Growing up in Ghana towards the end of the 20th century, Africa to most Americans and “sh*thole” as Trump would say the environment under which we lived was one of that was very much carved by the impact of European imperialist culture.  Most Africans irrespective of religious persuasion have a non-African name which identifies them with a religious group usually a European name for Christians and a Arabic our generally speaking a name with Semitic root for Muslims. Well, does this mean our traditional African names were not good enough? I believe our forebears who became Christians in the colonial era thought we needed to add a European name to make our transition into the Christian world complete. Those of us who did not have any English or European names were even bullied in school on that account.

A group of bishops march by at The Catholic Bishops’ Conference on Church Growth in West Africa held in Accra, Ghana.

We were not allowed to speak our local dialects in school because it was “vernacular.” You were whipped for doing what comes to you naturally, which is speaking in your mother tongue! What does one expect from such a self-denigrating experience right from childhood. The end result was that most of us grew up conditioned to believe our culture was inferior and sometimes plain “bush” or not refined enough.

In my teen years I always asked what was wrong with our African ways especially our religious expression but always ended up with the belief that maybe Christianity and its associated western way of life was superior. What made that superior I could not say but I guess it was my own form of democracy because that was what the majority of my friends and family believed. Our imperial British colonist had branded our religious expression as idolatry and there were instances were any interest in our own forms of religion were punished severely by colonial authorities some of them native Ghanaians.

African Dance
Drumming and dancing at Ewe Tribal Celebration – This was frowned upon as fetish and evil in the colonial era.

Some of us way despised our way of dressing and bragged about our foreign made designer attire, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, YSL even the fake ones were considered superior.

Even our own parents and elderly folks played into that psyche. All bad things and occurrences were attributed to “black man mentality.” I remember vividly my grandfather saying something to this effect, that on his way to church if he met a white person, he would return home because he had seen “God.” As a young man growing up in that kind of environment do you know what such talk does to your self-esteem!

The icing on the cake arrives when due to greed and mismanagement of the economy by our various governments, most of our population live in extreme poverty without any social safety net. Overall there is a total lack of interest in the  implementation of policies that would allow folks to move up the socio-economic ladder! In the midst of plentiful resources, we continue to languish in abject poverty! We always had to wait for our supporting donors to help with supplemental funds for our budget before we could make it final! Then you had to wait for final approval from the IMF or World Bank with its stringent guidance before you can even implement your policies! Do you know how that sh*t affects the national psyche? And although I grew up in a well-off environment I still had doubts about my ability and self-esteem as a black person. The only vision I had was to leave my country of birth!

My self-esteem was so low until I saw a documentary by a Kenyan historian called Ali A Mazrui. His documentaries shed light on the immense contribution that black people as a whole had made to science, architecture, astronomy and all fields of life! Things that for some reason were omitted during our primary and secondary school education!

So in this Black History Month celebration, I call on all Sh*tholeans to have a renewal of mind and spirit! Let us believe in ourselves and our capabilities! For those of us living abroad we must know we can fully assimilate in our societies contributing positively to our communities without giving up our culture, language, and way of dressing. We should be proud of our heritage and who we are as a people.

Durbar of Ghanaian Chiefs

If Italians brought pizza, Irish brought “St Patrick’s Day” and Mexicans have “Cinco De Mayo”, we should also endeavour to contribute to the society we have chosen to live in by displaying our rich culture.

Go ye into all the world and be proud Sh*tholeans!

HEEP S R.M Scaramucci, see the irony!

By Dr. Yaw Denkyi Berko, a physician who practices internal medicine in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin 

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