#ReclaimBlackStories: Mayowa

Thursday 20-10-2016 - 15:26

#ReclaimBlackStories is NUS Scotland Black Students' campaign to share the reality of Black history and what it's like to live in Scotland at the moment - as told by Black students. 

#ReclaimBlackStories: Mayowa

I only really became aware of race when I moved from Nigeria to South Africa. All of a sudden, I was aware of the white gaze and I wanted nothing more than to understand why I felt the way I did and why I was treated the way I was. I had always associated white with superior, beautiful, better because that is what television, books and the people around me told me. I had always felt that being African was a disadvantage. 

In Grade 11, my history teacher taught us about Black Consciousness and I read Steve Biko’s ‘I Write What I Like’ and for the first time, someone was articulating my feelings and my observations. I began to look for information everywhere, I read about people like Fela Kuti and Malcolm X and I began to read African literature and devoted most of my time to learning more about blackness and more specifically, Africanness. 

When I moved to Edinburgh, I thought my search was over. Not because I thought I had found answers, but because I was overwhelmed by whiteness. I learnt about things I had no interest in – European history, European politics, a Euro-centric view of the world – and I hated it. I found myself alienated from almost everything I did. In most of my tutorials, I had opinions different from everyone else and ignorant comments hurt me in ways no one else understood. I began to think I had a complex or that I was imagining problems were there were none.  At my lowest point, I was disappointed with myself because it felt like I had unlearned all the knowledge I tirelessly acquired. I doubted myself. After I found women of colour in Edinburgh and really all around the world that I could talk to, I felt myself learning again. The Internet gave me a way to make bonds and find solidarity in ways that transcended geographical borders. 

As black women, I think we all need to open ourselves up to knowledge. We need to learn from women who have unapologetically put into words the struggle that we face. We need to support each other and learn and unlearn behaviours, cultures and ways of thinking that have been imposed on us by white supremacy and the patriarchy. We need to find our own balance between blackness and feminism. Between tradition and modernity. Between our culture and cultures that have their roots in colonialism. Even after the long journey that I have experienced and am still experiencing, there is still a lot I have to learn. I still fell self-doubt in situations where I am overwhelmed by whiteness. I still feel myself internalising the white gaze.

 A friend of mine who I admire told me that nothing is innate, everything is a construct and in that, I found so much liberation. The troubles I face are constructs. This doesn’t make them any less real but what this means is that they can be violently broken down and reconstructed to fit a narrative true to us. In that, I find strength, hope and peace. 


NUS Scotland

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