The following is a piece written by a friend from the USA. In OccupyGhana we have been fully incensed by the “shithole” comment made by Donald Trump last week and unfortunately we allowed his bigoted, racist comment to so dominate our conversations, we forgot for a moment that we had more important things to help solve in our own country.
It is not to say that we don't see the “shithole” we have landed ourselves in for decades, we just see no reason why anyone should insult us and treat us as lesser grade of humanity than we are.
Donald Trump is a racist and a white supremacist and his ilk belong to the lower echelons of humanity. That America elected him is in the first place a poor reflection of the democracy in what is supposed to be the greatest nation on earth, and that they cannot control or remove him, points out to the world, that democracy is not in practice simply because institutions are in place.
We have to work at the institutions and strengthen citizen watchdogs to ensure that, an elected few do not take us for granted and continue to degrade our society and make us open to the kind of unsavoury comments that a trump can make.
And this is how Nana Dadzie saw it through his lens of life.
“Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'”
It must have been 1991 or 1992, 3rd or 4th year of medical school. I was walking home after totally acing a Pathophysiology test and I felt rather good about myself.
Most of my colleagues will agree with me that Pathophysiology ranks right up there with Embryology and Pharmacology as probably the three toughest courses in med school.
To make it worse, testing at the University of Leipzig was oral. You sat across a professor and his one or two assistants and were then handed questions like, “Discuss Virchow's Triad” or “Draw and Explain the Starling Curve for these 3 conditions”.
It wasn't just a narration from the student's part though. It was often a frank discussion of these medical topics where the examiners bored deeply to ascertain the student's grasp of the themes and the ability to apply them. And by the way, they were in German. Those tests were sweat-inducing ordeals.
And I had totally aced Pathophysiology. I felt so good, I decided to do the 20 min walk home instead of taking the tram. It was a cold fall day but I was too pumped up to care. In a black suit with a burgundy tie and grey overcoat, I felt like Sidney Poitier in “Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner”.
Then I came to the tunnel under Tröndlinring that led to my street. As I descended the stairs down, I could hear voices. The three young German men came into view. As I walked towards them, they burst out laughing, pointed at me and said, “Ein Nigger” several times with other insults. As they walked by me, one of them spat on the floor. They kept going and laughing.
Initially, I was relieved they did not attack me. There had been attacks on people like me. The sense of relief soon turned into one of sadness and deflation. I could feel my eyes moisten. My “A” in Pathophysiology looked so inconsequential.
I looked back at them as the sadness slowly morphed into anger. In that moment, I vividly remembered the way they looked — their hair all disheveled, one had missing teeth, their clothing, their language, their unkempt appearance, their sallow-looking skins…the anger was slowly replaced by a smile as a deep realization set in.
You see, those young men were probably nowhere near what I had just accomplished. They probably could not tell you who Virchow even was. Yet, due to the color of my skin and where they imagined I came from, they saw it fit to treat me with contempt.
That incident taught me a great lesson. That the in the eyes of some in the West, nothing good can come out of a place like Africa and the black man deserved nothing but contempt. That I could be the best and brightest and still be seen as nothing but “Ein Nigger”.
Thus when I heard what the President allegedly said yesterday, I was not really shocked. Even though I am part of a group of doctors and nurses who are some of the nicest people I have met, even though in my day-to-day dealings with the surgeons, they are professional and friendly, even though among my peers, I am not rated by the color of my skin or where I come from but by my character and abilities, there are always going to be those who see me as nothing but a black man from a shithole. What good can come out of a shithole? They do not want you here because they think you lower the standards and denigrate the gene pool.
Yet every human has an inherent right to seek a better life for himself and his family. From the English-Somali poet Warsan Shire, comes this line from her poem “Home”: “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”.
When life in the place called home becomes unbearable, when dreams cannot be achieved, humans go seeking.
The pilgrims did that. The European settlers did that. They fled religious persecution, feudalism, mercantilism, diseases and wars to find a better life in an unknown land some 3,000 miles away.
At times, these terrible conditions are the work of one man and his ideas like we saw in Hitler's Germany or an institution like the Church in medieval Europe or the activities of an Islam-contorting group like ISIS. It could be the effects of a practice like slavery and colonialism or rampant corruption like it is seen in a lot of African countries. It could even be famine, floods or an earthquake.
Whatever the cause, humans have a right to seek a better life and the conditions they leave behind do not necessarily reflect who they are as humans or even the color of their skin. It is therefore sad that there are people who believe that and that the President would share in that sentiment.
The day I boarded a plane and left the shores of Ghana, I became an immigrant and over the years, I have learnt a lot about myself, life and humanity.
That fall day many years ago in Leipzig, I learnt that one cannot change the bigoted mind.
So all I can do is be the best I can be in all I do with the few chances I get as an immigrant, take care of my family, continue to love this United States of America that has given me so much, support my home Ghana in anyway I can and just try to be a good human being every day.
Like it says in the Serenity Prayer, I pray for the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed, courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other. Anything else would be a waste of time and that is a lesson even someone from a shithole can grasp.
Sydney Casely-Hayford, s[email protected] and Nana Dadzie Ghanasah
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