Bernadette aspires to be a part of the Pan-African dream. She is a poet from Africa, a budding philosopher, a civil engineer, and a powerful orator.
I have been so quick to condemn the impacts of colonisation of African countries. I always wondered how the lives of the people of the black nation would have been if we were not colonised. Would we still have been living the lives we read in African literature books? That would have been amazing, but does it mean Africa would not have been civilised? Does colonisation equal civilisation? Well, if you believe in parallel universes, then the only way to know how a world without colonisation would be is if you move to a universe where it did not happen.
Even though it has been decades since most countries got their independence, I think most African people leave like they are still under the rule of their colonisers. I do not even mean the relationship that African governments have with their colonisers because that is a whole other story. Rather I mean the daily lives of Africans and the African diaspora.
I recently watched a video of black kids being asked to pick their favourite doll, between a dark-skinned doll and a fair one, and they all chose the fair one because they believed the fair doll was prettier. This just says a lot about our standards of beauty. I know that most people would attest to being raised believing that you could only be beautiful if your skin is fair, which has significantly impacted how we see ourselves. The kids aside, this is the same reason we have grown adults trying to bleach their skin to fit the European standard of beauty. In many high schools in Kenya, including the one I went to, we were not allowed to keep our hair in its natural state in order to be seen as neat and well-groomed. It always puzzled me how we considered our most natural state unkempt, but we could never question it if we wanted to stay in school.
Have you ever thought of how we treat foreigners when they visit our countries compared to how we got treated in other countries and how we treat each other as we travel across Africa? If today I choose to travel with a European friend to an African country that is not my own country, believe me not, the European will get first class treatment, and I will get less because a local African sees a European as a superior, that is why we still refer to them with names like "mzungu" which have been proven to be derived from "Mulungu " and "Mungu" which are African names for God in many Bantu languages.
One of the most significant ways that we are colonised at heart is by the languages we speak. So many Africans take pride in speaking their colonisers' languages. We still consider the inability to speak colonial languages fluently as a sign of illiteracy. We still divide our countries according to the languages we speak, like francophone, anglophone etc. I usually feel so embarrassed when I go back to the village and need to speak to my grandparents, and suddenly I stammer, thinking that they were alive and well during the last colonial era; it is very shaming for me. The good thing is that we are starting to acknowledge that this is a problem, and we have seen the recent addition of Kiswahili as one of the official languages of the African Union.
Sometimes I wonder what our ancestors would do if they came back and found us conforming to the ways of their colonisers and losing our culture. Should civilisation be at the expense of our culture, or are we just choosing to get westernised in the name of change?