Have you ever been ashamed to be African?
My crew strolled into Gallileos the Friday Ghana lost to Uruguay with our heads hung lowish. We were sad they lost but happy that they could’ve won. So we were there to celebrate and mourn at the same time.
We’d barely made it into the club and found places to stand when my mind stopped drifting and I began to assess all the scantily clad ladies, wondering if they weren’t freezing in their tiny skirts with no undergarments on. Then I noted the foolishly dressed men they were dancing with in overtly sexual manners with additional
inappropriate PDA Western influenced intimacy smothered on for taste. In the midst of this recipe of raunch and debauchery, it took me a few seconds of clarity to realize that the song playing was actually some Kikuyu Gospel track.
There’s a light in which the youth looks at the older generation that is really not flattering to their virtues. We look at their strict moral uprightness as overcautious pretension and abhor it; we view their way of doing things as old school, outdated, obsolete. Yet we take all their vices and extol and exponentiate them; we’ve taken every negative stereotype and raised it to the nth power.
Except n is negative.
Sorry for the Math reference. What I mean is….Whereas our fathers and forefathers were proudly polygamous, we’ve just become inordinately promiscuous without standard. Where they were daily drinkers, we’ve become inordinate druggies and alcoholics(DNAs). Where they enjoyed a good time out, we’ve made it our lives to hanye(coin “Hanyeholic”).
And while we’ve been busy doing all that we’ve strayed so far left from our roots we seem to be part of another tree altogether, a Western one, ironically. We, the African urban youth, future of this fair continent, are more likened to the culturally devoid foreigners we idolize and emulate on television than we are heirs to our fathers and fore fathers. All this in the guise of changing with the times and globalizing. So much so that certain people will be more in tune with the fashions, cultures, music and news abroad than what’s going on in their own backyard.
Now to some degree, I can understand appreciating the culture, arts, and all this: Hell, before I knew the National Anthem in Kiswahili, I had most of Rapper’s Delight and various Lionel Richie albums committed to memory. I’ll take it a step further and say that there are times – many of them – when I’d rather be in Brooklyn. And with good reason, I’ve lived abroad for a while. But in spite of all my love for everything great about every foreign city I’ve been to, I still dial +254 when I call home. I’m proud to be Kenyan, proud to be African, and unapologetically so. There’s nothing wrong with changing with the times and being an “International” citizen.
But one must know which is wife and which is mistress; is your mother Africa and your teacher American or vice versa? Because one gives you supplementary knowledge and escape whereas the other gives you your core morals and essential learnings. It’s hard to know which is which watching some of these kids walking around.
I stood in the club that night, postulating this theory – feeling very glum indeed -when the lady on my arm – a good friend and DR reader – made her way to the dance floor. In those few seconds after she left, another random lady walked up and began talking to me. I only showed a passing interest until she said something that I failed to hear when I told her I had to be in work in the morning.
“What did you say?” I hollered over the bumping – now, Hip-Hop – beats.
“I said I have to go home early too.” She said with an inebriated sneer.
“Oh.” I said and turned away disinterested.
“Yeah, I need to get some sleep before my baby wakes up.”
I hoped and prayed to God she was talking about a husband or boyfriend. But she wasn’t. And when I asked who the baby was with she says “Her big sister.”
Not “my big sister” but “her big sister”.
This 20-something lass has 2 kids; both daughters; and this is the example she’s setting for them. Worse still, she felt no shame in admitting it. Now, granted, we all need some time off – parent or not – but I think I have reason to question the parenting skills of an underdressed someone who drunkenly hit on a stranger while her two babies babysat each other.
Then I remembered where I was. For a brief minute, I felt like I was in a ghetto in Atlanta questioning some baby-mama who’d been victim of the disenfranchised naiveté of her people. In reality I was at an upscale club in Kenya talking to someone who had options, had choices and more eerily, had parents. African parents.
I looked around at the what the future holds for this country; promiscuous drunks who spend disgusting amounts of money to fuck-dance to gospel tracks and emulate their American peers in hopes of being cool. Single mothers whose priorities remain themselves and not their children. Men who may be fathers but don’t know and don’t care as they are too busy plotting on the next turkey they’ll be stuffing.
I looked at the future of Africa and saw the present demise of the West. I looked at people who had little pride in their culture and felt ashamed of what I had so avidly defended. I wondered if these were the people I belonged to.
For a few moments there – and everyday since – I felt ashamed to be African.
**Before people get uppity in the comments, I had a lengthy enough conversation with the lady in question to pass the judgment I did. **