“a: heterogeneous mixture of sound waves extending over a wide frequency range
b: a constant background noise, especially one that drowns out other sounds”
I thought I would be hated in Africa. I thought I would been seen as a descendant of the oppressors, as an unfairly privileged person, and as someone who thinks they are superior and came to Africa with the intent of helping or saving those living here. I thought my presence here would be questioned by locals in a “why are you here?” kind of way. I thought this way because of how white people are sometimes viewed in the U.S. due to the history of colonization, slavery, and continued discrimination. Since Africa is considered the “home land” for black people, I thought being here would emphasize those negative sentiments.
In reality, it’s almost the complete opposite. I feel like a celebrity here. I feel “the underlying, often subconscious, preference, trust, or emphasis on a person based solely on their presentation as having white skin” of white privilege overtly in almost every interaction (https://medium.com/@sandiosandi/white-noise-explaining-white-privilege-through-the-science-of-sound-2a327db6c71b).Being white in Ghana I stand out in a positive way—and I feel conflicted about this. Being a minority in the sense that I’m in spaces where no one else looks like me is definitely a first, but it doesn’t carry the negative connotations like being a minority in the U.S. does. In thinking about the phrase white noise, appearing white or relatively fair means something so special and desirable to Ghanaians, and “drowns out” any negative perceptions of white Americans and the thought that anyone outside of that category could be good (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/white%20noise). I was told by a tile layer that “my people” are better than Ghanaians because they are creative and Ghanaians learn everything from them. I told him that Ghanaians are creative too and that the reason I came to Ghana was to learn from Ghanaians. I said again, “I came to Ghana to learn from you.” He paused, shocked. “Oh okay..oh” he said as he turned back to his work.
I don’t care as much about what I wear here because Ghanaian men and women tell me I’m beautiful almost every day no matter how I feel or look. I wave and/or smile at most people I pass assuming it will make them happy that I acknowledged them and wanted to interact. When people yell “hello” or “Miss” I assume they are talking to me so I turn to engage, whereas I do the opposite in the U.S.—even if I hear someone say my name I assume they are talking to someone else with the same name so I don’t turn. In Ghana, I can assume when I step outside people will think highly of me, whether they know me or not. Sometimes, it feels like a huge confidence booster. Other times, it makes me feel gross/bad/guilty because I didn’t do anything to deserve the awe and it feels like it’s disregarding oppressive colonial history in the perpetuation of the idea that the United States and white people are superior just because.
I don’t really know how to grapple with this yet besides continuing to talk to people and question their preconceptions, but these thoughts around being white in Ghana are a constant background noise in my mind.
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