If you have been reading this blog from the beginning, you would notice that I’ve taken height as my most defining feature in America, and not the colour of my skin. That should be strange to hear for those who expect that I would have spent only a few hours before complaining that someone called me monkey or asked me to show them my tail. Sorry to disappoint you so far. Maybe if I had been posted to a Texas countryside I might have more juicy things to tell. But even then, something in me tells me that we see things only as we are, and not as they are. Racism will not find me here. Finito.
However, I do want to share some interesting thoughts of mine, and a few instances that has made me reconsider American racism and my reaction to it.
On Sunday while at the Inn at Providence when the good woman at the desk called the Cadillac driver to please speed down to pick me up to the airport, I confess now to having assumed that the driver of the Cadillac was a black man. I feel terribly ashamed to admit this, but I did. And when she called me up from my laptop five minutes later to tell me that he was here, and I saw him, the “oh!” that instantly escaped my throat was not just to wonder at the speed with which he had arrived, but to recognize my own wrong and shameful racial profiling. I mean, how could I?
Now yesterday afternoon, I had a somewhat shocking but enlightening experience. While sitting peacefully in the campus computer lab, checking my emails in relative anonymity, a beautiful African American woman who was two seats away from me had logged out of her computer, and was checking out my African jacket.
“What do you call that?” She asked.
“This is called Aso Oke,” I replied. “It’s a special kind of fabric.”
“Are you from Africa?” She asked again, and I took my face off the computer screen to look at her.
“Yes.” I replied. “I’m from Nigeria.”
“I ask because I’ve been doing some studies on the original Hebrew tribes, and their dispersal. I know that the high priests of those times wore some special clothes to distinguish them from the other Israelites.”
“Really? That’s nice.” I said, since I didn’t know where she was going with it.
“Do you know that the original Israelites were black?”
I didn’t know that, even though I have heard some conspiracy theories, and I said so.
“They were black,” she continued, “And when Israel was invaded by the Romans in the …th Century, the true original Israelites were dispersed to parts of West Africa where they all settled and formed a new country. They took with them their fabrics, and that’s probably why you have these kinds of fabric in Nigeria, Ghana, Congo and many other African countries today.”
She let that sink in, and she continued. Even before she did so, I was already trying to make the connection between the famous Yoruba’s Oduduwa/Oranmiyan myth and how it relates with the Hebrew story. Oduduwa was said to have come from “the East”/Mecca, and that could as well have been Israel. The staff of Oranmiyan in Ile Ife till today still has on it letters of Hebrew that spells “Oranmiyan”.
“Are you familiar with the story of Noah’s sons?” she asked.
“Yes, a little,” I replied. “Shem, Ham and Japheth?”
“Yea.” She said. We were initially thought to have descended from Ham. Now I’m discovering evidence to prove that it is not true.”
“Really?” I said, now giving her my full attention. I could always browse later.
“In those days, being white was a disease. It was from Leprosy, and whoever was afflicted was cast out of the society. The normal people were the black, and the white were the diseased. We don’t hear much about this today because the world has been whitewashed and the truth has been suppressed. And the truth is that we were the original chosen tribes, and the white-skinned people were the cursed, forbidden ones.”
This was something I totally disagree with, for many scientific and logical reasons. As convincing as the argument sounded at the begining, I found that she had deviated much, and was now trying to take me into a deep place I didn’t want to go. Moreso, nothing she said could explain melanin and the influence of weather on skin colouring. I chose not to ask her these since I now really wanted her to be done, and gone. She didn’t look like someone ready to drop her convictions. And as I looked around the open-ended computer room to find that we were the only person in there. I felt uncomfortable, especially as she had now began to lower her voice when another student came in and took position in the corner nearest to the door. That one was a Caucasian.
“I’ve been researching this for about nine months,” she continued “And I have discovered so many interesting truths about us as a race, and about how the white man has tried for centuries to subdue us with slavery, colonialism and whitewashing. I’ve also been learning from those who have been studying this for many years.”
“Are you a student of History?” I asked.
“No, but I take very strong interest in it. I spoke to God to show me why we are so hated in the world today, and he is taking me through all of this to show them to me.” She replied. “My research is based on Historic, Archeological and Biblical findings.”
“That’s very interesting,” I said. “Thank you for sharing this with me.”
“You’re welcome.” She said, as she stood up to go. “Who knows, you may be an African Hebrew.”
I laughed. Then stopped. “Who knows?” I replied. “It’s nice meeting you.”
“Same here.” She said, and left.
When I think about it, the only problem that I can see from becoming an African Jew is that I would now be open to attack from two rather than one angle. I mean, the Jews already have their own problems in the world, right? And so do the Africans. Why would I chose to double my jeopardy just for the sake of acquiring a new identity? No, I think I’ll stick with just being African for now. That’s enough. Walking back home as I passed by the beautiful scenery of the Cougar Lake, I thought about this and many more issues, and wondered aloud just how many more such self-discoveries await me in this land of the free.