Monday, March 3, 2014



When Lupita Nyong’o walked away with the best Supporting Actress accolade at the Oscars a few hours ago, I tweeted that it makes her the “first African” to win the coveted Academy Award but that would, of course, be incorrect. Charlize Theron won for her brilliant performance in Monster a decade ago. My intention was to tweet that it made Lupita the first black African.
I have to say, tweeting this did come with some hesitation because I know how easy it is to start a race debate by tweeting such things but my instinct was to tweet it anyway because, you know, it’s something worth celebrating.
One of my followers took offence to what I said and went as far as saying my thinking irritates him because “African is African”. Why racialise things, anyway?
Well, there are several points I need to make because in hindsight it would seem that I’m being racial about things, but the fact of the matter is that I am simply being realistic in celebrating black African excellence because history has always sought to tell us that we can’t be great. History has often sought to make us the scum of human existence.
In her acceptance speech Lupita said; “No matter where you’re from your dreams are valid”. For black people, and the undeniable historical disadvantage we’ve been through, celebrating what can be seen as the breaking down of an historical hurdle is given credence by the very disadvantage that remains a global reality. Not acknowledging this is tantamount to denying the past and this is something I cannot do. The point of all of this is that our celebration of ourselves as black Africans cannot and should not be seen as being racist or a downplay of any achievement by a non-black African. It is not that we are not proud of Charlize Theron’s win or Mark Shuttleworth’s voyage into space as the first African to do so. We are, but celebrating that which is specifically a global achievement by a black African is not simply a celebration of Africa but also a celebration of the strides that history is making in leveling the playing field. In closing, I’d like to quote Simphiwe Dana when she tweeted; “Lupita Nyong’o, the world just became a sweeter place. A place I am proud to call home.”
We’ve been denied a lot in the past. We cannot now deny ourselves the opportunity to celebrate ourselves. Besides, eliminating race from our discourse would make for a hunky corey story of a racial Utopian that quite simply does not exist. 

(This post was edited to add a last line that was previously missing from the original story)

No comments: