To Africa

Malcolm Slaughter

ISSUE NO. 2 • ARE WE THERE YET?

To Africa,

People still think you’re a country. I was entertaining some Facebook posts against my better judgement and not only did someone call you a country, they didn’t believe me when I corrected them. That same person also told me that Egypt was not a part of Africa. Apparently, Egyptians are “too pretty” to belong to you.

To Africa,

When I was younger but old enough to understand, I didn’t want to visit you. CNN made you look like a place that would inflict me with terminal diseases the second my lungs inhaled your air. Mainstream media didn’t focus on the rare, continent specific and generated maladies that you and Africans, “created”. Instead, they convinced me that I’d be privy to, and surrounded by, and even a target of, gunfire from impromptu coup d’etat’s that have been raging since King Leopold and The Crown left the continent. Why would I want to visit you, only to die?

To Africa,

When I was about 12, I began to tell people that I was mixed with Native American. In Social Studies class, we looked at a map of Indian reservations and there used to be a huge Native American population and settlement in New Jersey. I had long braids at the time, my mom was lightskin, and my hair was fairly “combable” so, it only made sense that I was Native American and Black, so that’s what I said when people asked, “what's your nationality”. Cherokee to be exact. The prize of being mixed with anything non-African and being “light skin” far outweighed the scrutiny of being an “African booty scratcher”. That title was reserved for the Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans, Sudanese, and Ugandans, to name a few. But, if someone was from Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, or Camp Verde, people celebrated. Everyone would complement them on their complexion, their features and ask them about Islam, having long straight hair, pyramids, and King Tut; and I did too. As long as I didn’t get grouped with the dark Africans, and I befriended the light skin Africans, I knew I’d be more successful in my social life. And judging by the consistent portrayals of a distal, dark, barbaric, otherworldly and uncivilized Africa, it became necessary that I distance myself as far away as I can from you, the motherland, if I wanted to be successful in life.    

To Africa,

One day I was watching the world cup, at an Irish pub, in Germany, during my first, and only, contract with the US Army, and I was vehemently rooting for Cameroon. They were playing against a European country and although they didn’t have a chance to win, I was ten toes down. I even found myself locating similarities in the players and myself. I thought about how I would look if I were born in Africa. And how my kids would look if my wife was from Africa too. My phone vibrated and it was some picture mail from Nassim, she was from Camp Verde, and she is easily the prettiest girl I’ve ever dated. I smiled and tapped my friend at the bar with me and said, “those East African women are the best, I’m telling you”. I promised Nassim I’d come visit Africa any time with her, all she had to do was say the word.

To Africa,

By the time I accepted you completely, and rid myself of most stereotypes that curtailed our relationship, I then realized that I can barely afford a fuckin ticket. How could a continent alleged to be so destitute charge me 1700 round trip? I’m not saying it's your fault, but damn.

To Africa,

I’m not Native American, by the way, I’m African-American. If there wasn’t so much conspiracy around Ancestry.com and 123andMe then I might’ve packaged some of my DNA off to find out where exactly in Africa my ancestors were stolen from. (Apparently the government is using our DNA samples and conducting their own research aside from finding out our origins, so, I’ll pass).

To Africa,

I’m sorry for all of these excuses. I’ll be there soon enough.