Dear Young Black Millennial, We’ve got a Mess to Clean Up

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Dear Young Black Millennial, We’ve got a Mess to Clean Up

Dear Millennials

Ever had a random person clean up a mess you made before? Oh, it can be the most embarrassing experience. Way too often they have you wishing you had just taken care of the clean-up yourself.

We’ve got a mess on our hands people, and it’s a big one. But so far, instead of working on cleaning up this damn mess, we have chosen instead to complain endlessly about how it’s really not our fault and history set us up to make it in the first place.

Well guess what fellow black people, history does not care. It has done its bit to short-change us and has now flounced off on its merry way to sit on the other side and watch with amusement what we make of all that is left of us.

I’ll ditch the metaphors.

All that needs to be said is that it is time to stop complaining, and time to start taking responsibility, at least for the things we can control.

I saw a video recently of a black lady complaining about walking into Walmart and seeing that the black hair products, and only the black hair products, had been locked up. As can be expected, she was angry; very, very angry, she whipped out her phone, took a video and called for a boycott of that store.

It was annoying, scratch that, it is annoying, and were I in her shoes, I would probably do the same. But, while ‘they’ don’t get to treat all black people like criminals, perhaps we also as the black community need to ask ourselves a few tough questions. E.g Why would a store feel the need to lock up that particular category of products, knowing fully well that it was going to bring with it a lot of backlash?

It’s a painful question, but it has to be asked. Were those products being stolen? And if they were, do we get to berate a business institution for taking steps to protect their merchandise?

I remember when I was in Secondary school, and how I used hear travelling Nigerians complain of how presenting the green passport usually led to a humiliating cavity search at international airports. I also remember the numerous times I heard on the news about Nigerian drug mules being jailed or executed or deported. If such a large number of Nigerians can flout without regard for consequences, the laws laid down by other countries for the safety of their citizens, can we really blame those countries for being suspicious?

We complain about how many businesses refuse to transact online with Nigerians. It’s profiling, no doubt. But when we live in a country where it is becoming a rite of passage for young people to pull off elaborate internet scams, can we really blame the rest of the world for being wary?

Lord knows that there are a lot of things we cannot control. We cannot control trigger happy police, so we fight that young black boys can walk or drive on the roads in peace without fear. We cannot control systemic racism; that societal construct that questions a black person’s right to be successful in many fields and then attempts to limit that success, so we fight, that our labour may yield the fruit that it deserves.

We can however control a lot of other things, like whether our young people think it is OK to shoplift hair products or scam foreigners with tales about African princedoms.

We need to begin to teach ourselves and fast, because the rest of the world will not put up a notice or ask nicely. They will build a grate and put a lock on it, to tell us in the most insulting way possible what they think about the mess we made.

We need to start teaching ourselves and fast or the number of organisations we need to boycott will only get more numerous.

Let us be honest with ourselves, nobody is going to clap for us when we do things right. Nobody needs to. The struggle is so that it will stop being so surprising when a black person does something extraordinary. And this is important; it’s the only way we can grow as a community.

Further honesty is also required, that we also begin to fight the impression that it is the black person’s default mode to do things wrong. And the best way to fight this impression is from the inside; from our own sitting rooms and kindergartens and schools. We need to learn to tell ourselves the the hard truths, the ones no one else can tell us.

We must learn to teach ourselves to speak up when other black kids are doing wrong. We need to know, that if we continue to let that ‘yahoo-boy’ next door carry on his nasty activities without reproach, then we are setting the stage for the airport official to call us into a small side room and request that we pull down our pants.

The mess, is quite literally in our sitting room, what are we going to do? Clean it up, or keep whining.

Yours faithfully,

Fellow black millennial.

Omeghie Okoyomoh
Omeghie Okoyomoh
Omeghie Okoyomoh is a graduate of Communication and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan. She is a seasoned public speaker with Media experience and an advocate for women's rights. Omeghie is an editor and contributor with TheTransverse.

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