Thoughts Behind The Gratitude Journal: 2021

Gratitude Goal for 2021: To express gratitude for the ability to show love and integrity, in spite of what has happened in the past.

The resilience of a child is admirable in that it can endure large amounts of strain without the child holding back from showing love to whomever is around to receive it –and hopefully give it. Ideally, the child should not be going through anything too stressful but I have often observed that children bounce back quite quickly from tough times in the family and can more easily form healthy relationships afterwards than adults do. Of course, the issue will still affect the child –sometimes in ways that can manifest themselves in adulthood. But it is amazing that children have the capacity to welcome health after trauma.

Adults on the other hand… We need persuasion. Once something painful has happened in our adult lives, we curl up and die a little; we find it hard to welcome well-meaning strangers, or even to tell the difference between a stranger that has come to plunder and one that has come to help bring out our good side; we sometimes even dig in and vow never to try again, to never really live again, or to never to have a similar relationship again –allowing one person to ruin one area of our lives forever.

Yes, situations hurt. But once someone has meddled with our equilibrium or once we’ve destroyed ourselves, unfortunately, it becomes our responsibility to deal with the damage. It’s either you let the situation swallow the rest of your life whole or you learn the respective lessons and move on. Or do we secretly expect our lives to roll along in perfection? If you are alive to give yourself another chance at something you used to enjoy and value, why not do just that? We like to ponder the meaning of life. What if it is simply to live thoroughly? Whatever that looks like to each of us –simply and quietly or complex and loud. Every day. Without assigning impossible expectations to life, to each other. (Like 100% success rates in every aspect of life.) Without apology.

There’s also the issue of how adults tend to enjoy their own pain, with people competing to be the one with the heaviest problems in the room. We wear our challenges like badges of honour and hold on to them in the hope of being empathised with, or pitied, or being found to be relatable. We value our losses and weaknesses far more than all the people and the things that have stayed constant and faithful in our lives.

That said, sometimes it is a privilege to be able to get over things at all. Those of us who can do it take it for granted. But it really is because of chance that some are more susceptible to giving into the trauma of trauma than others. Just as some children can rise above challenging times easier and in more healthy ways than others, so it is with adults. It is not even about who is stronger but is mostly a game of chance.

I just think it’s important to leverage our luck, wherever we can find it, rather than repressing it in the name of relatability. Because there are people who need empathy (however much society is willing to give) more than others. I find solace in thinking there is someone who has been through a similar situation and actually rose above it to such an extent that they no longer feel it has a stronghold on them.. I think people think others care more about hearing an ‘I’ve been through it too’ than a ‘you could also look at it this way’. Or maybe they think the latter is patronising. But I really would rather have the latter (from a trustworthy source).

At the end of 2018, I met a woman who taught me the ‘you could also look at it this way’ mindset and my problems have shrunk ever since. Very slowly but surely. (She’s one of those women who makes you feel that there is a sisterhood after all in this world. She’s real and compassionate in all the right measures. She tells you the truth no matter how brutal, which has always been how I learn best. There are so many things women hold back from telling each other until it’s too late. And also there are so many lies women tell each other so that we grow up with a very skewed view of how things really work in the world. She’s one of those who tries to catch you way before you feel you need to be caught. She says things as they are, not as we wish they were –which has done me so much good. I now feel I am armed in some strange way. She makes womanhood NOT feel like victimhood. (I had begun to feel men recognise the advantages of being a woman more than some women ever will.) And in general, she makes being a person in the 21st century make sense –via different points of view, not just her own. She is rare (in my own experience) in the world of women (and also humans, overall) and I wish every girl had someone like her from the jump.)

I feel more ‘ready’ than I did when all I knew was that someone else has gone through the same things. Because I’d rather not as many people had gone through the same things. (What was I supposed to do with that fact? Because even though many had experienced similar things, we each went through them differently –leaving us feeling that no one will ever understand us.) I feel that there is a higher probability that I will be able to handle whatever rears its head next. And my past mistakes and traumas no longer define me. Sometimes, the residue of pain is still there. But I have become less and less angry. Less and less of a reflection of the past. More and more capable of being who I am, properly. More and more capable of building new and much healthier relationships. I know better *how* to rely on people, how not to, and what I can offer the people I rely on. And how to cope when someone sees nothing, no value in me. And when I’ve strayed too far… I know when I don’t necessarily need to be strong. I know that my perspective is not all there is. I can be the ‘main character’ one minute and be a supporting character the next –because both are relevant. I am learning to better balance being a human being and being a woman (yes, I can see the irony –if irony’s the right word for it. But sometimes it’s as if there are human beings then there are women then there are people and everyone is a person/is included in that group called ‘people’).

(This article is not necessarily about womanhood, by the way. It’s just that womanhood was one of the facets of this year’s gratitude goal. It’s as if the more I mature, the more that topic demands to be examined.)

And so this year, I wanted to take the time to be grateful that I have the right to be resilient (and to change) yet to depend on people and not to base my identity on how those I disappointed see me or how I see them; or even on those who disappointed me.

Chances are, we didn’t know what we were doing to each other at the time, anyway.

I’m grateful for the woman who was put in my path and opened my eyes to my own resilience, helped me remember myself. And to remember all the good, inner things we undo with time in the name of relatability/getting along with other people. And the fact that it’s not over yet. I define the things that happen to me or the mistakes I made. I no longer have to look back at the past and make it a barrier to receiving everything and everyone I want in my life.

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2021 Tebogo Ndlovu

Thoughts Behind the Gratitude Journal: 2020

Maybe we’ll wither and die. Well, of course we will. But maybe we will be mocked, stones hurled our way because we don’t own houses and pot plants. Maybe our skeletons will lie in our graves long after we’re gone, mourning all the success we could have had -success valued via the quality of the couches we could have had, the threadcounts of the sheets we could have owned, the extra cars and holidays we could have flaunted.

Or maybe our skeletons will be grateful that we dared to choose. That we even realised there was a choice.

No, this is not a poor man’s anthem. This is a recognition of the value of choice. The choice to value life over and above the assumed value of life. That living and existing is enough over and above the thing we call net worth. That a human being can be weighed by the beauty of their choices, the various colours of their love, the honour of their free will -rather than what that all amounted to in dollars and cents.

…the honour of free will, the will to live the life we each want – regardless of how lowly it may be perceived by family, friends and the masses. The will to be a plumber in a world of white collar dreams. The will to happily own nothing in a world that is calling for a fight against ‘owning nothing yet being happy’. The will to be a housewife when the future of work has been proclaimed female -if not automated. The will to strive for a house in the suburbs, a spouse and two children when that can be looked upon as accomplished brainwashing. The will to wander, a nomad in a culture that pushes us to settle down.

Maybe our skeletons will be grateful for having lived at a time when they could be anything they wanted (when whoever said that could actually mean it): the acting-accommodation for a soul that was old-fashioned or trendsetting or comfortably mundane or in the middle or world-renowned or on the fringes. All we needed to do was choose, those of us who could choose.

We know ourselves, the ones who were lucky enough to be in an environment where we could find out that we could choose. Where our liberties are not as few and far between as the world would like us to believe. Where the Sub-Saharan sun shines on landscapes populated by unpredictable economies, stubborn cultures and even more stubborn subcultures that insist, “But did you know you could…?”

And you wouldn’t believe the breadths of the coulds. Things unimaginable to my mother – just one generation away. And I know what you’re thinking: it’s always like this. From the beginning of time, the first family: the generations were broken up by cracks and gaps -gaping differences each issuing out sensitive and sensible arguments, at times waging all out war -pressing fissures deep into, against our roots. But then why does this time feel different?

With us, it’s not a matter of free will. Not anymore. Now, we have the privilege of free will. We don’t have a few options open here and there. We have a wealth of options. But we know it, this time. We know it. It’s not something we will find out from our children. The coulds have been revealed to us and now we live them. Whomever so chooses – if she dares, if he dares – may live them.

And more and more, some of us don’t have to die for our chosen coulds…

All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2021 Tebogo Ndlovu

PS: This article is based on my concept for my gratitude journal in 2020. Every year, I set a theme for what I should remember to be grateful for. My 2020 theme was based on some of the thoughts above.

The Act Of Wanting (3/3): Owning Your Deep Desires

…And the journey continues.

This is the last instalment in a three-part series concerning being in conscious alignment with one’s subconscious wants and vice versa. (Do I mean to sound like a wanna-be spiritual guru? Not at all. Oh well…)

I thought I’d share some tips I use to check myself whenever I seem to be straying from who I am (=somebody who is important to herself) or what I want. How I know when this is happening? I start to do inexplicable, self-destructive things that make no sense even to me. In addition, my bar or standards for what I consider self-sabotage lowers. Then I realise I’m not right with myself. Here’s a little example. I say that writing is important to me, right? And that I want to become a talented writer someday. (Yes. If I wasn’t born gifted I’m hoping I’ll become gifted. Leave me to my madness, please.) When my standards are high, I’m making time for writing no matter how busy the rest of my life is. I’m waking up at 4 or 5am. I’m reading novels and essays as well as writing during tea and lunch breaks at work. I’m editing before bedtime religiously, after reading another chapter of someone. And every night before I turn the lights out, I’ve scheduled a blog post for the next day or three. I’m doing everything I can to stay on track. It doesn’t matter that sometimes there are power cuts or sometimes I don’t have access to the internet or my devices are not co-operating. It doesn’t matter. Because I’ve already done everything possible to counter those eventualities.

But when my standards are low and I’m being self-destructive, I always have the perfect excuse. I’m entertaining people who have zero respect for my schedule while I make all sorts of allowances for their schedules. I’m spending extra time with people whom I love but who always take liberties with my self-esteem. I’m forgetting that guarding my peace is a constant endeavour until I am able to remove myself from toxic environments. I’m forgetting that how I feel, my time and my self-respect are my responsibility and are mine to protect.

So here are a few things I do to get back on track. Here is how I own my deep desires:

1. Say them out loud and/or write them down (right before you thoroughly dispose of the piece of paper). This works for me if what I’m desiring sounds horrible to me. I’ve found myself saying:

“I only did that because I am so lonely right now and I’m desperate to belong.”

-which made me sound pathetic

“When she said nothing I do should work out because her life didn’t work out the way she wanted it to, it made me want to make sure my projects don’t work out. Because who would I be if I didn’t have her approval?”

-which sounded so twisted, I was appalled

“Of course, he doesn’t care about me. Why would he? The other guy? No, I want someone ‘better’ than that.”

-which made me think, ‘Pick a struggle, b*tch! Plus you know you don’t even want to pick anyone because you think they’ll all hate you once they know you. How cliché and how effed up are you? Is there no end to your issues?’

([sigh] Yes. Myself and I actually said that to me. The nerve…)

So once I’ve said these things, I can’t take them back. I spoke them from my heart. I said it. So now it IS. And I need to do something to replace what IS with what I want there to be. It already was because it was in my soul/spirit/head. But now there is no denying it.

And it might take some time and unintentional messy behaviour to decipher what you even need to say to yourself. Some of it has taken me years. But every second was worth it. I’m more at peace knowing than not knowing.

2. Wean yourself off your unhealthy desires. Based on my above examples, (a) I would go about this by taking care to enjoy the time I spend alone even more than I usually do as well as making quality time for people who have been trying to reach out to me while I was pushing them away in favour of the people who make me feel like scum. I find that I am usually only as lonely as I allow myself to feel. The world has been kind to me in certain respects. There are people who actually appreciate me. It’s what I do with that affection that either makes or breaks my friendships. As I mentioned yesterday, taking responsibility is important. Here I’d be weaning myself off the desire to desperately belong; the desperation was never necessary. Some people made me feel alone, I let them and, in the process, I let the people who actually appreciate me go. Context is crucial. (b) Get away from anyone who directly or indirectly encourages you to fail nomatter how much they tell you they love you. (c) Remind yourself each morning of your ‘dateable’ points: good, precious things that come naturally to you –always have since you were a child – and go for people who particularly appreciate you when you’re being your best self without trying much.

3. Fill that gap with something else and don’t romanticise your flaws. So in example (a), you’d do that by filling the time when you feel lonely with quality time with yourself and people who are sincerely good to you. In that quality time, do your favourite things and do something for those people who genuinely care about you. Show them things that you love about them, not because they’ve helped you but just because you have also grown to genuinely care about them. I know some people will say every human interaction is a transaction anyway but you don’t have to do it the greedy, unfeeling way, right? (b) After getting away from people who make you want to self-sabotage, fill the gap left by your desire to fail with remembrance. Remember a time when you got an accolade that became dear to you and the influx of positivity winning that accolade brought into life. Soak in that feeling then set a goal for yourself and work steps to take towards the goal into your daily routine. Don’t forget to set timelines. When you achieve the goal, make sure to celebrate with people who would truly be happy for you. Rinse and repeat until you can feel it in your bones that you deserve to win when you set a goal for yourself. *And please don’t romanticise your flaws.* People you’re trying to get away from will try to make it sound like you were living your best life when you were miserable, why did you change, and all that. Remind yourself that those were not the good old days and keep it moving.

4. Start hanging out with people who represent what you really want. For example, if you’re a daughter who wishes she had a better relationship with her mother, hang out with friends who get along well with their mothers in a healthy way. This counters that ‘absoluteness’ that happens when something has been a staple in your life, causing you to subconsciously believe that life is like that and daughters ‘just don’t’ get along with their mothers.

5. Act as you really want to be. I don’t like the phrase ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ but I do agree with it in this case. Put on the attitude you want to have towards friends, colleagues, men, women, children until it becomes who you are. If that attitude is that you want to be respected, treat yourself with respect in front of everyone around you until that is your reality. Put on your best clothes regularly, walk with your chin up, smile at crying babies, if someone is mean to you cut down the amount of attention and time you usually give them, express gratitude when you would have complained because this sends the message that your life is going to be okay and you’re able to handle it, make time for your own needs.

That concludes this series. What it boils down to is this: the day you acknowledge what you really want is the day you decide who you’re about to turn into.

The Act Of Wanting: On Money

Last month, a friend said to me, “Not everybody wants to be the founder of a thriving business and own a Rolex.” Last week, the same friend said, “Of course we all want to be super rich. We’re just lazy.”


I’ve begun to think about what it is I usually say I want and how it is that I want it. Do I want it so that it can lift me up on a pedestal and cushion me with social status – a ticket that paves paths for me in this world? Do I want it because my wanting it is a symptom of a problem I have not yet worked through? Do I want it purely, simply because I do? Answering these questions may be a way to avoid undesirable long-term situations or even find solutions to things that pick at one’s energy. Or to prevent that disappointment or anti-climax that happens when we finally get what we think we want.


If my friend was a character in a book I was writing, I would think that –based on his usual characteristics and disposition- being rich is not something he wants. He wants nice things. He wants to be respected more than an average person ever could. He wants to be able to buy his little girl a pink tutu without thinking about his budget. He wants to go a lifetime without being shrunk by somebody in top management. But he doesn’t want to be super wealthy.

He doesn’t want to have to think about how to prevent paying large amounts of tax, how to go about life so that he incurs as few law suits as possible, how to have friends but not bring them too close because people become a liability and untrustworthy when you get to a certain level of wealth, how to keep jealous relatives from selling information they know about him, how to protect his children from kidnappers, how to talk as cunningly as possible since honesty comes at a high premium for certain people, hiring a trustworthy chauffeur to drive him around because he’s on the phone all day and is probably too tired to drive, how to budget his time so stringently that he gets the best out of his 24 hours, how to check if he has anyone in his life who would still love him if he lost all his money, how not to lose all his money, having a large or even decent-sized workforce under him knowing that they’re a crisis or a few bad decisions away from losing their livelihoods and it’s up to him to make sure that doesn’t happen, never spending nearly enough time with his children… And all the problems and stress that could possibly arise from owning and controlling a large amount of wealth. What (I’m guessing) he really wants is to be special and for everyone to know it.

I’m sure there are happy rich people out there, with loving families and friends. But it could easily go the other way. The thing is, certain types of people like to constantly deal with large amounts of stress. If you’re one of those people, then chances are you’ll do well as an ultra-wealthy member of society. If you’re laid back or sensitive or above a particular degree of empathetic, these things might have to be sacrificed in favour of a more logical, obsessively driven version of you – if your goal is solely to make ocean loads of money.


We don’t tend to look at the nitty-gritties of what we want. Every time I got myself into a situation I thought I wanted to be in but loathed by the end, I figured out that I didn’t want to be there in the first place. Somewhere in my heart of hearts, I knew that I would rather be in my element – or even just comfortable – than fight this particular battle. But I looked at all the approval I’d get from doing that thing and dived in based on those societal rewards. But the day-to-day of The Thing is what gets you or misses you.


If you don’t generally enjoy being what you say you want to be on a routine day, you will suffer. If you don’t thrive being what you say you want to be in the middle of a crisis, it was never meant for you. And you’ve invested more time play-acting a role that doesn’t fit you and less time perfecting the role that would have made you. Yes, doing what you’re meant to be doing can involve pain and suffering but all the trouble tends to feel worth it. That’s the mark of alignment or lack thereof.


That said, if my friend was a character in a book of mine, I’d give him a heartbeat. I’d give him a passion that makes his heart race every time he’s investing himself in it. If it was women, I’d give him plenty of adventures with women and make him a painter (cliché but let’s go with it, okay) –who likes to paint all kinds of women from different cultures and walks of life- or a poet who ends up making a lot of money from his hard-won talent. If it was money, I’d make him a ruthless capitalist. If it was fatherhood, he’d come up with a controversial but very potent system of raising kids who were the best versions of themselves –and he’d accidentally make money from his system. If it was being respected, he’d be a walking, talking version of How To Make Friends and Influence People –and he’d end up making a lot of money that way. Material wealth would be a byproduct of him getting what he really wants. If it was comfort and family life, he’d have a steady 9-to-5 and a few rental properties just for back up; he’d go to church on Sundays (maybe), take his sons fishing some Saturdays and try not to hardcore cheat with his work-wife on Mondays. Or he would live a self-sustaining, minimalist existence and have the kind of friends Seneca would have appreciated. And he’d absolutely love his life. In all of these cases, money is not the central element, with a human life revolving around it.


If my friend was a character in my book, I’d give him the courage to go after what he really wanted and to be content with it in a world that commercialises the concept of a good life.

Copyright ©️ 2020 Tebogo Ndlovu

There’s A Song For This

2020 has been a horrendous year for various reasons, some of which I’ve been encountering over the last two weeks or so. The most common problem we may have experienced this year is the outbreak and consequences of the COVID19 pandemic. It’s possible we all know people who lost their lives due to the virus. It’s been a devastating year for some also because of job losses, being on lockdown with an abusive person, succumbing to depression and other mental health issues as a result of isolation, dealing with disturbed plans, delayed academic progress. The list goes on. So yes, this has been a challenging year.

However, I think it’s fair to say some of us have salvaged something from this year. Others have not fared so badly thus far. We still have our sources of income. Despite many opportunities to catch something, we still haven’t caught the virus (as far as we know?). We restarted projects we previously claimed not to have time for. We realised what or who we can’t do without and mended relationships before it was too late. Some introverts managed to have life their way for a while, lol, and got to enjoy the peace that came with lockdown restrictions. Some got to know their children better.

I like to think that out of every survived crisis is a silver lining – like surviving a war having discovered a secret version of yourself in the middle of the upheaval and being able to witness all the development and social change that at times comes afterwards. Because what is life without optimism, especially at times like this? One of my silver linings was restarting this blog and finally figuring my way out of a long, long spell of writer’s block. It’s amazing what idle time can do if you can afford any. I’m even more grateful that anyone came to read what I publish here. Several times, I’ve hesitated to click on ‘publish’ but I’d put myself in a corner so I had no choice. I had told myself I’d publish everyday until I felt I had become a writer -regardless of whether or not I had anything good to publish. Now I write constantly and have a few projects I’m actively working on -regardless of how busy the rest of my life gets. So, according to whoever said you’re only a writer if you’re writing, I think it’s safe to say I’ve happily, finally accepted the vocation. Took years but I’m happy it happened at all.

On that note, I’d like to thank you so much for visiting the village I’ve built here -with its stories and characters and whatever you may have picked up while passing through. I appreciate every second you’ve spent reading my posts, commenting, liking. I’ll be taking another tour around your blogs as I haven’t done it in a while and miss it. One of the last times I did it, Ivon got ‘The Sound of Silence’ (Pentatonix version) stuck in my head, Keith had a hilarious story out, I found out about Rosaliene’s ‘Under the Tamarind Tree’ -which I’m psyching myself to read; I think it’s one of those that will make me an angry, crying mess but in a good way- and Melody Chen blew me away with her imagery and flow. I cannot get over the way she writes.

I’m truly looking forward to reading your work. And please know that each and every one of you has made a major, unexpected difference in my life. Every action you’ve performed on this blog has helped me rebuild a vital part of myself I thought I had lost. The kindness or interest of strangers is invaluable. I hope you’ve gained something from visiting here.

Before this point, I was publishing to hold myself accountable so that I wouldn’t stop writing. Now my focus is shifting to reading more (Rosaliene, Paul and River, I’m getting to your books. So excited about that.), doing better research, and improving on the quality of my writing. I want to become better at writing and have had to rearrange my life accordingly as it’s so easy to fall into not getting time to read and write. The demands on our time can be numerous. So some changes had to be made.

Jai Lynn had some writing plans out and I thought it would be a good way to continue to hold myself accountable so my top 5 are:

  1. To complete the race series by 1 October, continuing to publish on weekends
  2. To complete my current writing projects by 1 November
  3. To post consistently (every day) until 15 October when I’ll evaluate and make whatever changes are necessary
  4. To embark on ‘The Historians’ which I’ll be carrying out here soon (it’s NOT about regurgitating historical facts -even though that can be fun to do, especially with history that’s not well-known)
  5. To change the blog name and update the blog in general.

Those are my major goals right now….That’s one of my 2020 silver linings: the year I started writing again and met you all. And yes, there’s a song for that.

Race Series: The Issue Of Race

I find it difficult to write about race, issues affecting where I’m from or about anything that I was born into, really. It’s easier to talk about the things that happen to you, rather than the things that you are. Perhaps that’s why people struggle to describe their hometowns or to write their ‘about’ pages. Yet the language for describing the first time you tried your favourite food, or your first breakup or first trip abroad is easier to reach. But I really don’t relish talking about race as people end up justifying or defending or feeling that they are betraying something that they just are. Not did. But are.

It first dawned on me that race is a thing when I won a prize for a poem I had written. I was in high school and my parents attended the prize-giving day, which was held at a local private school. Particular local private schools were predominantly white at that time, and also attended by children of Indian descent. At that particular school, there were some black children, increasingly so, but people treated it like a predominantly white institution. I have to qualify this because, where I’m from, people perceive a marked social difference. Anyway, growing up, I had always thought of myself as… well, me. Not Black Tebogo. Not Coconut (a colloquial term meaning a black person who has white mannerisms and interests) Tebogo. Not Natural Tebogo. Just Tebogo. I got along with people of all races. Yes, I did experience racism – even in a country whose population is mostly black – but I failed to register it as personal. To me, it felt like if someone told me they didn’t like my favourite outfit. I would just think their opinion was a nonmatter because they didn’t go out and buy the outfit, they didn’t contribute any money to my buying it and they didn’t have to wear it. So why care what I’m wearing? My blackness – as people call it – was not something I used to discuss, really, until a couple of years ago. I just existed as myself, loved it and didn’t care what it was labelled.

That day, when we walked into the assembly hall of the white private school, my father hesitated. He seemed unsure. We walked in, headed towards the empty seats. And he hesitated. That was uncharacteristic of him. I asked him what was wrong. And he said, “Lapha sivunyelwa ukuthi sihlale ngaphi?” “Where are we allowed to sit?”

I admit: that undid me more than I realised at the time. My father is a traditional man in many ways. He has always seemed particularly proud to be who he is, yet here he was – questioning his own importance based on the colour of his skin. I currently cannot find the words to explain to you how that moment unfolded. But it definitely was not a regular, “Sooo where should we sit?” No. He seemed humbled. He seemed like he was trying to show that he knew his place and would not cross the invisible lines set up by someone who was more valuable than he inherently was. I am not being dramatic. I am trying to give you an idea of how packed that moment was. At the time, I saw it but I didn’t dissect it. I just ushered my parents close to the front of the assembly hall and that’s where we sat. And as we sat, I remembered that I had used a pen name when I handed that poem in: Robin Cook.

I thought it would give me the best chance of being judged fairly. I had not thought about the issue of race much, but I did suddenly realise that I and people like me became someone else when placed in certain environments – perhaps as some sort of defense mechanism? But suddenly, we would tweak certain things about ourselves – even our accents – in order to be understood or to fit in. We, in our black country, were trying to fit into what most of us thought is a more superior way of life – a way of life outlined by a psychologically powerful minority. That natural superiority is not true, of course, but it’s what was being implied. That has disturbed me increasingly over the years because it was not discussed in our community (I live somewhere in Africa) – perhaps jokingly mentioned but not seriously discussed. And it has birthed other problems. Black-African people appear to have groomed an identity crisis whose characteristics and symptoms we don’t even recognise. It’s a complex problem. People of colour who live on other continents are quite vocal about their race issues but we are not; and, in my opinion, it’s because we come from cultures where nothing is talked about openly, really. We do what we’re told and are discouraged from probing. That may be changing now, but not quickly enough.

When a baby is born, people rejoice that the baby is light-skinned or express disappointment that it’s dark-skinned. Anything in between is fair enough. When a dark-skinned man marries a light-skinned woman he jokes that he’s trying to do his bit to ‘lighten’ the gene pool. When someone moves to a predominantly white and richer country, people treat this person like a celebrity even before the person has achieved anything concrete. If as a migrant, you are living under terrible conditions in that destination country whereas you were doing better back home, people back home will say, “At least he’s in Dubai… At least she’s in America. I’ve always dreamed of going there.” No emphasis on what the person is actually going through to remain in that country. Honestly. It’s as if reality is skewed to the point where people do not see how lowly they have pegged themselves or how crazy they sound when they are saying these things. It’s bad enough that – to the outside world – Africa is seen as a perennial disaster or a place to be rescued, among other things. Other people are entitled to their own conclusions. But seeing ourselves that way – as incapable and inferior – will not help us move on from our problems at all. Sure we did not create these problems. But they are our responsibility now, unfortunately. And the mindsets we harbour will not help us effectively tackle the problems. The African problem is currently largely that of mindset.

Yes, it’s all a product of long periods of oppression and colonisation but at what point do we take charge of our own self-esteem? The true healing has to begin somewhere. But instead, all these insecurities are being covered up by the accumulation of degrees, businesses and money. I like to see people of colour succeeding materially because money is not just money, as we all know. It is access to better health care, people treating you like you actually exist, children having a better future than the previous generations did. It means a layer of protection in times of great crisis, exposure to different ways of thinking, living and problem-solving, exposure to different cultures, self-actualization, being able to provide opportunities to people who used to be marginalised even when qualified, growth. Etcetera. But none of that can truly compensate for how you really feel about yourself. And you will find yourself acting in ways that are telling, that give away your insecurities when you least expect it – when you thought you were good now. It’s as if in reality, when we say “…#BlackLivesMatter,” we mean “to different degrees and extents.” (I’ll explain this further later.)

So I’ll be publishing a series of articles on the issue of race alongside my poetry to explore issues such as the rules of being black (which are ridiculous to me), some black history topics such as things we used to do pre-colonisation that we ought to revive (particularly looking forward to this), unpacking the issue of black women being romantically linked with white men, the issue of successful black men preferring women who are not black and other things that may come to mind. I probably won’t talk about dating and marriage much beyond those two titles, though. This article is the introduction to that series.

PS: To contact me, don’t hesitate to email tebogn@outlook.com.

 

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