You gird your loins and take a deep breath as you prepare to answer “I’m from Zimbabwe”. You see your inquisitor’s eyes dart around in consternation or fear. Consternation as they have no idea where that is, but know that itâ€™s somewhere dark and uncivilised. Fear that any moment now the African in you is going to bring out the begging bowl. A view supported by decades of media misrepresentation.
You mentally roll your eyes as nothing about your physical bearing implies any kind of starving or constrained circumstances, nor does your smooth delivery of the Queenâ€™s language belie any inferior under-a-tree-with-no-textbook education, but all that is in vain as you are condemned to being Just Another African. Forget the fact that Africa is 53 different countries, each with their own distinctive flavour.
At some point you think about making a pre-recorded statement to counter the barrage of inanity that you know will follow shortly:
No, not all parts of Africa are sweltering cauldrons of heat;
No, we are not all dying from AIDS;
Yes, we live in houses and go to schools and drive cars and have planes at the airport;
No, we donâ€™t all break into spontaneous song and dance, this is not the Lion King;
Yes, we grow up speaking English, thanks to British colonial avarice.
You seriously contemplate taking the path of least resistance by claiming to be American or English or anything that will save you from the onslaught of unadulterated ignorance; if you have to explain one more time that Africa is a continent not a country you are going to gouge your own eyes out with a blunt spoon. But part of you relishes the fact that you donâ€™t fall to type and that people are forced to re-evaluate their misconceptions.
That maybe if you can alter just one personâ€™s prejudices, your work on earth is done.