Blame It On Me

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I just saw the recent disheartening video footage of Matthew Ajibade, the Nigerian student who died mysteriously in police custody in the United States earlier in the year, being shocked by police officers while handcuffed to a restraining chair and writhing in pain.

Ajibade, who was only 21 years old at the time of his death, was found dead in jail in the US on New Year’s day. He had been arrested the previous day after his girlfriend put a distress call to 911 for an ambulance following an episode of his bipolar disorder which made him strike her. The police showed up instead and arrested Ajibade despite the girlfriend making it clear he needed medical attention.

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This has become a norm in the United States where young innocent harmless black men are more likely to be gunned down by the police than they would a white. Their only crime is being black. Black people are generally presumed to be dangerous, a threat and always guilty until proven innocent. According to promoters of the Black Lives Matter movement, a black man, woman, or child is murdered by police or vigilante law enforcement every twenty-eight hours.

In light of the recent extrajudicial killings of black people, I reaffirm my stance as an unapologetic Black man and throw my weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement. However, I hate the fact that black people blame everything wrong in their lives on racism.

Black music artistes are often quick to cite/blame racism for their failure to get nominations or win music awards. If American actor Leonardo DiCaprio was black, maybe he’d have taken the same route and blamed his failure to win an Oscar, despite mesmeric performances in a number of movies, on his race. Or the likes of Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Steven Nash and Dirk Nowitski would have pinned Michael Jordan’s recognition as the greatest basketballer of all time on race.

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I do not know if blaming everything on racism makes some of my black brothers and sisters feel better about themselves but it is about time we took some of the blame for some of the things happening to us. There’s a saying that “no one can make you inferior without your consent.” Magnifying our self-esteem issues by seeking sympathy from the world for being black will give others the power to use us as pawns.

I do not seek sympathy from anyone for being black. Being black is not a plague/curse. Back in Nigeria, being black is becoming a bad thing too. It requires painstaking effort to discern a Nigerian from the crowd these days. We have adopted foreign accents and sound more American and British than the Americans and British people themselves.

You are automatically proclaimed intelligent once you speak well with a foreign accent. Perhaps that’s why it has become a “taboo” for anyone, especially those going into media or entertainment industry, to have a Nigerian accent. Listen to the radio and TV stations now, and you ask yourself “why the struggle to sound white?”

The same Nigerian accent we deride was recently ranked 6th sexiest accent by CNN, higher than the the American accent and a spot below the Queens English accent. However, have you ever seen whites  “killing” themselves to have a Nigerian accent? The essence of language is to communicate but it is also an integral part of a people’s culture. It is one of the things that sets one apart.

Accents define us and grant others information about our lives – where we are from, our history and identity as a people/ race. Our accents depict the richness of our cultural heritage and diversity. You don’t need need a foreign accent to have a high self-esteem rather forcing a foreign accent enhances your inferiority complex.

You are a representative of the Black Community; stop making our kids feel being Black and having a Nigerian accent is a bad thing. So instead of blurting out “Don’t Blame it on me” like John Newman, take the blame today like George Ezra and be proud of who you are. Be made of black!

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Mental Health: A Need For Awareness

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Mental health problems are on meteoric rise across the globe. I read an interesting article which identified mental health disorders as the fifth leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Interestingly, Nigeria, along with China, North Korea and Japan were the four countries mentioned to have low burden of death and disease from mental disorders.

This could be due to the fact that the average Nigerian mind races to madness (psychosis) probably inflicted on a person by haters from his or her village, when mental health is mentioned. Many fail to realise that alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, sleep issues, emotions such as anxiety and depression, levels of stress, self-harming and suicide are all linked to mental health.

As a result, very few Nigerians pay attention to their mental health. Judging with what is happening right now, one can predict that mental health issues of Nigerians, especially the youths will skyrocket in the next five to ten years. And this should be seen as a major public health concern.

Before you start critiquing this; I am yet to research on this so I have no raw data to back my claims hence this is just an opinion, observation or assertion.

Nigerian youths are faced with numerous problems in our country today. From joblessness (unemployment) through relationship/marriage problems to alcohol and drug abuse etc. And these can do serious damage to one’s mental health.

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First, parents put a lot of pressure on their kids to study and become a doctor, engineer or lawyer. Many may lack the abilities and capabilities required to reach the educational goals set by the parents and in the end, become stressed, anxious and depressed or may resort to drug abuse/alcoholism to take the pain away.

Then, if one scales through these hurdles and graduates, one enthusiastically applies for numerous jobs as many believe their job defines them and earns them respect. If unsuccessful after a long search, one may lose confidence and self-esteem.

Unemployment can take a huge toll on a fresh graduate’s pysche. The stages of unemployment are initial shock, depression and finally adjustment. Depression may cause them to isolate themselves from friends and family.

Next, the never-ending pressure on a young Nigerian lady, from family and society, to marry and have a family. Although many claim unfazed, being single may increase the risk of developing mental health problems in adulthood.

Nevertheless, ending a relationship/marriage through separation, divorce or death may also cause an increased risk of mental health disorders. Relationships are hard-work and often drains one’s emotional energy. People may be happier whilst married or in relationship but the effects on mental health once separated by death or divorce may be far worse than being single.

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It is never easy when a relationship/marriage ends. The breakup can trigger negative emotions, such as sadness, hate, disappointment and depression, which one may never recover from. The more break-ups one has, the more his/her mental health  progressively deteriorates.

Emergence of social media hasn’t helped either; it has increased comparison, cyber-bullying, restlessness, glamorization of sex, drugs and alcohol use and crowd mentality amongst the youths to appear cool. People put more pressure on themselves when they see achievements of others thereby elevating their stress levels, anxiety and depression. If they feel they are falling behind, they may make matters worse by turning to drugs or alcohol.

Mental health issues can prevent one from living his/her dream, starting a family or becoming useful to his nation. And this should be treated as a serious health scare. Mental health awareness should be made to safeguard emotional wellbeing of Nigerian youths.

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