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16.01.2020 Feature Article

In New York, Yes, He Is a Nigger Like Me

In New York, Yes, He Is a Nigger Like Me
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I almost did not read this story about the Ghanaian-born New York City resident who is a taxicab driver and a taxi company co-owner, as well as the chief of some five villages and/or towns in the Akwamu Traditional State in Ghana’s Eastern Region (See “Meet the Ghanaian Chief Who Is a Taxi Driver in America” Yen.com.gh 1/9/20). I almost did not read it because here in America, or the United States of America, we have a maxim that says that “Any job that pays the bills and puts food on your breakfast, lunch and dinner table is a good or decent and worthwhile job.” It is only in Ghana, where most of our adult population has acquired the shabby neocolonialist and lazy mannerisms of the erstwhile British colonial imperialists – with the possible exceptions of Prince Harry and Princess Meghan Markle – that we tend not to value work as a veritable act of joy and happiness as we ought to; which is precisely why the rate of unemployment is as exponentially high as it is back home.

You see, I have boarded a taxicab in San Diego, California, whose White-American driver/operator was a recently laid-off Nuclear Engineer. That was some twenty-five years ago, when I went for a job interview at the San Diego Mesa Community College to teach Africana Studies. The college paid for my roundtrip airfare to the interview and a three-day stay at a small rest house. I did not get the job in question, but that is an interesting story for another day and another column. So it is not such a big deal, after all, to learn that Mr. Isaac Osei (aka Nana Gyensare, V), who was born as only one of a platoon of 19 children, is a taxicab operator here in New York City. You see, here in the United States and many of the other “civilized” and industrialized Western democracies, the amount of money or income that one makes performing any legitimately recognized job or line of occupation is far more important than what somebody else thinks about the category or description of such job. This is what many Ghanaians have yet to learn and need to learn and learn very well and very fast before we begin to starve ourselves to premature deaths, if this is not already happening.

Now, Dear Reader, don’t get me wrong; it may, indeed, be prestigious to work in such traditionally well-recognized and respected jobs as engineering, law, medicine and the allied health services and as a college and/or university teacher. That is, until the reader or unsuspecting observer learns about the very pedestrian fact that there are many elementary and high schoolteachers, especially private elementary schools and public high schoolteachers, who make much more money than people with such high-status-sounding titles as Professor, Dean, Provost, Vice-President or even the substantive President of a college and/or a university. Indeed, there was a period in the history of the community college where I presently teach, when our senior faculty members earned significantly higher salaries than the faculty members and some of the senior administrative staff at some of the globally renowned colleges and universities right here in the United States! I had not arrived there yet.

Which is why I often get a great kick out of the vacuous sneer or snide of those among my readership who think that calling yours truly “a community college instructor,” which, by the way, is precisely what I am by profession, in a fit of conniption, can actually pique my pride or self-esteem. The fact of the matter is that a remarkable percentage of us, community college instructors and professors, if you prefer the more prestigious latter title, have the same academic and professional qualifications as those of our colleagues at such Ivy League institutions as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania, among a host of others. To be certain, I have a remarkable number of colleagues who graduated from the aforementioned globally renowned and respected academies, together with others who earned their advanced or postgraduate degrees from other such equally globally renowned and prestigious tertiary academies as the Sorbonne, or the University of Paris, Oxford and Cambridge.

Being a chief in Ghana, let’s face the truth, is not necessarily such a great deal or an admirable achievement, as such title tends to be purely hereditary rather than one that is traditionally attained by dint of hard work or personal achievement. It also tends to be ethno-specific, which simply means that one’s chiefly or even monarchical significance is pretty much determined by the very people who either selected you or appointed you as their chief. I mean, we can vaingloriously talk about which ethnic group or polity once subjugated or lorded it over another group or ethnic polity, but that is just about the fullest extent of such vaunt. It may give you a vicarious sense of pride, which is perfectly hunky dory, but it does not put food on anybody else’s dinner table; nor does it put money in another person’s wallet or bank account.

We presently live in modern society, which tends to be multiethnic and multicultural and, for the most part, the civilized world, where one’s personal achievements and usefulness to society are what really matter. It is as simple as that; which is also why here in the Big Apple, as New York City is affectionately called, whether you are an Osagyefo Nana Sir Okoampa-Agyeman Fredua or Otumfuo Basabasa Tirimuwosumfuo, you are still essentially a Nigger! Big or Small Nigger. The value is fundamentally the same.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD

English Department, SUNY-Nassau

Garden City, New York

January 1, 2020

E-mail: [email protected]

*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com Ghanaffairs

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., © 2020

The author has 4932 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

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