As a continuation of my blog post from this morning about 3 things we can learn from slavery and colonisation of Africa, this post delves into why I believe slavery was not the worst thing to happen to Africa. At the end of my blog post from this morning, I asked the question:
Why was slavery not the worst thing to happen to Africa?
In my post from this morning, I laid emphasis on the duality of life. You see it is the duality in our cultures that was the worst thing to happen to Africa.
A gun on its own is neither good nor evil. What it is, is based on the person who wields it and possibly their intentions when using it.
The different cultures in Africa have a lot of good sides to them but they also have a lot of negatives as well. You cannot have good without bad, redemption without sin etc etc
I believe that if the evil things we did to ourselves those days were not being done, slavery may not have been able to happen.
I find it amusing how descendants of those Africans who were forcibly removed from Africa want to go back to their roots. I wonder if they have truly researched Africa’s cultures and traditions to understand the good and the not so good. The movie Black Panther comes to mind.
Part of our problem today is that we do not seek true enlightenment and understanding of anything before we embark on it.
Without much ado . . .
Why was our culture the worst thing to happen to Africa?
The bad things about our cultures are the basis of tribalism today. A half-cousin of mine (Yoruba) wanted to get married to an Igbo man. Her father sent people to the man’s village to investigate his family and he didn’t like what he found out about the family. My cousin insisted on marrying the man and her father told her that should anything go wrong, she shouldn’t come crying to him.
Before my mom passed away (may God bless her soul), she told me that as Nigerians, when you get married, you are not just marrying a person, you are marrying the family. That’s why the Yorubas have a saying: It is better to marry a bad man with a good family than marry a good man with a bad family.
I know very little about our culture pre-colonisation. What I do know is based on what I have read in books and obviously, that documentation was not written by Nigerians or Africans initially nor was it written for our benefit.
As I have never lived in Yorubaland, I know a little bit more about Igbo traditions than I do about Yoruba traditions. My comments below are based on my very limited knowledge of both Yoruba and Igbo traditions and customs.
All over the world, true discrimination has always been men V women, rich V poor and that is part of the reason we inflicted such cruelty on ourselves.
1 Discrimination against women – Mistreatment of widows
Growing up in southern Nigeria, I have heard some truly cruel things about the Igbos and the way they treated widows. I heard that when a man dies before his wife, it is assumed that the wife killed the husband to inherit all his properties. To prove her innocence, the woman had to drink the runoff water the husband’s corpse was washed with. If she did not die after drinking the water, then she was innocent.
Whilst I know next to nothing about the origins of this tradition in Igbo land, I suspect that it started before the white man arrived in Africa.
If my suspicion is correct, who do we then blame for such cruelty on women?
In both Yoruba and Igbo traditions (if I am not mistaken), a widow is inherited by one of her husband’s brothers if he dies before she does. Should the women refuse to be inherited, her late husband’s family would throw her out of the family home and take everything, thus leaving the newly widowed woman almost destitute with her child(ren).
I would love to know if this happens in other cultures. I try not to generalise all African cultures as I am the first to admit my very limited knowledge. Please leave a comment below if you would like to add to the conversation
2 Discrimination against women – Barrenness and lack of a male child
When a woman is unable to get pregnant, it was always assumed that there was something wrong with the woman rather than the man. That alone was grounds for the man to marry multiple wives – to prove that he was a real man. When a woman does not have a male child, she’s to blame and that’s grounds for the man to marry more wives.
The worst part about this is that a man and/or members of his family can literally throw a woman out of her matrimonial home and there’s nothing nobody can do about it.
3 Discrimination against the female child – Female genital mutilation
How does anyone think inflicting such cruelty on his/her daughter was in the best interest of the child. It was (and still is) OK for a male child to spread his seed all over the community but the female child had to be mutilated. It was (and still is) OK for a man to marry several wives at a time and expect each of them to be faithful to him whilst he was gallivanting all over the town. FGM played a major role in suppressing a woman’s sexual desires.
Why do women have to be suppressed?
These are not things of the past, they still continue today
4 Fear of the unknown – Killing of twins
The Yorubas looked at twins as Orisas in their own right. However, the Igbos and a number of the tribes in the middle belt to southern Nigerian felt that twin children were evil and had to kill them.
5 Slavery – yes we enslaved our own people
Slavery was already in existence in Africa before the Europeans arrived. However, African slave owners were nowhere near as sadistic as the European slavers. I don’t think Africans realised the extent of the brutality their brothers were going to be subjected to.
Slavery occurred whenever neighbouring villages went to war. The winner would enslave the losing village and use the villagers to enrich themselves by using them to work on their farms for free. I guess in our ignorance, slave owners then assumed that slavery in Europe would be the same.
I could go on but I think the above 5 examples are a good enough starting point to show that we were actually our own worst enemies.
Why were men quick to accept that they were superior to women with the introduction of a singular Male God? Why were men so quick to break the duality that was working for them and label women as evil witches?
We still discriminate against our own women A LOT today!
I love living in London because London always me to be me, it gives me a type of freedom that can only be imagined by women living in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, a woman is considered a prostitute until proven otherwise. Men do not employ women on merit alone, there have to be fringe benefits attached.
This is the path a woman’s life takes in Nigeria:
Whose daughter are you?
Whose wife are you?
Whose mother are you?
You are nothing as a woman if you don’t fit in all 3 of them at the appropriate stages of your life. You would be subject to verbal abuse if you don’t fit in.
Some of the most compassionate people I know are English
I know an English woman whose daughter was about to get married. I congratulated her, praying that within a year, she would be a grandmother. She told me that that was unlikely to happen because her soon to be son-in-law had an autoimmune condition and because of the medications he was on, it was very unlikely that he could father a child.
There and then, my respect for the woman increased considerably.
Whilst this is not a competition, I know that if you line up 100 Nigerian mothers, I doubt that you would find 3 that would allow any of their children marry someone they know that has a health condition let alone someone that is very unlikely going to have a child.
Who do we blame for the atrocities we inflict on ourselves? Can we truly blame the white man for every single thing? Who do we blame for our refusal to be united? Who do we blame for our refusal to learn from our past?
The white man is a prime example of a protector
I and every other woman who lives in the West is enjoying that protection.
When I went to university for the first time, a friend and I went clubbing and we walked back home around 3am. Whilst walking home, I asked myself if I would have ever attempted such a thing if I had schooled in Nigeria.
A Nigerian man would say that any woman that walks about late at night was asking to be raped.
The other day, I was walking to the platform at Bank Underground station during rush hour and a man accidentally hit my daughter. I was so mad that he didn’t stop to say sorry to her, so I called after him angrily. He did stop and say he did not see my daughter (and to be honest, he couldn’t have seen her considering that she’s less than 100cm tall). However, as you very well know, if you mess with a woman’s child, the claws and fangs come out. My angry reply to him was that even if he didn’t see who he hit, he should have realised the position his hand was when he hit her and he should have stopped to see that she was ok. He apologised to me but I told him that I didn’t need his apology and he should apologise to my daughter instead and he did.
Now I know that if that situation was in Nigeria and if that man was Nigerian, he would accuse me of having an attitude problem. He would tell me that he has a wife like me at home and that if I speak to my husband rudely at home, I cannot speak to him that way. That’s the best case scenario. Another scenario was that I probably would have gotten a slap from him.
That is the reality of our lives today.
Living in the West means that women are protected from any type of abuse.
Living in the West means our worth as women is not based on how we urinate.
Living in the West means I can dress whatever way I choose and not be called a prostitute or be told that my dressing means I am asking to be raped.
Living in the West means that a woman cannot be thrown out of her home unceremoniously. I know someone who would have loved to do that to his wife but now they live as house mates because he cannot legally throw her out of their home.
I joined a Facebook group last year for blacks to network. Instead of networking opportunities all the posts I saw there were black men putting down black women. I asked if that was the norm and a woman replied that it was. I tried to tell a few posters that their comments were very small minded but considering that there were over 100,000 active members, I just had to leave the group.
That was a prime opportunity for us to network and grow as a community, instead, our men chose to use it to measure their manhood by putting their women down.
Africans pre- and post-colonisation have been their own worst enemies. Our atrocities against ourselves are too much to cover in a blog post.
We need to learn from our past if we want our future to change.
Yes the atrocities we inflicted on ourselves is not committed by us alone, same can be seen in other societies. But, should we continue something because someone else does it?
I see comments all over Facebook where men are putting single mother’s down saying the women is using the child support for herself alone and that makes me so mad at our men. Only wretched men talk about how much money they spend.
I was brought up believing that a child should live under his/her father’s roof. It doesn’t matter if the man lives with them or not. Unless a man can afford to pay the rent in full that his child lives in whether or not he is with his child mother, he has no right to talk about how much money he contributes. If anything, he should hold his head down in shame that he cannot afford to fully provide for his child. Afterall, isn’t that the role men want? To be everything?
If we can work on the strengths of our duality, if we can push the good sides of our culture to exceed the not so good side, then and only then can we have the chance to shine.
As a woman and a mother, my motto is #NoWomanLeftBehind.
My comments are not an attack on any tradition, my comments are based on what I know about some of the different tribes in Nigeria. I would love to be educated more (using actual facts) about the different traditions and customs across Nigeria and Africa pre-colonisation. The more we have these conversations and put things down in writing, the better for our children. Do you think slavery was the worst thing to happen to African or not? Please do leave a comment below