I don’t know what it is to be Black in America, like some people have experienced. I don’t even know what it means to be a woman in a predominantly male career, to the extent that others have experienced.
But I know what it means to be the other.
I know what it means to be dating a White guy, and Black guys on the street jump in front of the two of you walking and ask you if you want a real man instead, or people run out of their houses to watch the two of you walking down the street together.
I know what it means to date a Ghanian as a Nigerian, and listen to his group of friends laughing without reserve as they recite every insulting Nigerian joke they can think of, or people telling you that they are not interested in a serious relationship, because they have long decided that they would marry a Cameroonian, and you – no matter how wonderful you are – are not Cameroonian.
I know what it means to be told that you are not the ideal candidate for marriage because you – no matter how wonderful you are – are not a Yoruba-Nigerian.
I know what it means to be told that although the two of us are from the same Edo state in Nigeria, you are from the Akoko Edo tribe, and I am from the Benin Tribe, therefore it wouldn’t work between us.
I know what it’s like to be the other… from the largest group to the smallest group.
Perhaps our problem is not racism, or tribalism, or sexism, or agism. Perhaps our problem is Otherism. Perhaps we have fallen for the fallacy that anything different from us, is the Other, and hence dangerous. Perhaps we have fallen for the other fallacy that anything similar to us is same, and therefor safe.
We created this shortcut in our brain many years ago, but time and time again, we have found it to be wrong, but yet we continue.
I hope you will never be a victim of otherism, but even as I write this, I’m sure you will.