Americanah is a novel that was written by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who spends a significant part of her life in the United States; therefore, she knows American everyday life properly, and in particular, the current situation and politics about racism. The example of this novel can examine the attitude of a given country towards intolerance and people of color. Adichie writes in her book that “Ifemelu wanted, suddenly and desperately, to be from the country of people who gave and not those who received, to be one of those who had and could, therefore, bask in the grace of having given, to be among those who could afford copious pity and empathy” (p. 209). Based on the above quote and primary theses of the novel, it is possible to analyze the attitude of a migrant woman towards discrimination and determine the role and position of transients from postcolonial Africa in the 21st century.
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Firstly, Ifemelu feels her belongs to the discriminated part of society. For example, a girl tries to get a job because she does not receive enough money from scholarships. Ifemelu cannot work legally and is looking for small part-time occupations such as nannies or waitresses. Unfortunately, the girl is not considered for these positions as employers prefer local workers or employees with different skin color. Thus the protagonist is disappointed in simulated freedom and equality promoted by American society. Even though most of the community is tolerant, the author mentions that there are still prejudices and beliefs that even the most sophisticated person cannot overcome. For example, Ifemelu is surprised by the attitude of people towards each other, since some of her friends say that people do not need to discriminate against each other, and they should just be humans. On the other hand, others claim that ignoring racism is a privilege of white people. Indeed, white people can disregard the problem of intolerance since it has never been an obstacle for them.
Therefore, in addition to disappointment in a seemingly tolerant culture, for the first time in her life, Ifemelu is sad and angry because of the existing injustice. Moreover, the girl realizes that she is different from other people since, at home, Infemelu did not encounter a bias due to skin color. As Adichie claims in her book, “I came from a country where the race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black, and I only became black when I came to America” (p. 359). Having experienced all these negative emotions and a lack of understanding of the situation in the state, Infemelu first tries to adapt to circumstances and attempts to act like a white person to get a job and a position in society.
When she realizes that such behavior devalues her nation and race, Infemelu begins the struggle for African American rights. However, the girl feels confused since she was not a descendant of those African Americans who survived slavery and deprivation. Infemelu decides to look at the circumstances from the side of the black non-American, as she does not agree with the actual judgment, but does not feel enough protest in herself to become an activist. Thus, the migrant woman realizes the depth with which local people of color perceive their discrimination, and even those situations that she would not consider racist, many people of her race recognize offensive. After all, Ifemelu is aware of the problem of bias and intolerance of people towards personalities with different features.
Furthermore, the protagonist feels the problem of sexism, but in a unique form aimed at women of color. Albert and Raja consider in their article that “black women and women of color living in the US are not exclusively affected by racism or exclusively by sexism, but by both forms of oppression at the same time” (p. 19). The girl discovers the represented kind of discrimination after a relationship with a rich white man who treated her like a strange little animal or as an accessory. Infemelu notes that such a position deprives a person of individuality and calls into question his identity. Moreover, if a girl tries to achieve individual successes, it is considered problematic to do it on her own, since most of the American community has an unusual attitude towards people of color, whether it be good intentions or aggressive oppression.
Despite the discrimination of most people of color, the novel notes that migrants from Africa have a slightly different position in society than African Americans. Firstly, among the same black representatives of the race, immigrants may feel like strangers. For example, people who arrived, unlike natives, were not descendants of slaves who had been subjected to terrible attitudes for a long time. Almost every local black person had someone in their family or someone they knew who experienced the horrors of slavery or discrimination after its abolition. Moreover, African Americans from childhood have been biased and learn to be prepared for any form of discrimination.
People from Africa believe that their skin color is average, which, of course, it is, and do not fully understand the level of danger and social insecurity. In this way, immigrants may face unexpected community reactions. As Onunkwo et al. assure in their research, “racial discrimination is a common phenomenon experienced by Nigerian immigrants abroad” (p. 39). Even though migrants feel like a separate part of the community of people of color, most white people do not distinguish between migrants and local African-Americans.
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Most of American society does not change its attitude towards people of color after recognizing their nationality. Dani and Latha consider in their paper that “no matter how much a NonAmerican Black might try to say that they are Jamaican or Ghanaian, not “black,” America will always consider them black” (p. 849). Thus, the author assures that despite the origin of a person, if he is from Jamaica or one of the African countries, America will always consider him black without any other features.
Therefore, considering the problem of racism through the prism of personal experience and an autobiography, Adichie finds out the situation of African migrants in America in the 21st century and determines her attitude towards the current circumstances. The author believes that the problem of racism is still acute in the modern world. For instance, in America, citizens may oppress people of color. It may be excessive tolerance, condescending attitude, or vice versa discriminatory aggression that directed towards black people. The social status of migrants in modern America is also a controversial factor, on the one hand, they are not emotionally prepared for possible bias, but on the other hand, this can be their advantage in the fight against racism. Nevertheless, this problem deprives many immigrants of their work and honestly earned social status, and a similar situation should be prevented at the state level.
The issue of interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states has always remained the focus of the attention of the Western, primarily the American, scientific community. The phenomenon represented has appeared due to its high degree of significance in modern history. Independent African states played an essential role in the ideological confrontation of superpowers during the Cold War, as a result of which they received help in developing political systems and improving the well-being of citizens.
In the 1950s, the interest of superpowers in Africa was mainly determined by obtaining information about the plans and intentions of rival countries. Multiple air stations and naval bases of countries that were members of NATO and the Soviet Union were located in Africa in those days. Countries’ interest in the continent was caused not only by strategic political considerations. Africa is rich in food and ore resources, and its mineral reserves are stored by such metals necessary for the modern industry as uranium, cobalt, tungsten, copper, nickel, and diamonds, oil, and much more.
In the 1960s, when the Cold War was in full swing, in the confrontation between the two military blocs (NATO and the Warsaw Pact Organization), Eastern Europe was under the complete control of the USSR; however, Western Europe was in a strong military-political and economic alliance with the United States. Moreover, the main arena of the struggle between the two systems became the countries of the third world, which often led to local military conflicts around the world and on the African continent in particular (Lumumba 05:30-20:00). States revealed interest in African countries, and their intervention in international diplomacies frequently brought about advances in the federal system.
The postcolonial years have demonstrated to resemble one of the most challenging eras in the history of Africa, as well as in global history. The newly-liberated African countries instantly encountered tense confrontation from the prior metropolises, which attempted to sustain their political and economic states in the previous colonies. National reconstructions that took place with the interruption of the Western governments and their specialized duties, supplemented by civil strife, tribal disputes, and local hostilities, have become commonplace (The Battle of Algiers 03:00-121:00). The method of liberation was a fundamental and historically predetermined event, then a little dependent on the politics concerning the Soviet Union and the Western colonial states. However, in the setting of the Cold War and the confrontation of the two power alliances, the process mentioned above became the object of encounter.
The deprivation of dependent countries weakened the block of Western powers, which remained in the attention of the Soviet Union and improved its positions in the African states. Therefore, the Soviet Union supported the struggle of African countries for their economic and political independence. In turn, the United States and colonial nations endeavored by all means, including using intelligence services, to hinder the process presented. The African region has therefore transformed into a field of the ideological and political confrontation between the two coalitions. Thus, the conflict of the communities of African countries for their freedom converted into the object of rivalry between the governments.
A necessary function that was sustained by intelligence services in Africa was to support contact with the freeing organizations of countries that were not released from colonialism. These actions were guided by various countries, for example, the USA, the USSR, and China. Sometimes, revolutionary organizations were supported by several countries at once. These communities received various assistance, such as political, financial, material, as well as training, and providing advisers and specialists. This aid was sent through multiple channels such as state, through public, humanitarian, international organizations, and intelligence assistance was usually secretive.
Furthermore, most of the liberation movements were illegal and were not approved by the governments that were on the side of metropolises. The special services of the colonial states actively worked against them. These organizations tracked the liberation associations not exclusively in their colonies but additionally in other domains where they had their posts and representational departments (Laumann ch. 4). Moreover, they hunted for their leaders, carried out terrorist acts, introduced their agents, intercepted communication channels, and exposed the connections of specific organizations with the external society and sources that were accepting assistance from them.
The leaders of the deliverance campaigns were rich in a sincere passion for conducting the most developed fight for the liberation of their peoples. Others were careful, choosing their allies in the outside world with caution. Nevertheless, those who orientated themselves on Western aid came into contact with plural countries to determine the views of the Soviet Union and find out through how it was aiding in the freeing.
Some such politicians speculated on the freedom conflict, lived off the help provided by the deliverance associations, acquired material wealth, traveled to international congresses and conferences, made an infinite number of political promises, and least of all thought about the fight for the separation of their people. The presence of such politicians in postcolonial Africa during the Cold War only delayed the emancipation of states from the metropolises (Reynolds ch. 3). Contacts with representatives of revolutionary organizations sometimes turned into genuine political universities. There was an exchange of information and problems between the world and African politics, experiencing the ways of struggle and development of countries that had already freed themselves from colonialism, and their achievements, and losses were examined.
The liberation and anti-colonial process in Africa was historically inevitable. As Daniel and Shubin claim in their paper, “both Russia and African countries had common interests of defending national sovereignty and strengthening world multipolarity” (p. 64). The colonial governments did not require to lose their influence and at first defended it mainly by force, aggressive or terrorist practices, later, following the impact of events, to an increasing extent by political means. People perceived the Soviet Union’s strategies in Africa as a warning to their engagements, as its effort to expand authority over Africa, as communist intimidation to the African region.
There were both accurate and individual preconditions for the confrontation between special services on the African mainland. Thus, Africa, as the arena of the Cold War, primarily assumed a battle of ideologies and division into zones of influence. The role of these barely independent states was rather valuable and helped the superpowers to determine the leader at specific points. Moreover, Africa received support from the Soviet Union and American intelligence, which assisted in changing the political regime in several countries.
- Albert, S. Aloysius, and R. Raja. “Race and Gender in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.” The Journal for English Language and Literary Studies, vol. 7, no. 2, 2017, pp. 15–21.
- Chimamanda, Ngozi Adichie. Americanah. Knopf Canada, 2013.
- Dani, Anishya, and Vaijo Latha. “Ethnic Disparity and ‘Otherness’: A Study of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.” Studies in Indian Place Names, vol. 40, no. 18, 2020.
- Daniel, Rosaline, and Shubin, Vladimir. “Africa and Russia: The Pursuit of Strengthened Relations in the Post-Cold War Era.” Africa and the World, Edited by Nagar, Dawn, and Mutasa, Charles, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 51–69.
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- Onunkwo, Chibuzo, et al. “Nigerian Immigrants Experience in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.” International Journal of Arts, Languages, and Business Studies (IJALBS), vol. 2, no. 1, 2019, pp. 38–46.
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