Reverse (Aspirational) Oppression: Woes of the Conventional

Note: If my phrasing and diction make you think I’m self-righteous, I apologize ahead of time.

It almost feels like right now, my whole life is centred around lexivism, and around fighting for myself and others’ rights to pursue lifestyles within the arts and entertainment industries. It’s in my blog posts, my tweets, my stories, my Facebook updates…And it only just hit me today (I’m writing this on 19th Feb 2016) that the people who have aspirations that merit the approval of those I am fighting against, could feel oppressed.

It was a strange idea to me when I began to think about it. Like, how can you be feeling oppressed when I’m the oppressed one? Everyone loves your decision! Why are you oppressed? Until I came to the conclusion that it’s me. They feel oppressed by people like me, of course! Who else fights so vehemently against the idea of becoming what they want to be?

Let me describe the incidents that incited this writing properly:

A few days ago, I posed a question on my social media, asking why all the new entrepreneurial ventures and shops in town seemed to be run by foreigners. Answering my own question, I said it was because the Ghanaians were too busy being doctors, lawyers and engineers. Of course, I was being exaggerative and satirical and classically Akotowaa. But I was still vaguely upset when a Facebook friend (who was African, but incidentally not Ghanaian) passionately expressed his concurrence, mentioning a classmate whose aspiration is to be a lawyer, and describing her as “what was wrong with Africa” or something like that. My response to his comment was that he should leave her to follow her dreams; that we need lawyers too, of course.

Now today, during school, my class had interactive sessions with a few alumni, and one of my classmates (who seems to be unable to hold himself back whenever there’s a microphone and an opportunity to speak into one. LOL, if you’re reading this, you know who you are.) asked the panel of alumni how to deal with the discouragement from others when one wants to pursue the creative arts. (Sounds like a legit question, but I’m really tired of it. I think its askers usually have their own answer that works for them and don’t need anyone else’s response. My answer is to start a project like Dead By 27, and embrace the hate by turning that too into sarcastic art.)

Nearly directly after his question, the classmate that had been referred to in my comment posed a question to the alumni which would have probably sounded like a legitimate inquiry to me – if it didn’t sound so much like a deliberate retaliation/ counter-attack in my head. She asked how to deal with the pressure of people reacting to people like her “conventional” aspirations like they were too mainstream and telling her things like how she was only in it to please/ be like parents, or get money or whatever. I found myself wanting to yell, “We are the minority! The people who aren’t applauding and fawning over you for your sensible and practical dream are the MINORITY! What pressure are you talking about? Try having 90% of the people around you shooting you down every day, including your own parents!”

But I didn’t say all this stuff at the end. At least I held myself back after I angrily whisper-shouted the very first question, and acted like it never happened. (Except that I wrote it all down. Right now. In the previous paragraph.) And I didn’t not say it just because I do in fact respect her dream – and any doctor’s dream or engineer’s dream. I also didn’t say it because I conceded that it was possible to feel oppressed, pressurized and threatened by a minority. Why? Because sometimes our loudness can make us look way more present and threatening and numerous than we actually are.

The thing about us is that we are louder and more aggressive because we have been harbouring years of frustration and pent-up anger. So much comes out of us because it feels like people aren’t listening. So we have to be louder. Also, it’s difficult to quit complaining when the system ain’t changing. Ask Black people in America.

So I see why with loud and angry people like me around, the apparent “conventional” would feel oppressed, even if they are the approved spawn of the original oppressors. And it works this way with lots of prejudicial systems in the world, as far as I can tell.

What Facebook Commenter Dude said on my status was uncalled for, I believe. That is where we must draw the line. We can’t start to undermine other simply because they are lifted up by the people who undermine us. At the same time, we simply cannot give up the fight to rewire the society to make them finally SEE US.


#Randomosity: Three random things that happened yesterday

1. I was at Sandton City, right, and I was checking out some clothes at JayJays. Then one of the employees came and asked if I could move aside so he could go into the store room. And he had these short dreadlocks. And when he looked at me, he saw my hair and he was all like, “Oooh, I like your hair!” in his South African accent, and I smiled and said thank you, but in my head I was like, “Haha, of course you would, you’re a rastafarian!” (Background information: I have natural twists.)

2. Just when I thought that since I was travelling within Africa for the first time, I wouldn’t have to go through all the people who obsessed over my skin colour or my accent or whatever and constantly asked where I’m from… For the most part, I was right, but this one guy who worked at Typo just surprised me, my cousin and her friend, when he asked “Oooh, so you’re from Ghana!?” He must have heard us talking about school, because we were talking about my cousin moving to Ghana and going to HGIC. And yeah, he happened to be an African language fanatic and wouldn’t let us chill until we’d taught him how to say ‘good morning’ in Twi and a Western Ugandan language whose name I have forgotten (my cousin’s friend was Ugandan). So. That was a funny episode.

3. As we were leaving Sandton City, we saw this woman who SHOULD HAVE been a fashion disaster, but wasn’t…at least not completely. Her ensemble was CRAZY, though. She wore a t-shirt with a denim jacket over it, and an ankle-length green african-print skirt, AND a pair of red Converse All-Stars. How crazy can you freaking get?! If I tried to dress like that, my mother would probably put me under house arrest and make me watch the Style Network or something. I’m kidding. Except for the house arrest part.