Disclaimer: I know that I have only been in Ghana for a little over a month so I am aware that I haven’t experienced everything or learned everything I need to know about Ghana and it’s government. I also know that I have not been exposed to enough people with a variety of different backgrounds and opinions, especially women who are my age and younger, to make generalizations about Ghanaian people. I am not one to talk about things I do not know or understand fully because I hate when people do that to me. However, this post is just my thoughts and feelings about things I have experienced and heard throughout my time in Ghana.
First I want to address my experience as an outsider or a foreigner in Ghana. There has been two different reactions from the people here to my presence in their country. The first reaction is the reaction that I was naively expecting to have more of, and that is acceptance. At the cultural center for the most part people have accepted me with open arms as not a real Ghanaian, but and “honorary Ghanaian”, who’s ancestry was lost through history. I even had one of my drum-making teachers there tell me that I should get comfortable and enjoy myself because I am home now. Even in Accra, although these people were just trying to sell things to us, they still addressed me and the other black American woman as “my sister”.
This reaction made me feel very welcomed and overjoyed because for some reason I yearned for the acceptance of my black Americanness from my black Ghanaian counterparts, because after all we are “skinfolk”. But as the saying goes, “all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk” and that’s exactly how some people here viewed me because I am a foreigner. For instance, when I was getting my hair braided, one Ghanaian man just found this process hysterical and blurted out, “she wants to look like a Ghanaian and be Ghanaian but she’s not Ghanaian”. Obviously I am not Ghanaian, but for some reason I was still offended because one, black Americans get their hair braided as well, so I don’t see how that was me trying to be Ghanaian, and two, it bothered me to be othered in a country where in my mind most of the people are black like me. Another instance I experienced is when I was trying to get a taxi and the driver upcharged me because he said that I look rich. I asked him how and he was like the way that I dress. I told him that I had on a $7 Walmart shirt and some pants that I got from Accra. He was like “oh but you had the money to get here from America” and I told him that the white man paid for my ticket, not me and even if I could afford it, it’s not fair or right for him to up-charge me. After a few curse words and heated exchanges, the driver eventually lowered the price, but I was not thrilled about the encounter. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that I am an outsider, so I shouldn’t expect them to accept me just because my skin is black. I also understand that because I am from America I am afforded certain privileges that many Ghanaians don’t have. However, I can not stand being lumped in the same label or box as my white American counterparts because I don’t have white American privilege.
Another experience that has been bothering my soul is the praise of white people that I have witnessed and heard from some Ghanaians. Two of my taxi drivers have told me that they love Donald Trump and one man said he loves Donald Trump so much that he is going to name his first son Trump. Another thing that bothers me is that there’s a belief going around from some Ghanaian people that if they see a white person they have seen or met Jesus and doesn’t have to go to church anymore. Now you know when I heard this I damn near jumped out of my skin because I couldn’t believe it. How could a group of people surrounded by black and brown skin celebrate or believe in a white Jesus. But then I realized that this is a country that has also been affected by colonialism and white supremacists ideals. Another thing that bothers me is the fact that when I try to bring up slavery and white peoples’ “wrong doings”, for lack of a stronger word, they always tell me that slavery is a thing of the past. All of these things actually hurt my soul, and in some cases insult my blackness, because some people don’t understand or don’t know that racism and white supremacy is still alive and well and is definitely still affecting their country. I know that for many Ghanaians, just like many blacks in America, the resources, knowledge, and time to research about the issues of race that are going on in the world, is just not afforded to them or not at the forefront of their mind. Money and making ends meet is the top priority. And in that I know and see my privilege in my ability to educate myself and do something about these issues because I have the time and resources to do so.
All in all, I have really enjoyed my stay in Ghana and it is my intentions to come back to Ghana and stay. However, certain things like the ones mentioned above have shattered even more my dreams of helping black people to unite and build wealth for and among ourselves because many black people in America, and so far as I can tell, in the Motherland, are not on the same page about uniting and fighting for our wealth, power, and well being.
So I ask myself, are my feelings misguided and invalid? Am I placing too much of my western ideas and thoughts at the forefront and not putting myself in Ghanaians shoes? Am I too invested in the race issues that are so prominent in my life in America? Am I too naive for wanting a world where African countries and the people in the African diasporas unite? Am I being too harsh on Ghanaians for not understanding a problem that doesn’t plague them as obvious and blatant as it plagues me? Am I wrong for thinking every person with black skin has to fight for the cause?