A good friend of mine once fell in love with a non-Nigerian man. Her family members were unimpressed to say the least and pressure quickly mounted. My friend asked what I would do if I were in her shoes. I thought to myself, ‘Every woman has her own tight shoes to wear…’ But aloud I said, “Pray. Then follow your heart. We make our choices and likewise we must live by them.” However, her family had other ideas. Next thing I heard the cross-country romance had come to an end.
Now, it’s a beautiful thing when two lovers share the same culture and core values. For starters this eliminates the hassle of constantly doubling up as a ‘tour guide’ at family occasions (‘bow when the chief comes. Eat the fufu with your bare hands. Refer to women you don’t know as auntie…’). But more importantly, it ensures that subtle shades of meaning are not lost in translation in the course of everyday interaction. Heritage is preserved when the language, norms and currency of one’s past are handed down to the younger generation. However, life doesn’t always go according to the script. Many people are receptive to the idea of ‘marrying their own kind’ but for one reason or the other, things may not have panned out as rehearsed. So those who are wise have adjusted their expectations and opened up their eyes to see the bigger picture. Tell me. Is it right for society to pre-judge these people and make their lives a living hell?
I was listening to an emotive discussion about inter-racial marriage on a U.S radio programme very recently. The black men who phoned in didn’t sound too pleased about the growing trend of well-educated African-American women marrying white men. “Sell outs.” They called them (in some quarters those who want to better themselves are called ‘sell outs’ these days). Naturally the ‘sistas’ were fluent in their own defence, reminding everyone who had ears to hear that many black men in America run off with blue-eyed blondes once they become successful, that yet another chunk of the quota didn’t have jobs (or were in prison) and so what’s a ‘sista’ to do under the circumstances. The male retort was that black women are unapproachable, too independent, too strong. The response, ‘for goodness sake, what do black men want?’
Following a series of extra-marital allegations, the media spotlight has lately been focussed on an accomplished golfer of mixed heritage. For some this matter is a non-issue, little more than light comic relief at best, for others it’s about serial infidelity, for many however, it’s racial stereotype confirmed. I am struck by the emotive interest inter-racial topics evoke even in this multi-cultural age. Apparently it’s not only African parents who still lay awake at night praying that their sons will come home and take a wife. Many people are not as modern as they like to think when it comes to culture and colour. ‘Race’ is a super highway that must be navigated with care as those who cross without looking may be knocked down… dead.
Of course it’s concerning when people date or marry for predatory reasons that reek of self hate. However, there are others who venture beyond the conventional borders with much love and common sense. Let’s live and let love, shall we? Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where none of this matters anymore. If racial constructs weren’t that much of a big deal to primitive people of centuries gone by, then why is it the be all and end all in this so-called modern age? Why are we so determined to see the ways we differ rather than the human qualities that make us very much alike?
Wish I could get my head round that one…
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Ọgọ Ogbata is the author of the brand new historical fiction novel titled Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman.
About the New Novel:
Egg-Larva-Pupa-Woman is an inspirational, albeit heart-wrenching story, of a young girl who metamorphosises into a woman of great courage – juxtaposed with the struggles of her motherland -Nigeria- a country that is also evolving as its people grapple with colonial leadership, sudden freedom, racial tension and the pursuit of an elusive destiny.
To see excerpts, photos, author interviews and more about this exciting debut novel, please visit the book’s website: www.elpwoman.com
Collector’s hardcover edition of the new novel are available at Amazon in the UK and USA. CLICK HERE to get yours right away and read during the holidays!