In America, you forget your shame, your fears; the things that keep you quiet in Nigeria, the laughter that was so awkward walking down the streets of Lagos for fear of being judged mad. Because in Africa, everybody is everybody’s neighbour; so we look out for ourselves in ways that are intrusive and aggravating.
The old woman from across the street has a right to rebuke your child for wearing shorts too short; people have a right to demand you get married and be happy. They also have a right to insist you are not happy with being alone. The African life is a life of mass approval and applause.
America is different. I ate a burger at a park, and nobody saw me. A lady walked in with only a bra and a pair of shorts to McDonald's, and the black male attendant looked straight at her without blinking, without the African twitch of discomfort, or the desire to judge or criticize. A man may decide to walk down the street naked, and I bet the entire Manhattan populace would ignore him.
I met a gay couple – one in boxers running towards another dressed in a suit after work hours. Boxers jumped on the suit, wrapped his hands around him as they kissed under the Manhattan sun that never sets. They walked hand in hand back home. Nobody saw them. Except me and my Nigerian eyes, wide open.
I saw naked women tanning, reading, living under the sun, near the water taxi. Dogs take walks with their white owners and want to pee by the corner. People take a break and have conversations on a bench under a tree. Everyone drinks Starbuck coffee as they walk to and fro wherever. People rent bicycles to work. I met a 40+-year-old executive in a smart suit heading to work on a skateboard.
No one sees anyone, yet everyone is aware of everyone’s existence - the right to be seen, to be heard, to live. The right to pursue the happiness that you want.
America is beautiful because if the only thing that a country gives you is the freedom to be, then it’s a beautiful license that can get you anywhere. In America, you forget your fears and your cares. But you never forget your skin colour. It is so bad that even in innocent gestures, you imagine race is at work.
I walked to a taxi once who wouldn’t take me. The first thing I thought was skin colour. But only a few walk down. A white lady was also turned down by another taxi driver. I later realized after-work hours are the worst experiences you can find and drivers just do not care enough to make any extra dollar faced with traffic that never wanes.
America is the dream of every child born in Africa. Every child. Pounds and Euros are better than the dollar on the exchange rate, but everyone wants a dollar. Even Canadians, with a more stable country and less dramatic political clime, still want the American nod, passport or invitation.
America is perhaps the best work of PR after Coca-cola.
It is America that keeps us alive. The thought of a “perfect world”, of a dream that needs to be accomplished before death – a dream of stepping on the soil of a country owned by God.
The world deserves the utopia that we have created in America, and to see this continuous disgraceful racial arguments and confrontations and injustices and narratives that make black people feel less human, is so sad. So sad.
A dream is fading away right before our eyes. I have watched videos of whites screaming to African Americans to show “gratitude”. Gratitude on what account? For having slave relatives who made it possible for them to breathe the American air. But…there is no America without the beauty of diversity.
Now that horrible man called Trump is attacking blacks for #TakeAKnee - a humble approach to addressing racial injustices. This world is finished.
America is Hope – something you wish for, and even if you don’t get it, you are happy it exists. Just by being. It’s like wealth and the promise of it; even if you die poor, there are moments you would have thoroughly enjoyed knowing that someone else was able to find riches; that in itself is satisfactory.
America is breaking my heart. Trump should be impeached, really.
Joy Isi Bewaji, a prolific writer, columnist, and the managing director of Happenings Radio and Happenings Magazine.