Aside

The issue of the African citizenship

Dear Friends,

Life has shown me that my fate is within my hands and the pathway I choose to take. I hope you are doing well and you will keep on working hard without cease in order to achieve your vital goals and spread good vibes around you.

Well, today I would like to talk about something common to other people of African origins in wealthier countries: citizenship and what it implies.

As you may think, I hold an African citizenship – the one my father passed to me. Since I have lived in Spain for much more than 10 years, I could (and can) change my original citizenship to get the Spanish one. This is not mandatory, of course. Until now, I‘ve been living as a permanent resident here. Anyway, this means that I have almost all the rights with very few exceptions.

But not small exceptions: As a student, I had the same rights of movement, scholarships, grading, living, etc., but as a professional, there is a clear positive discrimination on the behalf of European citizens. For example, last year, in order to improve my language skill and have some time to think about my professional career, I wanted to apply for a year-long Teaching Assistantship abroad, but was not entitled to due to my nationality. Also, I cannot vote, be a teacher in a state-owned/funded school, work for the Administrative apparatus, nor other publicly ruled institutions here or in the EU. I can only work for private companies, and only those that do not require a Spanish passport for international jobs. So, yes, this is serious. Of course I can also work as a freelance professional, certainly.

To be fair, I do not blame the Spanish authorities here, they are simply protecting their interests. I do not feel completely discriminated against, as I can change my nationality and have full access to all these things if I want.

However, the truth is that I was okay this way. Being an African citizen and holding a long term residency in Europe was quite right for me. It reflects both parts of me, and also, I don’t feel completely Spanish, or only African. Dual citizenship would be perfect, but none of my tree prospective countries would provides this, for now. And, some people would say that I just want to accumulate everything, and they may be right. But I think that it will ease some realities that will increase more and more as Africans move and the world moves.

Moreover, I have the feeling that if I leave my current citizenship for a European one, I will be rejecting part of myself. For many people it is not a big deal, though. It’s a practical matter. I disagree. It‘s much more than a practical process. iT has important political implications as weel. On both sides. Spanish citizenship would offer me free access to a whole continent’s labor market, yes. But, yet I will still be African, and black. And I outline this because I am aware that race is still an issue in Europe and worldwide. 

And also, I really care about my continent of birth. I was born there and have my people there. If I was sure that I would have a normal job there, I would go. I mean, we all know that life can be hard there, I see people leaving each year. But I don’t really see immigration as a solution. Only in few cases. Tourism is something completely different.

But, who will remain there to make it a better place if we all abandon? Who will respect us abroad, if we leave our original land in the world in the hands of many corrupt politicians and there acquaintances? What kind of message will we send to our children and grandshildren? 

I support freedom of movement, but there is not such a freedom when people have to emigrate for economic and political reasons. The feeling of being a third class citizen in a foreign country is not comfortable for anybody, and this is how many African migrants may feel today. I feel like renouncing to the nationality life gave to me is like abandoning my duty to contribute to the continent. And this may be innocent, as it sounds like I think of myself as a savior, but I really think that we should all contribute to stop this tragedy that keeps stealing innocent lives of our people along the borders.

Our future is in our hands and hearts. History teaches us that we can change our circumstances and soften our burdens; we should learn from others and apply.

This being said, it is also true that African citizen do not give me many advantages now.  With my current nationality I can’t go to more than 20 countries over the world.  I need visas even to visit other African countries (another proof of useless leaders). Also, If I go back home, I would restart as if I were a foreigner and deal with the whole political system that makes me sick. Honestly. I can’t stand knowing that my representatives are selling the country to fill their pockets and saving the profits in foreign banks while people are suffering to get basic needs covered. And you may say that corruption is everywhere… yes, but the kind of corruption I saw last time I went back home was a daily and normalized thing, present in every aspect of daily life.

Another reason is that Spanish civil servant is very powerful and they apply pressure in order to decrease competition on the labor market. It’s logical, in a certain way.

For example, Spain is currently in need of well- qualified English teachers, but they prefer to hire national people with an ‘Intermediate level’ rather than native ones, because civil servants would and do actually complain, as they did last in year in Madrid. I understand that people want to work, but do we have to sacrifice education quality for this? How is this country going to improve? There should be another way. It seems like everything needs to be subsidized by the state. This protectionism applies to many other economic fields.

I don’t really know what to do. And also, being a homosexual doesn’t help to imagine a good future in Africa. I have read some terrible news about this for years. Sometimes I just believe that life was so generous to me by putting me ‘in safety’ in a country where this is a not a curse or a crime. But, again, how can I blame anybody if I don’t fight for the things I believe. How can we really change something from outside? Wouldn’t they say we are ‘Un-Africans’? That we want to apply Western standards in Africa?

Honestly, I don’t want to impose western laws anywhere, I know this is a cultural view that needs time to change or not. External pressure does not really help on this. The only think I need is a neutral place where I don’t feel like a ‘criminal’ only on the grounds of my inner thoughts and personality.  I believe and know that I did not choose to be black or gay or straight. I don’t think I should be applauded for this, but nor do I think I should be judged as a criminal and ‘un-natural’ sinner. Nature cannot create unnatural beings. As I see, If God had wanted me otherwise, I would have created me otherwise. Well, even this is only another aspect to be taken into account. I dream bigger.

I just want the opportunity to contribute to change things for the better. Even if this means I have to sacrifice personal interests for a while. History is made on sacrifices and struggles. And we Africans are raised on the importance of the collective achievements. As a philosopher said, I am because we are.

To cut a long story short, I guess I hesitate to give up because I did not choose to move out, I was moved by my parents. And we cannot really renounce to something we never had, can we? I may need that opportunity to experience what I renounce, or not.

What would you do if you were in my shoes?

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6 thoughts on “The issue of the African citizenship

  1. Interesting read for me because I live and work in Botswana, and am from Zimbabwe and always think that my family and I will be better off in Europe. Better education and more equal opportunies. But we face the same kind of problems from fellow Africa countries.

    • Hi Tineyi,

      I’m sorry for taking so long to reply your comment. wau, I’m happy to see that my words can arrive so far as Zimbabwe! The true is that I have only met one person from Zimbabwe, and never met a ‘Botswanian’? Great and welcome to this personal blog.
      Concerning your comment, it is certainly true that you may have better education in Europe and even better opportunities than an average African without social key connections, but I am afraid equal opportunities are possible for few people or in contexts where bias is not allowed. And since the private sector can hire who they want with no explanations, there is such a thing as equal opportunities-and even in some public sector-. Of course, this does not mean that it’s not possible, it’s just a matter of being aware of your good points and design a strategy to get your goals. Looking at the right people and places to overcome prejudice. I have seen and met many diasporan people working in good positions in the UK or in France, countries with huge amounts of African diaspora, even 3rd and 4th generations, thus more Europeans than Africans.

      Concerning documentation problems, yeah, we face same problems. It’s particularly a pity in our cuntries in Africa. I know that integration is a serious matter and need thoughtfull measures, but we must press on the leaders to do something great that does not actually need money to be done. Poverty is not an excurse, especially in regional areas where people are basically the some beyong the frontiers set by Europeans.

      This being said, have a good day and thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hey there,
    I really enjoyed your blog. I am an African MBA student in Barcelona and I would love to meet more Africans and black people. I keep feeling that there’s a community of black professionals in this city that I just need to find. So if you are up for coffee or something, please send me an email. I’d be really grateful.

    • Hi there,

      I am happy that you stopped by my blog and glad that you liked it. Unfortunately, I am not even near Barcelona. It would be great meeting other African students here, I already met few at my University and it’s a growing phenomenon. Of course there should be that black professionals’ community, especially in Barcelona. You will certainly find them at Campus or at American companies.

  3. Hello there!
    I’m a Spanish teacher in North Carolina and I’d like to use some of your writings for a cultural analysis in my class. I wanted to first ask you if that was alright.
    We’re looking to see how the black experience can be vastly different and yet similar in other countries. We’ll look for affects of history, geographic location, economic situation, etc. Honestly, they’ll only pick up on a fraction of it, haha! But I want to give them a chance to dig into someone else’s point of view and try to imagine what it’s different. In my experience, especially teaching in the South, students aren’t aware of what race issues look like outside of the US.

    Anyhow, I’d like to know if that is all alright with you.
    If you’d like to be included at all, I can send you their responses?

    Thank you,
    Mercedes

    • Hola, Mercedes:

      Gracias por pasarte por aquí. Por mí puedes usar lo que consideres oportuno, es de dominio público aunque no lo haya dicho explícitamente. Gracias por la amabilidad de preguntar, otros lo habrían copiado y usado sin más miramientos Me parece interesante el tema de tu clase
      A través de este blog o en Madrid mismo, he conocido a varios afroamericanos (me sigue pareciendo un eufemismo innecesario este término por excluyente, pero en fin), y creo que su visión de los temas raciales es diferente. Los negros de España que he conocido le dan menos importancia al tema racial y al uso ‘sensible’ del lenguaje, pues se trata de una inmigración relativamente reciente y se siente más extranjera. No conozco terceras generaciones, como mucho segundas, como yo mismo, que nos sentimos entre dos aguas.
      Otra razón es el uso del lenguaje tan directo y ‘genuino’ que hace la población en general, aunque queden trazos históricos en expresiones como ‘negrito/morenito’. Yo creo que antes se nadaba entre el paternalismo del ‘pobrecito-mío’ y el mito sexualizado del negro cubano, mientras que ahora es una mezcla de la mitificación sexual y el rechazo más tajante por racismo o por miedo instigado por los medios de comunicación y/o políticos. Pero bueno, ahí os dejo mi opinión. Un saludo de un profesor en potencia, desde Madrid.

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