• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Racism: Nigerian students abroad share experience

Why Nigerian students excel in foreign schools despite hurdles

Nigerian students abroad have had to endure racism, hostilities, and in some cases, murder, in their quest to acquire knowledge in different fields of study.

But this has not diminished their zeal, as more youths from Africa’s most populous country continue to seek visas to further their studies in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

Adaku Izunna (not real name), a master’s student in the US, who shared a voicenote with BusinessDay, lamented instances of racism against blacks.

“I have been to different stores like Walmart, Giant on different occasions. When they see you self-checking out stuff as a black person, you notice that they have somebody hovering around you and trying to make sure that you are not stealing stuff.

“They have some pre-thought notion that every black is there to steal and that’s very offensive,” she said.

Izunna frowned at the stereotype that black person steals. She said she hardly goes anywhere without having somebody look over her shoulders.

“You walk into a store, and if it is a white person that is attending to you, they are already afraid of you and they start acting like you are there to rob them or you are there to steal. And you can’t even get into some places because you are black,” he said.

Elizabeth Johnson (pseudo name), another master’s student in the US said as a black person, you will always be lowballed in salary.

“Most times when I fill my forms and they ask me to put my race, I always say that I prefer not to be identified.

Because of the way my name sounds, when I go for classes or job interviews, they say my name sounds white, and that they did not think I was going to be an African.

And that’s exactly what the plan was, “for you not to think that I am a black person and get you to have a good pre-thought notion of me so that when you talk to me as a person you would understand that I am not what you think I am,” she explained.

Speaking further, she said: “Yes, that’s what happens; that’s the experience every single day. People just belittle you. It is even worse for the black man. Like a black woman would at least get some preference for being a woman but it’s worse for a man.”

John Doe, not his real name, shared his experience with BusinessDay, reflecting on the racism he encountered while pursuing his master’s degree in China.

Despite overall positive experiences and encounters with friendly Chinese citizens who even offered to pay for his groceries, he still cited instances of racism.

“One incident involved a couple in a supermarket reacting negatively to me and my friends, despite our neat appearance.

Another distressing encounter occurred when a passer-by on the sidewalk referred to me as “黑人” (hēi rén, black man) and spat on the ground,” he said.

Doe also faced isolation on public transportation, where people avoided sitting next to him, and taxi drivers sped away from him simply for his colour.

“These incidents shed light on the complex and sometimes contradictory nature of racial experiences in different contexts within China,” he noted.

Another Nigerian, who gave his name as Olumide, narrated his experience thus, “While part of a six-person group in a course, with me being the only black, I noticed that despite being part of the team, my input was consistently overlooked.

The team would make decisions, submit assignments, and hold meetings without my knowledge. The only thing they will tell me is “We got you, Olu.”

“At the end, I received poor ratings and critical comments from my teammates. When I confronted them, they unjustly accused me of lack of interest in the coursework through my countenance,” he said.

To find a resolution, he said he had to approach the dean with his complaints.

“Unfortunately, the dean did not offer any apology, nor did he address the behaviour of my teammates.

“Instead, he suggested I should make more effort to attend team meetings. It was later I discovered that the dean is also a racist.”

Ife Ajayi, a legal practitioner who schooled both in Canada and the UK said there was not much racism in the former.

“I attended the University of Toronto, maybe because Canada is so much about diversity; it’s rare to hear people talk about racism.

Read also: “Going native” and the racism of low expectations

“The university I attended is so much against racism. But then when I came over to the UK, racism was very prevalent, maybe because it is predominantly white people,” she said.

She explained that in the UK, the kind of racism is like seeing whites clinching to their purses, and the blacks are forced to put their hands in their pockets so that they would not be suspected of having stolen something in places such as shopping malls.

“Being black, my friend and I went shopping, in the shop we noticed a white woman who was helping others pack their goods and threw ours on the floor when it got to our turn.

But in school, the lecturers didn’t exhibit any such attitude towards us. There wasn’t anything like racism on campus,” she noted.

Cecilia Umeh (pseudo name), who is furthering her studies in the UK, mentioned that she had not experienced anything extreme, except for one time when a group of boys threw raw eggs at her from the car while she was taking a stroll.