don't matter

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Mon, 2 Nov 2015 Source: Kobina Ansah

I hate to be referred to as black. Yes I do. I am proudly Ghanaian; a young African for that matter. But… I am not black! Maybe, I am not as inferior as you may think. I just prefer to think like any other human being on Earth.

A quick one. Muhammed Ali. Maya Angelou. Martin Luther King. Nelson Mandela. Bob Marley. Oprah Winfrey. Malcom X. All of these have two things in common. First, they are achievers. Second, they are human beings; not blacks (as you may have thought).

It baffles me when we celebrate achievers, like those mentioned above, as black achievers. Why can’t they be celebrated as achievers like everybody else? Do we necessarily need to identify them with their skin color first?

After all, it is not extraordinary for a black so-called to be as great as his/her white fellow. I wonder why we would, first of all, identify them as blacks instead of identifying them either as any other ‘ordinary’ human being or just their names. Besides, they chose their names but their skin color they chose not.

Black is our skin color but not our ‘identity’. One with a black skin color is/can be as great as another with any other skin color. Of a truth, our skin color has no relation whatsoever with the depth of our thinking or the height of our greatness. Skin color is not genius color.

Let me share this with you. Back in my junior high school days, I had a friend who was almost always first… but from bottom. One day, this friend of mine emerged first (from the top)… and it was all over the school.

This ‘surprise’ was a cause for celebration. Those who didn’t know him could easily identify him when we mentioned “the dude who was always last”. Deep down the hearts of the celebrants, they asked, “Is this success by some sort of fluke? How long will he stay there?”

Anytime I read worldwide celebration of black-skinned people who have chalked great feats anywhere on this Earth, this incident comes to mind. A black-skinned man can’t be likened to my friend. And… if a black-skinned person is not any inferior among the rank of human beings, why should their achievement(s) come as a ‘surprise’?

The black-skinned man is not at the bottom of life for his feat to be something out of the ordinary. We don’t achieve our feats by chance. We are as brainy as anybody so why on Earth should we be hailed gloriously as though we couldn’t have achieved them? I don’t get it. I see mockery being mistaken for celebration.

I quite celebrated Kwesi Ennin, the then seventeen (17) year old USA-based Ghanaian, who was accepted into all eight (8) Ivies recently. It was such an amazing stunt. However, after thinking through carefully, I realized I was celebrating him for the wrong reasons. I was celebrating him because first, he was black… and second, he was a great achiever. At least, that’s what the media captioned his success as.

But I thought… was it anything out of the ordinary for a black-skinned, focused gentleman to make such a phenomenal achievement in such a time of his life? Would the foreign media have celebrated another white-skinned gentleman of his kind… first of all because of his skin color… and then his feat!? The answer is an awful “No!”

In such an instance, the white-skinned gentleman would have been celebrated mainly for his feat because it would have been assumed, “it’s ordinary for a white-skinned fellow to do it.” In other words, a normal feat of the white-skinned man is an extraordinary one for his black fellow. Wait. I dare submit to you that it’s very ordinary for a black-skinned young man to chalk even greater feats!

Today, I celebrate Kwesi Ennin for his feat and national pride… not for his skin color. He is as equally good as anyone else on the surface of this Earth. His skin has no relation to his skill. A person is skilled and talented not because of their skin but hard work and sacrifice.

We need to raise a generation that thinks rightly; a generation that is aware of its sense of pride and self-worth. It is needless to look down on ourselves as a people. Right from our nursery schools through to our universities and beyond, we need to be taught to walk in the consciousness that we are as competent as whoever wherever. Our skin color is not a curse… it is only a skin color!

We don’t need to change our location (by travelling overseas) or change our skin color to be great. We can be great everywhere… anywhere!

Sadly, our thoughts have still being colonized even in this age. And about changing one’s skin color; they call it bleaching but I call it racism; self-hatred. What would make one detest their own skin color enough to ever want to peel it off?

Racism is a thing of the mind. If you have ever thought of bleaching, remember that a disappointed black-skinned man will still be a disappointed white-skinned man.

We have successfully tied our woes to our skin color… and this barrier is comfortably sitting in our minds. Mind you, the greatest barriers are those built with the mind, not with the hands.

Physical boundaries don’t separate us as much as boundaries in our minds do. We look down on our own selves and wished we were others; preferably living in a white-skinned man’s land. It all begins in our minds.

As if those are not enough, we have limited our own selves in almost every way and it is such an impossible thing to swim against such barriers; mind barriers. We fail to dream and achieve because we think it is beyond our skin color. As a man thinketh, so is he. Chai!

If you think a black-skinned man can never chalk a particular feat, you are right. If you think he can, you are just as right, too. It is got everything to do with your mind; your world of thoughts. You are just as right or wrong as your thoughts. You can’t go any farther than how far your thoughts can go. The challenge is not with your skin color… but your mind!

Frankly speaking, most of us think less of ourselves instead of thinking of ourselves less. Thinking less of one’s self is ill-confidence. Thinking of one’s self less is humility. Humility is not a synonym of ill-confidence.

We make others feel greater than we are… in the name of hospitality. We feel inferior at the least opportunity. We feed on self-hatred, discouragement and whatever that makes feel less human. Poverty is not just the absence of money but, more importantly, the absence of the right pattern of thoughts.

For others to be racial against us, we need to have given them the permission to do so. It is a thing of the mind, I insist. No one can look down on you without your consent. No one can deride you for your skin color sake without you admitting. It is yours to admit whether they are right or wrong.

Admit that just like others have a different skin color, you also have a skin color you didn’t opt for. You don’t choose your skin color but your pattern of thinking, you choose. Choose well. Think rightly.

Guard your thoughts as much as you can. When a man has your thoughts, he has your life. Your thoughts are the gateway to your life. A colonized mind is a colonized man.

A typical black-skinned person sees their white-skinned fellow and all of a sudden they begin to behave funnily. We treat black-skinned people with disdain and regard white-skinned ones with such respect. Inferiority complex and hypocrisy at display in their highest form. Until we begin to think rightly, nothing much will change in our lives.

Nothing much will change in this part of our world if we continue to confuse inferiority with hospitality. We will continue to be slaves even in the land of our birth. We will continue to assume everything foreign is good; everything local is bad.

I know our political leaders have given us a bad name enough. I know the African brand is not really a credible one out there on the international market. However, this is a new era; the new Africa. This is a generation that knows its self-worth and value.

We won’t go begging for what we can do for ourselves. We can be donors, too. We are achievers. We are generational thinkers. Our achievements won’t make waves because of our skin color but… because of the value of those achievements.

I wish to see that day where instead of a caption reading “The first black man to…”, it would read “The first person to…” I wish to see the day where attention would be given to the value of my skill not the value of my skin. I hope to see that day where we would be identified by our names not our skin color. I wish to see that day when I won’t be pitied because of my skin color. And… it begins with us.

It begins with us not celebrating excessively the achievements of black-skinned people because of their skin color but because of their self-worth and achievements.

If you didn’t know, celebrating others because of their skin color is only another shade of inferiority complex. It only means it is such a hard thing for a black-skinned person to achieve such a feat. I refuse to be celebrated because of my skin color!

The typical African thinks less of himself because they have been brought up to think so. We have always grown up to assume another person overseas is far better than we are; even our fellow black-skinned friends abroad. I remember my mother once sharing with me a frequent occurrence in their hometown. Villagers would always queue in the homes of relatives who had just returned from overseas. Reason? They wanted to heap on such their financial headaches. In this twenty-first century!? Like really!?

We have grown to assume that unless we relocate abroad, there’s nothing much we can do with our lives. Going abroad is almost close to going to Heaven. In Africa, an American visa is more revered than a university certificate.

Our thoughts have brought us where we are today. We have lived with quite little to the extent that mediocrity is applauded. If not for that, our local champions, politicians so-called, won’t dare to use KVIPs (Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pits) as punchlines in their manifestos… as though these KVIPs (locally modelled toilet facilities) were such a monument. Yes!

That’s where we gladly are now. In the abundance of nothing, little is much. We hail them and fan their egos with flamboyant titles for doing nothing. They only manage our challenges with no intention of solving them… and we swear to die for them every election year. Nice! The cycle continues. After all, we are architects of our own misfortunes.

We do almost nothing about our challenges. If you want to see how the typical African thinks, look at their movies. Every challenge in this society of ours is attributed to demons and witches. As far as I am concerned, no African dies a natural death; there’s always a demon twisting the necks of people during each instance… at least, according to our movies.

Our movies are an exact reflection of how we think. Politics makes us gullible but religion makes us even more gullible in Africa. We have attributed all our woes to non-existent entities when indeed we are the cause. We keep on going in circles expecting some white-skinned fellow to come help us find a solution to them. We have segregated ourselves into tribes in our minds and keep fighting each other instead of holding each other’s hands to fight our enemy; poverty.

When I see people I don’t ask them what tribe or religious affiliation they belong to. I refuse to treat them differently because of their skin color. I only ask if they are human like I am. We were all born as humans; not as blues, blacks, whites or whatever. Society separated us into races, tribes and what have you. Ever since, we have never had our peace. I prefer to see you as my fellow human being… not my fellow black man.

We were all called human beings until races and tribes came. Now, we call ourselves by skin colors instead of our names. I choose to be color blind as far as one’s skin color is concerned. I choose to respect each person’s opinion, regardless of their tribe or skin color, because great men don’t wear tags. Great men are not identified by their skin colors. A great man is a great man; whether black or white. Chai!

This African generation needs to have a paradigm shift. Instead of giving all our attention to the other world out there, we need to start giving attention to our skills; our talents. It is about time we approached issues differently. We are not where we are because of our skin color. We got here because of our mind; our inferiority complex.

My skin color is no reflection whatsoever of my skills and capabilities. I am as skilled as my fellow co-equals wherever on the surface of this Earth. I’ve made a resolution to think as I should; to walk with the conscience of an achiever, not a black achiever. I would look into the eyes of my fellow beings anyday anytime and say, “I have a black skin but a black man I am not. A human being I am. I am not any less human.”

Anyone can be a joke or a genius. It has got nothing to do with their skin color. People matter. Every life under these Heavens matters; whether black, white, green or whatever. I matter because I am a human being… not because I am black.

I doff my hat to the #BlackLivesMatter movement in America. In my own voice, I would rather dare to say that black lives don’t matter; every life matters. Look at me through the lens of a human being; not the race of a human being. I may have a black skin but my blood is as red as everybody’s. Different skin colors we may have but one people we are.

My name is Kobina Ansah and, as always, I hate to be called black.

The writer is the Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications, (www.scribecommltd.com), a writing company in Accra.

Columnist: Kobina Ansah