African Immigration Discrimination by Leslie Twimasi
In elementary school, I was called “an African booty-scratcher” for answering a question incorrectly in class. I felt offended by what my classmate said, but I didn’t take it too seriously since I was very young. Some Americans born in the United States view immigrants as people they have never seen before and their cultures as being way different from American culture. Even at school, students of African descent are often discriminated against because of their clothes, religion, language, and physical appearance. A student from Africa who goes to school in the Bronx told me, “Two girls and one boy were laughing at me because I wore a scarf to school and they asked, ‘Is this part of your culture or are you doing this for fun?’”
It’s not appropriate to disrespect someone's culture—that’s like my saying celebrating Halloween is stupid. Not everyone in the world is the same. There are many different religions, cultures, and races in the world. Although many Americans view immigrants as outsiders, 13.3 percent of the United States population are immigrants (over one million people). As of 2015, 4.4 percent of those million people are African immigrants. America’s history is built upon immigrants and the ideas these people contributed to make America as great as it is today.
However, in 2015, our Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted, “My grandparents didn’t come to America all the way from Germany to see it get taken over by immigrants. Not on my watch.” There are many stereotypes about African immigrants here in the United States. African students experience a lot of discrimination, sometimes just because kids can be cruel and say inappropriate things. Since I was young, I've witnessed kids who are not from here being harassed about where they come from. Kids talked about how their parents couldn’t afford to buy them shoes, so they walked around barefoot. Although social media portrays Africa as a place where people live in huts, walk around with no clothes or shoes, hunt for food, etc., these stereotypes are not true.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist who writes books about her life experiences in Nigeria and America. During her 2009 TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Adichie talks about her roommate questioning Adichie about her culture and how she lives. Adichie explains, “She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove.” She also states, “ She asked if she could listen to what she called my ‘tribal music,’ and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey.” Explaining to Americans that anything you have here in the United States is present in Africa as well is very frustrating. Successful celebrities are known all over the world, so why wouldn’t people in Africa know about these people as well? Adichie thought about why he roommate would think of Africa like this and she finally realized why. She came to understand why her roommate said this. She states, “If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide's family.” Africa on social media has been made into a joke, but children are dying of hunger due to legacies of imperialism and the actions of corrupt governments. Poverty and overcrowding strike Africa as well. Yet, there’s poverty all over the world—I want to know why Africa comes up when people talk about this issue.
On behalf of all immigrants, I’m not saying Americans should do what immigrants are doing, but respect them and allow them to be who they are without feeling uncomfortable. After all, in 2015, President Obama explained, “We don’t simply welcome new immigrants, we don’t simply welcome new arrivals—we are born of immigrants. That is who we are. Immigration is our origin.” The person who discovered America was an immigrant—why hate on immigrants if they were the ones who made America? If you experience discrimination, make sure you correct whatever the person or group of people is saying to you and prove them wrong.