I Am 'The Nigerian Girl'
What does Xenophobia mean and what actions can be considered Xenophobic?
Recently, I was confronted with comments that ridiculed my university choices and ridiculed my patriotism for my country. I was addressed as the ‘Nigerian Girl’ and not by my name. I was told that because I wanted to go to another country (not South Africa) for university, I was a Nigerian girl that wanted to be American. I was asked about the level of education in my country, and why I did not move back to my country for schooling. I was also a victim of a comment saying that, my patriotism definitely showed in the fact that I was a Nigerian girl, schooling in South Africa. I was asked why I did not move back to Nigeria, because, if I didn’t, I would not be truly patriotic. I was asked what I wanted to be labeled as, whether I wanted to be labeled as the Nigerian girl or the American Nigerian girl who did not know what her roots were. The Nigerian girl that wanted to abandon her country, or ‘abandoned’ her country because she moved to South Africa.
These comments were all made by a figure of authority in my everyday school life. When confronted with these comments that degraded my choices and me, to the point where I was addressed only as the Nigerian girl and nothing else because my name was not important, I realised something very important. I realised the importance of standing by my country. Standing up for who I was, and not letting any threat, with the aim of making me feel ashamed of my roots, get to me.
I realised that I was always going to be a Nigerian Girl, and nothing could change that. But I realised something else. I was not going to be A Nigerian Girl. I was going to be The Nigerian Girl. Those two are confused very often. One means that I am merely A Nigerian girl who is not different from anyone else. The second means, that I will be The Nigerian Girl who makes a name for herself.
I was insulted by the fact that this person thought that I should be ashamed of my country, this person was not very pleased with my response, as that would never happen. No matter what, I will always be Nigerian, and nothing will change that. So, what is Xenophobia? It is the dislike or prejudice against people from other countries.
How to fight against it?
Do not let it get to you. I know that may be hard, because when I am targeted by racist, xenophobic or tribalistic words (and trust me, that is often) I get angry and I want to react. But through my experiences, after being asked when I would get deported by a classmate, or called 'Nigerian girl', I noticed that if I reacted with anger, the happiness in those eyes when they saw that it got to me was what I knew I wanted to fight against. The way to fight against it and get them angry is succeeding and addressing it with class. Focus on your end goal, and kill them with success, because the anger seeing you succeed, is the revenge that you need. Do not be bothered by the taunts and the insults, because those do not mean anything. What matters is your reaction to it, and whether you will let that get to you, or march forward and look on, focusing on your goal.
So let this be your lesson for today. We Africans need to stick together as Africans. Not as individuals. To some people, I will be Kamdi, to others, I will be Black Kamdi, to some, I may be Black, Nigerian Kamdi, and to the rest, I may be black, Nigerian, Igbo Kamdi. But I will always be Kamdi and nothing can ever change that. I may be from Nigeria, but I will always be an African. No matter where I am from. I will always be a Nigerian. But I will be The Nigerian Girl. Be proud of your country, and be confident.
I am Kamdi Okonjo