This is Priscilla. She is 17 years old, she has just finished high school, and she comes from the north – the poorest region in Ghana – where her mother lives. She now lives with her father in Accra. I was on a run in Legon when she stopped me. She asked me, “do you want to be my friend? The reason why I called you is because I dreamt that I had a white human friend.” Race is a construct, “not an indubitable feature of the world” in the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates. But it is one hell of a construct with palpable and far-reaching implications. In this case, as often is, “white” is full of meaning and connotations. I am the white. The privileged one who works (and runs) at possibly one of the most expensive universities on the continent. She is the northern Ghanaian, who doesn’t know what she’ll do now that she has finished high school.
Language, in its full performative function, is revealing. Her use of the word white unmasks the powerful discursive system that evinces the reality of the hegemony of one type of person over the other. That is why I found the juxtaposition with the word human instead of woman, girlfriend, or Oburoni – other structuring categorizations that I was expecting – so fascinating. We are all humans but we are not yet all equal #blacklivesmatter #girlsmatter #Accra#ghana #race #africa