Ahh the “accent advisers”. I have to write about the Accent advisers. The numerous men that would tell me “babe don’t speak like that, it’s not cool, speak in your English accent”, whenever I would speak in my Nigerian accent or speak pidgin English whilst in NIGERIA. Imagine that. I was in Nigeria trying to find myself and embrace my culture yet still dealing with White supremacist indoctrination from fellow Nigerians. I would always counter it and say “what a shame you reason like that, I love my accent”.
These men were all Nigerian men- yet they hated the sound of their own accents. It is men, once again being repulsed by women who are the same as them. Just like if a woman doesn’t shave her armpits or leg hairs, she is disgusting, yet they themselves don’t shave their armpits or leg hairs.Men are accepted as attractive in their natural normal state but women are not. We must always be altering our natural appearance to be deemed acceptable .
Or those men who will sleep with a woman they claim is a ‘hoe’ but not see how that makes them damaged, this ‘hoe’ is laying with you because she likes you- you in your right senses are laying with her because you think she’s a ‘hoe’. But you want her to feel bad about your lack of self worth and your confliction with yourself? Or those men who find women with darker skin tones and/or natural hair unattractive- yet they themselves are this skin colour and have the same hair texture. It is like blackness or black features are only acceptable on black men- not black women.
These accent advisers, would tell me that speaking in my accent, the one I grew up in, wasn’t befitting. Clearly to them, I had to sound European to be seen as worthy, ‘creme of the crop’. The Nigerian accent ‘lessened’ my worth. Yet they spoke in this same accent. This was an obvious lack of self love to me, but they couldn’t see it. When I would counter it, they would switch off and maintain their stance. I stopped being angry at them, instead I pitied them. They were victims of indoctrination and didn’t even know it. One of the saddest parts is, this is how the complex gets passed around from person to person. If my mind wasn’t the way it was, their words would have sunk deep in my psyche, destroyed my self worth and pride in that area and I would now go on to destroy others self worth in that area, believing it was the way to be.
To be honest the accent charade started very young. When I got to London at age 7, from Lagos, the quest to remove my African accent started- my siblings and I were told to “speak in accent”, meaning speak with a British accent, by our parents. Being able to put on the best British accent was something to be proud of. And then being teased endlessly by both white and black kids because of this accent added to our haste to want to eradicate it. I remember my oldest brother going on a school trip in primary school, to the Isle of Wight for a week and when he came back one of the first questions I asked was, “how did you cope speaking with An English accent for the whole week?!”. At this stage we would attempt to speak in an English accent when we were out of the house but in the house, still always speak in our Nigerian Accents. I’m sure many African and Caribbean children growing up in the UK at that time can recall especially those of us that weren’t born here.
I recall one of my uncles, he was married to a mixed race lady, whose mum was Scottish so she naturally had an ‘acceptable accent’. He called one day and I picked up the house phone in my Nigerian accent as I thought it was my dad. He said, it’s uncle so and so. And then he remarked “wow I didn’t know you still had that accent”. That was his focus. There was an amused tone in his voice. 9 year old me was devastated. One, he had figured out my secret that I didn’t have a true British accent- and two, I felt useless for not being able to assimilate quicker-like his kids who all had British accents. This feeling of having to hide self and not being good enough, unless we assimilate to western culture Is something that black people deal with from a very young age- from the minute we can comprehend. We also were not taught to speak our mother tongue because our parents generation saw it as “not prestige enough”. Your kids were “classier” without it.
Ironically the older I got, I held on fiercely to my culture. I had had enough of them telling me it wasn’t good enough. I took pride in my Nigerian accent, I took pride in my Nigerian nose and lips , I took pride in my Nigerian name, I took pride in my Nigerian foods, I became more and more conscious of derogatory jokes made at our expense. Although decades of being in England eventually caused my Nigerian accent to fade, it is nowhere near as strong as it used to be and Nigerians laughs at my attempts of a Nigerian accent and Pidgin English now lol. It is a shame though that my heritage has been diluted in this way, nearly stripped from me- my tongue. But I am grateful for the ability to understand past the iron cloaks they have put over our minds and seek true self.
In the UK I hear Black people use the term “Freshie” a lot, a “Freshie” is someone who has come fresh from the motherland or the Caribbean islands. They use it as a derogatory term, they laugh at anybody who sounds like they have an African accent. They see coming from the motherland as a thing to be embarrassed about. The accent a joke, unworthy. Do you understand the level of damage that is? To hear your mother tongue, your accent, your root and LAUGH at it? Mock it? Think it is not good enough? Because it does not sound the way white people sound? To constantly use another people’s culture that is not yours, that came AFTER yours, as the paradigm of life? You notice that white people NEVER try to assimilate and learn our tongues or accents. They instead force their ways on everyone else.
Dr. Bobby Wright was an African American Clinical psychologist who wrote about the effects of Europeanising our minds. In one of his famous articles, “Mentacide: The Ultimate Threat To The Black Race.”, He defines “Mentacide,” as,
“the deliberate and systematic destruction of a person’s or group’s mind [which] may give a clue to why the Black race, after developing such an advanced civilization, has for the last 400 years been assisting in it own destruction and the nearly total subjugation of Africa by foreign invaders.”
Moving back to Nigeria after my undergrad, I could see the extent of Mentacide had not only affected black people in the diaspora it had also infiltrated the Motherland, in a deeper way. I look back and think of all the various things-anti blackness,anti African-ness I saw/see within our people in ways they may not even be aware of, it truly broke my heart. It was a huge catalyst to my “awakening”. I could see the full effect of Mentacide in action.
The constant mention of my skin colour, the comparison to darker skin in a derogatory manner. I have lost count of how many times I had to lecture a young girl that said something derogatory about her darker skin tone in comparison to my lighter skin tone. How many times I have said do you know what melanin is? And they respond No. The way the white man has to be everybody’s CEO or MD to make the company look prestige. The insane luxury treatment they are given when here. The prioritisation of them over our own, constantly over and over. The exaltation of ambiguous looking foreign women, the utilisation of them to sell everything and anything. That having light skin or white skin or knowing people with white and light skin meant wealth, luxury, class. The troughs and troughs of bleaching creams that people use despite the disastrous health risks, all in a bid to look closer to white. “Everything foreign” is a term I heard a lot like it was something to be proud of. Like anything “local” was not good enough. Infact the term “local” was used and is still used as an insult by many.
You can be well travelled but still understand the true beauty of your own. You can appreciate the worlds beauty, the beauty of other cultures, nations and people, but do not forget and dismiss the beauty of your own. Everyone else sees the power your land and culture possesses, that is why they try to rob you off it continuously. They tell you that it is worthless whilst simultaneously attempting to bleed the continent dry.
Please have pride in your culture, your ways and your people. Seek to be better for yourselves- seek to be better Africans not Europeans. Stop comparing yourselves to the West and to White people in general. The Goal is to be the best version of OURSELVES. Not the best imitations- not which Africans can emulate European culture/mindset the best- that is a result of mentacide. You are African- always remember that. Speak with your African Accent with PRIDE. The complexity of our African languages is one that attest to our greatness and power. Do not let them shame you out of it’s beauty. Whichever accent you speak with, speak it with PRIDE. Understand your greatness. Stop seeking to be like others and do not let others tell you that your heritage is unworthy.
Do not spend your life trying to be what you are not. Do not spend your life hating the things that make you unique and magnificent. Everyday I am grateful that I was able to see eventually, despite the constant attempt to suppress and “de- Africanise” at every given opportunity. Please do not spend you life hating yourself and your origins. There is so much beauty in YOU, your land, your accent and your heritage. Embrace it and all it’s abundance. It is your secret weapon. #unravelyoursoul