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?

The syndrome of Martin Trayvon or how to feel self-dangerous for other.

I have recently observed  with outrage the tragic story of Trayvon Martin, a teenager of 17 killed by a volunteer security guard in the US. The teenager happened to be black American or African-American (I don’t really see the importance to call people Africans only because they inherited some of their forefathers features, that is, being black.); and the killer, Zimmerman, happened to be mixed race latino and white or European American (same applies for this term). According to what I read – and I read a lot, believe me— the security guard found Martin to be suspicious because of his black skin colour, his wandering pace around the rich area and the, above all, because of his hood over his head. So, he called the police. They told him to stay on his feet and wait for them to come. But, no. He decided that it was his job to be a heroe policeman and followed the young man. After all, he had a lethal weapon. He carried a gun with him. They ended up fighting and Martin was shot dead. And of course, Zimmerman stated self-defense. We all know which was the verdict. Sad. And no black member in the jury, speechless.

 

However, aside this terrible story, I have drawn a few conclusions.

 

1)    The Black struggle for total equality is not even near to end in the USA. The fight from slavery to nowadays legal equality is something I think I will never understand completely. We sometimes may think that we, as black people in the world, understand each other and can feel what our fellows have being through. I already feel sad when I remember that my African forefathers were colonised, killed and suffered genocide in their  homeland by foreign intruders , while millions of their children were taken as slaves to the Americas. I can even imagined how I would feel if I knew my granddad was seen as a underhuman not even a century ego, in the country I live in. We are asked to forgive, to forget about the past and to be almost saints in our daily behaviour.

 

2)   I have heard and seen documentaries about the huge amount of black Americans that live in US prisons. I once heard that almost half black population in this country spend some time of their existence in jail. This made me cry, I confess. The documentary, on Al Jazheera was about racial bias in Justice application. My flat-mate, who is a white American, told me that the reason was poverty. If you have no money, you cannot pay a proper lawyer to stand for you. This a anti-human neoliberal system. At the end of the day, people die because they have no money to pay a Health insurance, they do not get higher education for the same reason. They stay at home and go to jail for the same reason. In this sense, here in Europe, the Welfare state is more universal.

 

3) Referring to money. I live in a northern city in Spain where I meet a lot of American students who take summer courses of Spanish at local University. I rarely see black Americans. Actually, I can only remember 3 black girls this summer. And believe me, I work in a very visited shop, where I basically attend foreign customers because I can communicate with them.

 

4) Last but not least, the president Obama’ speech was really striking for me. As it refered to that daily subtle and long track discrimination that many black people endure. He said he had also felt observed while entering to a supermarket, while walking along the streets and so on and so forth. The permanent feeling of being regarded as a criminal on the only basis of your look. Yes, I also feel this at times.

 

5) I read the story of an African American comedian talking about the moment in which he shares an elevator with a white woman and feels in the need to make her feel safe. The need to prove that he is not a dangerous threat. Yes, It’s a long story that seems not have an end.

 

And dear readers, what saddens me more about this is that some people backed and endorsed Zimmerman right to see danger in a black teenager walking through his neighbour. Because, statistics show that…

But I’m happy that the Obama dared to raised that subtle and terrible discrimination toward black people in the US to public. Bu as I said, many people won’t never understand it if they don’t suffer it in their bones. Empathy has limits. The same, I am afraid, I won’t ever fully understand how my fellow black Americans feels about their situation in their country. But know that you have all my profound support from Spain. Life is done to be enjoyed. Let’s do it fully no matters what they feel about us.

 

I know it’s hard to believe you can be more than a prospective criminal when you are told, by many kinds of nuanced messages, that you are and you have no choice. For this we need to be stronger than the majority, at the beginning it seems that it is to prove something, but at the end, it’s a question of surviving a having our future in our hands (and our pockets).