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Time to Embrace Our Common Responsibility

Fri, 2 Apr 2010 Source: Wirekoh-Boateng, Kwaku

By: Kwaku Wirekoh-Boateng

In recent years, many young Ghanaian-Canadians have graduated from post-secondary institutions and entered the workforce, and many more will undoubtedly follow suit. This is a favourable trend that signifies a promising future for Ghanaians in Canada. As more of our people enter the middle class, existing social and economic maladies that plague our community will be mitigated. However, if this promise is to be realized, it is incumbent upon us to collectively channel our resources toward the betterment of our community. As a people, it is abundantly perceivable that we have arrived at a pivotal watershed. We are in the midst of a transition period in which the transfer of economic power, from first generation Ghanaian-Canadians unto their children, is evident. The way in which our generation manages this responsibility will determine our collective future. Indeed, all ethnic groups in Canada have had to traverse this road. While the current trajectory fills me with optimism, there is yet a very negative portent that warrants our attention.

I have met many young Ghanaians who harbour the desire to dissociate themselves from the community upon their acquisition of “economic status.” Sadly, this disconcerting sentiment is one that has gained currency among some of our youth. It is a notion that amounts to a repudiation of one’s culture and, to the extent that anyone espouses this desire, he or she becomes of little benefit to his or her people.

Many reasons can be postulated as to why some among us entertain this desire--and I suspect there is a myriad of them. In fact, it would be grossly unfair to categorically condemn every person who maintains this view, as I have not lived their experiences. However, I believe the common theme that underpins this sentiment--in the majority of cases--is a cultural inferiority complex. It is the belief that one’s own culture and people are inferior to that of another group. Although this ruinous conception is not peculiar to Ghanaians, it has been the bane of our community since time immemorial.

To those who hold this view, upon their acquisition of a certain level of education or economic status, they begin to disengage from their people. Since they feel they have risen above their community, they strive to assimilate into another group they deem superior. Inevitably, this behaviour engenders detrimental effects for both the individual and his or her community. It also creates a perpetual cycle in which the community continually loses some of its brightest individuals and remains economically stagnant --which further fuels negative sentiment. Alas, the ramifications are boundless.

In order for the Ghanaian community to progress, it is essential that our students and young professionals abandon this self-defeating notion. We have to begin to cultivate an unwavering sense of cultural pride and responsibility. Before we can develop this pride and responsibility, we must first learn about our people and our history. By engaging our collective history, we stand to gain important nuggets of wisdom. It is imprudent and short-sighted to derive contentment in individual knowledge and achievements alone. Our expertise should be coupled with a sense of commitment to our communal development. Only through such a commitment can we effect positive change in our community. This is the essence of wisdom. And what good is knowledge without wisdom?

Columnist: Wirekoh-Boateng, Kwaku