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Africa and the “inferiority complex syndrome”

BAFFOUR'S BEEFS

Africa and the “inferiority complex syndrome”

This month I want to address the issue of ‘African inferiority’ that makes most of our people think that everybody else in the world is better than us. 

Five years ago, I met a man in Accra who nearly made my ribs burst with laughter when he said: “If God had given Black women beards, they would put extensions on them”. 

The man was serious. “Look at the Black woman of today,” he said. “She puts extensions on her hair. She puts extensions in her eyebrows. She puts extensions on her finger nails and toe nails. Thank God, he did not give them beards. They would have put extensions on them too.” 

Poor Black woman. The point the man was making is what others describe as the ‘inferiority complex’ among the African/Black people, which makes us run away from ourselves, from our God-given endowments, and embrace other peoples’attributes. 

Thus, if we don’t mimic the European, we feel we are not human enough. Everything European or American must be better than ours. 

“If God had given Black women beards, they would put extensions on them”. 

So we take European names as our first names to feel posh. Otherwise we think we are damned. Or if we don’t dress like the European, in a suit and tie, we feel not properly dressed. In much of Southern Africa, suit and tie have become the national dress, which gives people an inflated sense of self-importance. 

And woe betide you if you don’t dress like that if you are an official in government or even in the private sector. And the woe will still betide you regardless of the heat of the day. Imagine, in Africa’s notorious 30-35-degree heat, you still must wear your suit and tie to feel important, otherwise people in offices will not take you seriously.

In fact, in some African countries you cannot see the President in his office without wearing a suit and a tie. Imagine, the African cannot go and see his President in the State House, the man he voted for, without wearing a European attire. Pure madness, if you ask me.

Walking extensions

Yet the European settlers in Southern Africa who should make a fetish out of a suit and tie actually eschew that type of dressing. They like their simple shirts and shorts and the fresh air that comes with them. 

With hats or caps on their heads, they devote themselves to their huge farms and bank millions of dollars at year’s end. The African envelopes himself in a suit and tie, forgets all about fresh air, pushes pen and paper, and banks almost zero at the end of the year. No wonder our women have become walking extensions.

Do I pity those women, especially the ones who have added skin bleaching to the nonsense? You bet. Like Mrs Thatcher who said, “I usually make up my mind about a man in ten seconds, and I very rarely change it”, I, Baffour, also usually make up my mind about a woman in five seconds depending on the length of her extensions. 

Yes, the length and size of the wig, the length and colour of the finger and toe nails, and the length of the eyebrows are all tell-tale signs of what is in the head, the vital contents.

Sometimes some of these women look pretty awful, almost like witches or eagles, with those long finger nails. But who will bring them to order? They think the longer the nail extensions, the posher they are. Someone needs to deliver them from their madness. 

As Ayi Kwei Armah, the Ghanaian author and Egyptologist wrote in The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, published in 1968: “There is something so terrible in watching a black man trying at all points to be the dark ghost of a European … The black man who has spent his life fleeing from himself into whiteness has no power if the white master gives him none.”

There is something so terrible in watching a black man trying at all points to be the dark ghost of a European…”

You can replace “Black man” with “Black woman” in Armah’s franc paler, and you will still come to the same conclusion. The idea that the African is inferior to other races, particularly to the Caucasian, and that we should necessarily adopt the ways and manners of the Caucasian to feel human, is a contrived one not supported by history. 

We know that the Europeans forced that idea into the African mind during the era of the slave trade and the period they physically colonised Africa and ruled over us. 

But when our African ancestors had built major civilisations and pyramids (the skyscrapers of the day) in Ancient Egypt and elsewhere, the Europeans were still living in caves, not knowing what a window was!

The civilising influence

For 781 years, between 711 AD and 1492, Africans from West Africa and Northwest Africa (who had converted to Islam) crossed over to Europe to colonise Spain, Portugal, Sicily, Crete, and southern France together with their Islamic fellows from Arabia, and brought civilisation, education, agriculture, medicine, and general enlightenment to Europe as a whole. 

Those Africans were called Mauros by the Greeks, Maurus by the Romans, and in the Romance languages (Spanish, French and Italian), it was translated as Moro (Spanish), Moir (French) and Mor (Italian). The English called them Moors, the Germans Mauren and the Dutch Moorrees. But all meant “black or dark people”. 

And these Africans built great cities and palaces in Spain and Portugal and brought enlightenment to Europe, to the point that elite society in Europe in that period they call their ‘Dark Ages’, immortalised the Moors on their emblems.

From Spain, the Moors took control of Sicily for over 200 years and Crete for 125 years. They captured Lyon, Macon and Chalon-sur-Saone in southern France in 729 AD, and in 846 they put Rome under siege. In 878 they captured Sicily from the Normans, and 20 years later, they took southern Italy after defeating Otto II of Germany. 

Perhaps it is in the field of education that the Moors did the most for Medieval Europe. They filled Spain with many schools that taught all the sciences and philosophies of the period. History shows that at the zenith of Moorish power, Spain (which the Moors called al-Andalus), attracted scholars from England, France, Germany, Italy, the rest of Europe, as well as the distant parts of the Muslim world.

Across the Atlantic, native Americans likewise immortalised the Africans who crossed over from West Africa to influence civilisations in South and Central America with massive stone statues that have now come to be known as the Colossal Heads. So who says the African is inferior to anybody? 

Yes, today, with the fall of the African civilisations, other races have bypassed us in many spheres of life. That is a fact we cannot deny. But that does not make us inferior to them. For long centuries, nay millennia, we were the First World and everything revolved around us. It is a fact of life that when civilisations fall, the people who built them go into apostasy, allowing other people or races to come past them. But that by no means make them inferior to the latter-day saints.

So be yourself. You are an African. You are unique. Be comfortable in your own skin. Live and let others live. That is the way of nature.

Just ask yourself, where are the Greeks of yesteryear? Where are the Romans of yore? Where are the Turks of the Ottoman Empire? But these were great empire builders and rulers of the world. But today who remembers the Greek, Roman or the Ottoman empires? But that doesn’t make their descendants inferior to the British and the Americans whose empires are of recent date or ongoing? 

Come on, Global Africa. We are not inferior to anybody. God created us in our own unique way and endowed us with our own unique talents, foods, and mannerisms. Thus, we don’t have to bleach our skin and mimic the European to feel human. We don’t have to wear long nail extensions like witches and eagles to feel posh. We don’t have to run away from ourselves into Whiteness. We are already human enough as we are.

So be yourself. You are an African. You are unique. Be comfortable in your own skin. Live and let others live. That is the way of nature. 

 

 

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Written by Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

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