My usual rant is on the subject of romance, politics, water, electricity and the basic ignorance of a lot of my people, with a sideline in good places to hang out. I’m back and I’m not going to change the format.
My friend Christiana O’Connor has written a book, you can find it on Amazon Kimble and it is called “Playing the Race Card (A chip on my shoulder)”. It basically tells her story as a child of Caribbean decent living in Britain. About racism of yesterday and depicts how it still exists today.
I’m half way through reading it and it has actually inspired me to write this blog today after a gazillion months of absence. My story is somewhat similar but the racism I mainly encounter is from my own people.
I remember when I was at school and I had gone to the shop to buy some sweets. The shop was run by an Asian family, as most corner shops in England are. A white youth had, had an issue with the owner and they got into a tet a tet over something for which I can’t remember the details now. He storms out of the place but not before verbally abusing the owner with a tirade of racist venom spewing out of his mouth. You’re a f*&*ing, P*ki, you black baboon. After he stormed out, the Asian man looks at me for a sympathetic response. He then starts on about how he came to make a better life for himself, and look at me a hard working studious person (I was a frequent visitor to his establishment and he knew my mother who of course liked to boast about how well her children were doing at school), although we are the minority in this country at least we are not blaming others for our failures. We (as the minority in England) had a long way to go still. I smiled and left.
A few years later, in contrast to the above, my white colleague at university was having a gripe. There were a lot of Asian students where we studied, and they would be huddled up in the student lounge speaking to each other in their language and then laughing very loudly. His issue was the fact that even though they were born here, they lived in a community which was no different to ‘where they came from’. That they don’t even try and mix in with the rest of society. He said to me that I was ok, I was as British as he was, I guess that the implication was that I had somehow past this secret test that White English people give to the minorities.
A few years before I left for Ghana, around the bi-election time, a UK Independence Party candidate came knocking on my door. There manifesto was built around stamping out Immigration. We were alright though, because we were born in England, are parents had successfully integrated into the British culture and this was not about getting rid of those of us who had been here for donkey’s years and were working law-abiding citizens, but those who were a drain on the society, having 10 kids and living of the state, as an aside, he also implied that the Asian community was becoming a burden on Society, why, b because they were taking over the country. Building businesses and only employing their own. ‘Soon, we will all be speaking f***ing Bengali’ he says.
Since 9-11, the situation has become worse. It used to be the norm for a black man to get stopped and searched by the police, now it is the Asian community. Why, because the view is that every Asian is a Muslim and as such a suspected terrorist. Yep, in England, the same theory that all black folk look the same has extended to those from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc..
In England, growing up, and even now, racism still exists, it is not as overt as it used to be, but it still exists. In addition, somehow those of us who have managed to integrate into society, who don’t rock the boat, who speak the Queen’s English, who dress appropriate and who go out to work in a ‘British’ establishment, are ok. The Asian community however, are still on the outs, even though a curry has actually overtaken Fish and Chips as the great National dish, they Asians don’t seem to mix up as we the blacks, the majority don’t have friends out outside of their community, they work and play together. They speak their own language. To make matters worse, a lot of work has been outsourced to India. Why? To cut costs. That doesn’t sit well with the average English man, not only have jobs been taken but you know have to speak to someone ‘who doesn’t even know what you’re saying innit’.
The blacks have moved up from the bottom of the pyramid to the second from last step, but the Asians, well they are still bottom of the heap.
Now I am not saying it is right. I’m not saying it’s true. Just showing you the world through my eyes, how I’ve seen it and how I’ve experienced it.
Now I’m not saying now, that because of the above, I am superior to the Asian race, every race has their good and their bad in my opinion. However, when I see my people kiss ass because they feel that they too are ‘obroni’, it makes me mad. The other day I was speaking to my Nigerian colleague Olu. We are expecting a General Manager for Sales and Marketing and I hear that it will be a Ghanaian man from one of the other FMCG multinationals. Olu’s response to that was that if he shouted him down, he would not put up with it. So I asked, not that it is right to shout anyone down, but you take it from the boss (an Indian). He says, he would rather be shouted down by an Indian than a Ghanaian. I thought about getting into a debate with him, but I have realised not to argue with ignorance, as it is a complete waste of time.
The boss, Sharad, is an evil tyrant. He has no people skills, no leadership skills and no vision. He doesn’t criticize but rather hurls abuse. He is very fond of using the words – nonsense, illogical, and crap. Too be honest, the way in which he works is more like a market trader you would find in Green Street or E Street Market, there is no planning, in his view you just have to sell.
If he calls you into the office, then you should be prepared to be de-motivated for the rest of the day. He gets away with it because 1. He’s ‘obroni’ and 2. People have just given him the tag that, that’s how he is. When you come out with a suggestion, the first thing he will do is shout you down. He will then come up with the very same idea a few days later, as if it was his own. In the whole company, there are two people that ever stand up to him, that is me and another colleague (who is probably the only other person who has worked in a multinational). The others just cower and say ‘yes sir’.
I thought it was because he was the boss that people acted this way at first, but I realized that, just like the white man, Ghanaians treat well just about every one (apart from their own) like they are Gods. I went to meet a customer the other day and she was telling me about a deal she had struck with the Obroni, the one that looks like a black American. Didn’t know what she was on about until I realized that she was speaking about my darker skinned Indian colleague.
When I entered this new job, on the organogram, I and the Regional Sales Managers and Business Controllers all report to the Business Head. It is very clear, however as the Business Controllers are Indians and as such ‘Obroni’, they are treated as they are actually our bosses. When they need information, it is given to them in seconds. When I ask for information, I have to issue 5 reminders and 10 questions later, before I get what I actually asked for. As I said I am not saying I am superior, I am not saying they are superior but it is getting very tiresome to see my people bow down when they see the Indians coming rather than afford each individual with the same respect.
What I don’t understand and will never understand, is a race who I have experienced the same problems, who have the same issues in their country that I have in mine (or worse), who have been subjected the same type of racisms. Just like my family, I have some here in my country of origin, and those who live abroad. Just like my country was made ‘civilized’ by the British, so where they. What exactly are they bringing to the table that we are reaching out to them as if they came down with mana from heaven. Why is it that because they are in Africa as opposed to Europe acting as if they are rather superior, and my people are supporting this myth. Why are we at the bottom of the pyramid in our own country?
Now, on the issue of expats (non-Ghanaians/Obroni), I am all for expatriates coming to Ghana, and bringing on new skills which will develop the people here. Education is still an issue here with approximately three quarters of the population illiterate or only are only up to basic education level. But this isn’t America or Europe, you can’t say that you are coming here for economic prosperity. You know you are coming here to do what the people can’t. So you have to be coming here for the right reasons.
What I don’t agree with is an expatriate think they are doing us a favour by being here. Yes you are passing on your skills and knowledge, but you are getting paid handsomely to do so. So do what you are getting paid to do, don’t just humour us for three years then go. A lot of the time my own people would say that an expatriate has been bought in because a local person cannot be trusted to do the job for fear of corruption. I don’t think that this is the case, I think the Obroni is just better at it than we are. There are lots of purchases of items which could easily be bought here or in Africa at a cheaper cost, but they are being bought in India, Lebanon, Egypt of France, simply because the Business Head is from their and will get a cut from the deal. I know many an expat who has managed to set up a business (either here, or back in their home land) during their three years term, and really their salaries may be big but not enough to be set up for life.
I also don’t agree with the colonial ideal that an expatriate (from wherever he comes from) being a new upgraded slave master. The plantation is now replaced with a multi-million dollar company and instead of being sold off forcefully, we are pimping ourselves out because we feel that the ‘obroni’ is entitled by virtue of the fact that he was not born or a descendant of these shores. I have two degrees and a frigging Masters (I’ve said it once, and I will say it again), I decided to come back to Ghana , not back in time.
Don’t patronize us either. There are actually a lot of qualified people here who can occupy many of the top positions held by so called ‘obroni’s’. Technically we may not have advanced, but in terms of business and running a business, we can stand alone. My uncle is the former National chairman of the previous government; he also runs a successful borehole business, my auntie owns one of the top Travel and Tours businesses in Ghana. A friend of mine has been named Marketing Man of the Year by CIMG. These are just some of the people I know, there are many more people out there with a wealth of experience out there who can perform just as well if not better than what we have right now.
Well anyway, I could go on for days, but alas I have a job to do and as I continue to pray for myself to keep on reaching to new heights, I continue to pray for my motherland, and her people.