This is a guest post by Angel Evans.
After multiple surgeries, my dad now walks with a limp. When he visited me in New York and we toured the city together last summer, I was reminded of his ageing every time I stopped to match his pace or slowly walk by his side. It has been hard for me to accept dad’s current image: struggling along in a knee brace, weighing less than 190 pounds. I have nostalgia of how dad used to be, how easily he could carry my brother and me in his arms, or walk with both of us wrapped around each of his legs.
What if his knee never heals? Will he walk with a limp forever? Will he always move slowly and be in pain? I still cannot answer these questions, but it’s comforting to know that my father’s hardships are moments in time and not the definitive marks of his existence.
Last Father’s Day, I gushed to dad how proud I was of him; noting his strength, courage, and perseverance. I wanted to boost his ego in order to convince myself that he does not walk with a limp or appear visibly weaker. In flattering my dad, actually I wanted to hide my shame, that part of me which relies on him to feel strong.
Because I now realise that dad does not need me to help maintain his pride. He is already secure in himself. He doesn’t need my ego-boost, he just needs my unwavering acceptance.
My father’s condition reminds me of Africa at large.
Hear me out: in the same way that I’ve had to accept my dad’s ageing, I realise that Africans have to come to terms with Africa’s imperfections. I’m thinking particularly of the ways in which women and girls are treated in African societies, the violence against women, FGM, child marriages, and polygamy.
As I learned with my father, idealisation disconnects us from reality. Choosing to ignore issues that make us uncomfortable is damaging. Acceptance breeds solutions.
If more black thinkers abandoned their romantic perceptions of Africa, a better understanding of male dominance could result, allowing for a more effective dismantling of such issues in communities of Africa and the Diaspora. Instead of attributing the mistreatment of African women throughout the world solely on “the white man”, slavery and colonialism, I’d like to see more sisters and brothers assume cultural centrality (pdf), which is 1) an emphasis on ourselves as the key determiners of our lives rather than outsiders and 2) claiming responsibility for our actions.
Can we discuss gender inequality in Africa & Diaspora without pride, denial, and comparisons to a romanticized African past and present?
Can we broaden our perceptions of Africa to include a critical feminist analysis, despite the claim that feminism is not African nor are patriarchy and male dominance?
Let me know what you think.
A diaspora child, Black feminist/liberationist, and travelista, Angel Evans is currently finishing her senior year at Miami University of Ohio. She loves finding new places, learning about her people, and lately, listening to jazz. If you have any thoughts or ideas that you would like to share with Angel about travel, freedom, Blackness, and other cool things, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @LaAngelEvans.—