Words from an instagram post earlier this month:
This country scares me. In many ways I’m in awe of it but at the same time it terrifies me. I think children who immigrate here are unique in that we get to see two sides to the American dream coin. The side with the white picket fence, to the side with a very ugly avoided history. I used to wish I was born and raised in this country. I would imagine what 3-5 year old me would have thought about Disneyland, or hiking trails lol. What I never thought about was what 3-5 year old me would have thought about race. Because she didn’t have to. I grew up where everyone looked like me. My parents were respected journalists, my aunts, uncles and grandparents were running businesses and held positions of power in the corporate world. The newscasters looked like me, actors (irregardless of Nollywood dramatics) looked like me. The concept of race ever hindering me was laughable. And it showed. I was a very confident child.
I distinctly remember thinking I could drop out of primary 4 and make it as a successful author. I wasn’t joking. I wrote a full novel in one of my notebooks and passed it around school for my classmates to read. I was unstoppable. Useless in math but unstoppable nonetheless. And then I moved here and I shrunk. Part of that is just the sheer trauma of moving to a new country, but I can’t help but wonder how much of that was driven by my newfound consciousness of race. I broke down in 11th grade CORE during the race unit because it was the first time my eyes were really opened to covert and systemic racism, and it was brutal. All the black kids knew about it, but here I was learning about racism much like the white kids were. But unlike them, I didn’t get to go home and think about how bad that must be for black people. I went home and like a ton of bricks the thought hit me all at once “oh my God I’m in danger!”. It was actually really terrifying. Then they hit us with the gender unit right after, oh lord. And so as I age, I think more about my future generations and the truth is, I don’t want to raise a black child here. It’s dangerous.
Not only physically, but the mental exhaustion that comes with hyper awareness of your blackness, more specifically the not so subliminal messaging that comes with being black in America is a burden I don’t want my child to shoulder. And let’s face it, Nigeria is farrrrr (very very far, as in the next pond over far) from perfect. But the confidence and assuredness that comes from growing up in a place where the idea of discrimination because of your skin color, is as foreign as the idea of an honest politician, is immeasurable beyond words. It leaves an imprint that transcends any space you do, dream and eventually will occupy. It does not escape me that many black Americans don’t even have the luxury of entertaining this “Get Out” fantasy. And for as much as I feel I’m stuck here, American racism is a thick generational quicksand with a grip that quite literally chokes its citizens to death.
Excerpt from CNN supervising producer Stephanie Busari's article "What speaking to my daughter about George Floyd taught me about my race privilege as an African". Click here to read.
Below is a letter written to the faculty and staff of my nursing program
Dear faculty and staff. I want to thank you all for the efforts you have made to push us through this semester. As I attempt to study for my last final, I can’t help but to be encompassed by the current state of the world. I am unfortunately no longer referencing the corona virus, but rather racism and police brutality. I am one of the few black students in our program, and while I excellently endure the stressors of both nursing school and living while black, I feel conflicted in enduring the stressor of your silence. As a black woman, but more so as a black immigrant, I have learned very quickly how to navigate and conduct myself in white spaces. One of the lessons I’ve picked up on is that the majority tends to align themselves with the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King. In his honor and in his name, I ask where you would have stood during the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60's? I pose that question not to attack, but rather to prompt the question of where you stand during these civil rights movements of 2020?
I have entertained the idea that you may want to shy away from this for fear of it being political. For that possibility I rebut and ask, what is political about speaking up for human life? Unless that discomfort only brews when speaking up for black life. Our nursing program prides itself on being a family. It is a message I have heard since my mandatory orientation. If that message is true, then I ask my family to publicly speak out and condemn the militant and racist police practices that have led to the most recent death of George Floyd. The United States has a painfully long history of systematic oppression and police brutality unleashed on minority communities. It is this type of oppression that makes women like Amy Cooper feel comfortable enough to make false claims against Christian Cooper. Fortunately, Christian Cooper is alive thanks to the power of technology and social media. Emmett Till is not. It is a linked history and one can no longer stay silent and claim naïveté. The reality is too pervasive, and muteness cannot be interpreted as unknowing.
My Fall 2020 cohort is phenotypically comprised of mainly white students. Using that and the faces of past graduating classes hung up in the computer room, I would venture to say the whole program is currently comprised of mainly white students. Regardless, I feel confident that you all see me as a valid member of our community. And so, though I have learned how to conduct myself in white spaces, I have also learned from America that my “conduct” does not protect me from the very real possibility of injustice and/or death. With that, I ask you to use your voices now to speak up and not in the unfortunate circumstance that #justiceforomono becomes a trending hashtag.
Thank you all for allowing me the space to feel comfortable enough to bring this up in, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter
With the support of redacted names for privacy
I encourage all of you to start using your voice. And not just black people, ALL people. I will no longer be silent for fear of repercussions. I will no longer let fear dictate my conduct. My reach may be small, but it extends past me. I will no longer fold my arms in an attempt to blend in, I will extend my arms out to you until you feel my pain. I am no longer afraid. You are either with us, or against us. #prosecutekillercops #defundpolice
I’ll start this off by acknowledging the fact that I missed a March post. As much as I’d like to berate myself for this, I genuinely don’t have the energy to. Plus I think we can all afford a moment of grace given the Covid-19 climate.
If there’s anything Corona has shown me, it’s that I dwell in the calm before a storm. I didn’t think the virus would hit as hard as it has or have the global repercussions we’re seeing. Part of that is my personality: I’ve worked really hard to not allow fear to be my default reaction. To the point where most of the time I genuinely think things will work out and be fine. This I think is a fantastic trait of mine. I don’t sit in a state of panic, nor do I float in a constant stream of anxiety. Now, take my words with a grain of salt. Our new reality hasn’t affected my general life too drastically, so I’m very well aware of the luxury I have to self-praise.
The other reason I was slow to grasp the scale is because of the people around me. For those who don’t know, I’m in nursing school. I’m set to graduate this December and I’m praying to God the devil ‘rona doesn’t delay those plans. Part of nursing school is doing rotations at hospitals- we call these clinicals. Of course, by being in the hospital I had heard more about the virus way before it became a constant cycle in the news. And even then, nobody was fearful. Of course, precautions were taken, but I never felt concerned about it upending our lives like this. We would even joke that we wouldn’t worry about the virus until the ER nurses started to. Then they did. All our hospitals have since kicked us students out so we’re not able to complete our clinical hours. This is the biggest hurdle to possibly delaying our graduation, but again I’m optimistic things will work out.
Again, I can have this gleaming optimist because although my day to day schedule has changed, I’m still able to go to school (online) and have always had the option of working from home (I work for a software company). Make no mistake, I’m not completely without worry. Within say 3 degrees of separation, I now know three people who have passed since lockdown. Two I don’t believe were from the virus, but one is a confirmed yes. As covid-19 continues to close in on us, we’ll unfortunately be hearing more and more of these stories. My sister comments that it’s been interesting to watch me progress from lackadaisical to now wiping down incoming mail. I also worry about the profession I’m training in and the absolute disregard for the safety of healthcare workers in this country. This is terrifying. This is the British sending soldiers to WWI with cloth caps instead of helmets. It’s telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when you only gave them flipflops. It’s recruiting only the color blind to act as pilots. It makes absolutely no sense, it’s absurd, outright neglectful, but most of all it’s terrifying.
As a black person, I should have absolutely no faith in this government. As an immigrant, maybe foolishly I do. Be that as it may, my wide eyed and bushy tailed glow is very rapidly dimming. As the virus spreads, we’re now getting stats on the people most affected. It’s black people. This sadly isn’t surprising. We live in a white America. An America where wealth is disproportionately distributed in favor of white people. With wealth comes things like having a second home to run to when your city becomes a Covid-19 hotspot. It comes with the perks of not relying on public transportation to get from point A to point B. It comes with being able to afford a post-mate’s delivery for your groceries. It comes with not needing to be a post-mate delivery driver during a pandemic.
My biggest pet peeve is when people don’t critically think, so for those who are gathering their rebuttals, use your critical thinking here. Of course there are minorities who can afford such, but statistically these numbers are disproportionately skewed in favor of white people. Another of my pet peeves is when people use minorities and black people interchangeably, so henceforth I’m speaking only of black people. The way this country is set up, black people are suffering and will continue to suffer the effects of the Corona virus more than our white counterparts. Racism has led to wealth, educational and stress disparities which ultimately affect socioeconomics and genetics. I’m highlighting stress and genetics because of hypertension, which black people are more likely to suffer from compared to white people. Racism is stressful. I don’t think I need to delve into the why’s, but the fact that black men are toggling with the decision of whether or not to wear facemasks lest they appear a threat proves my point. This video shows two black men being escorted out of a Walmart for wearing facemasks. Yup.
I’ve just had an epiphany as I write this. Perhaps my optimism is a coping mechanism. As I write this I am getting more and more stressed. I’m getting angry, infuriated, and honestly I feel hopeless. I feel all this even with the privileges I have, so I can’t imagine how others less fortunate feel. It’s exhausting. And so, I will hold on to the philosophy that things will work themselves out. Because if I allow myself to dwell on the fact that because of who I am there are many more hurdles stacked against me, then I risk chronic depression. Yes, for some people these thoughts will spark motivation and drive. That is admirable. I however am not wired this way. And so I make dance videos and I create Instagram characters. Because though I hold awareness, optimism, distractions and my joy are the shields I can comfortably carry.
Disclaimer: On my computer sits a folder of unpublished essays. They're hilarious to read back, especially the moody ones (I'll share one of them some day). The following was written 2 years ago. In true Omono fashion I've procrastinated this monthly goal of mine, but just in the nick of time, we've posted in February! (it's already March in London and Nigeria 😬 but small details). Either way, in these last few hours of February I present you: "The Devil".
"His name is Laziness and he has gripped me. Perhaps it's because of my night owl schedule, but I feel I don't accomplish much during my days. I sleep, eat, work, and drag myself out every now and then but I am not in a constant schedule that allows me to build upon the things I want.
So what do I want? There's a long list, but I've just read something that suggests I start with small goals. Regardless I will list all the things I would like to eventually accomplish
Real time: Look how much has NOT changed! 🙄Le sigh. March will be better.