It is difficult to describe how I feel about being American and being in the USA. But I will try to do so below. (BTW, the grammar errors are part of the sentiment):
for me, it is often extremely uncomfortable being in the USA. i feel trapped like there is no way out. and being american is painful often--i mean, don't get me wrong, ThereAreAFewPerks, but mostly, it is: PROFANE, culturally corrosive, psychologically frightening, emotionally draining, and worst of all, it is spiritually unsettling. i have felt this way my entire life.
The USA is called an industrialized nation (first-world) country and a sYmBoL oF pEaCe. It is supposed to be safe here, but I hardly ever feel safe here. As I witness the gratuitous physical violence against the communities I belong to, I wonder if or when it will be my turn to suffer it directly.
But I don't feel this way elsewhere.
When I'm out in those "third-worlds" (especially in my home country of Nigeria), I feel safer. I literally feel my soul shift out of contortion...
Do I sound crazy yet?
Other people, even some other Black or African people I know, don't understand what I mean when I say this. Some say that they understand, but that they have not experienced it.
But always, I am asked one thing from these folks:
"You're not scared to be there?" Sometimes they embellish this question with a: "It is (or could be) dangerous."
I always scoff at such comments because I reject the racist stereotype that Africans (and Black people in general) are inherently more dangerous than others. I am pretty sure that the people who ask me such questions don't mean to project their internalized Afrophobia or anti-Blackness onto me, but I find it irritating nonetheless. Caution is cool and all, but:
I am an African. A Nigerian. An Edo tribal member.
I am one of them, and they are part of me.
Hell, I am an American.
Americans are scary too.
It's hard to explain why the Afrophobia that keeps others from returning to Africa in any salient capacity does not affect me similarly. But if I had to guess, I'd say it is because I actively devote a lot of my mind to rejecting the negative rhetoric about Africa. This alters my outlook on the continent. My personal experiences have also shaped my views. As a person who travels often, I have found that if respect is shown to others, things are okay. Generally, I have little to fear in non-western countries.
I didn't start to realize until recently (~5 years ago) that I have been searching for how to relieve the aforementioned stress I feel. And I didn't know that my love of community service would melt into this sentiment.
I began to think about what I could do to resolve it. Suddenly, I recalled what I'd learned about years ago: the the Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC). (https://www.nysc.gov.ng/)
After a quick google search, I found that I would still be young enough to participate when I completed my graduate program. I made it one of my service goals (alongside AmeriCorps and Peace Corps).
Then came the #endSARS and #endSWAT protest that started in Benin City and other major cities like Lagos. (They were inspired in part by the American BLM protests.) I watched in horror from the US what the Nigerian government did to the people:
The government's law enforcement straight up MURDERED protesters. They released convicted criminals into the street in response to a demand to release #endSARS protesters. The most horrendous part of it all was that it was the youth that the law enforcement slaughtered carelessly. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Did the politicians of Nigeria (who sanctioned the violence) think that they would live forever???
There are many external reasons that Nigeria's growth is stunted as a nation, but the DISGUSTING SELF-HATRED that politicians in Nigerian government displayed was...heart-breaking.
You know, Nigeria is a young country (~60 years old). Far younger than America. We have lots of potential and we have a lot to learn about governance. Protests could work in a country like Nigeria, (unlike America, whose culture has already evolved to neutralize its transformative power). For now, the Nigerian government has viscously quelled the protests, but I expect the Nigerian youth will try again in a few years.
In any case, the experimentation with fascism and media-supported gaslighting that I saw made me sick to my stomach. How could we have learned this code of conduct so well in so little time?
The brand of carnage looked American (400+ years old). It looked British (1000+ years old). It looked Chinese (5000+ years old).
As I hurt, I found something surprising within me:
Yes, seeing this side of the government soured my excitement to participate in the NYSC.
But somehow, it also hardened my resolve to participate. I felt compelled to protect the place that my spirit aligned in despite what I saw.
I don't know if it's hope or the potential of my country that draws me, but I still want to go.
Indeed, I haven't much to give, but I want to give something. Now more than ever, I want to give something.