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Racism: The Double Cutting Sword in Chimamanda Ngozi`s 'Americanah'

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Most literary critics look on the racism of the blacks as a whole but in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tries through AMERICANNAH to explain the actuality of racism by trying to explain the differences of an African American and American African. Through Ifemelu, the protagonist of the story, a black woman who newly migrated from Nigeria and settled in America would be defined as an American African as Ifemelu in Nigeria did not realize she was ‘black’ but fitted the description of blackness only after arriving in America and later joined the African Students Association. While the African American is a person with long ancestral lines in the United States mostly probably the slaves, such a person can talk about Africa or say that he or she originates from there but is relieved to have been from a developed country rather than a developing one.

Racism between the blacks who were born in the United States whose lineage is the slaves and those who are immigrants is different as the first ones who have already accepted the discrimination but these new ones whose English is rather polished better than the whites themselves find it hard to conform to the way the whites want as mostly where they were coming from most of them were from the middle or upper class. In America, they get to be regarded as the blacks and the poor whites meaning they are always at the lower class. We also have those blacks who have accepted that they will always be down the class such that there are no rich and poor blacks until they want to be like the whites by lightening, dressing like them and degrading themselves among the whites and moreover when they see that they have become just like the whites.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has clearly outlined the difference between the poor blacks and poor whites, not the way Americans and most of the other people think when dwelling on racism regarding them as blacks and poor whites. The way, for example, the language gradation in Adichie’s AMERICANNAH, Kimberly, Ifemelu’s boss who used to refer to black women as beautiful women but then it would tour out or it means just an ordinary looking woman, thus showing that the whites think that Blacks are not attractive at all.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book ‘AMERICANNAH’ tells the tale of Ifemelu. Her life since she was in her homeland Nigeria in Princeton town until the time she goes to further her studies in America. Ifemelu started her studies in Nigeria. Due to frequent strikes, most of her fellow students who we come to find out end up abroad and eventually land in jobs which they didn’t want. The hardships they experience in America force them to use their ingenuity to survive. Nigeria we’re being told of the life which can be related to everywhere in Africa after the post-colonial era, lack of jobs, low-quality education which forces people to migrate. We can also talk about the coups in Africa which causes death and insecurity in countries just like the one we are told about which made Aunty Uju, a character in AMERICANNAH start a new life abroad and experience a more hard life in America than where she used to be in Nigeria.

Chimamanda Adichie’s AMERICANNAH dwells on racism more as first the author chooses an African female character from Nigeria who is a bright, outspoken young lady that has a chance to further her studies in America, and there we are told about the challenges she faces as a black African particularly black non-American woman. In America, she experiences cultural diversity that can be both intimidating and interesting we can talk about the hair, for the blacks braiding one’s hair might make one not get a job during an interview so it was advised to straighten it with chemicals clearly showing that there’s no freedom this is wanting to make the blacks feel that their hair is not beautiful there’s a problem with it, I haven’t said that it’s not good to want to straighten one’s hair but it should be one’s choice. We can even see that black women who live in America get used to the idea that natural is untidy when Aunty Uju a character in AMERICANNAH tells Ifemelu that there is something scruffy and untidy about natural hair, this shows how the blacks are belittling each other just because of what they are used to be told but then the author brings in a character like Ifemelu who is strong-willed and thinks highly of herself by defending herself, her African hair when he told her, ’What if every magazine you opened and every film you watched had beautiful women with hair like jute? You would be admiring me now. ‘But then there is a time Ifemelu chemically relaxes her hair thus showing the symbol of the shedding of her natural African race to take on a standard of stereotypical American white beauty and eventually earning her a job.

AMERICANNAH gives us an encounter of a boy Aunty Uju’s son Dike about the discrimination he is having in a white school which clearly shows that it talks more of racism. Aunty Uju, mother to Dike tells Ifemelu about how her son was talking in class but it was only because he had finished his work but there was a complaint in school but if it was a white boy they would have been lenient. It means that in school for white boys it is normal for them to have mistakes but not for blacks. Even when her son dresses shabbily it is a problem but not for the whites.b This is bad because it will make some kids feel inferior than others thus even when they grow they will always feel that way. This also in the way Aunty Uju raised her son blindly shapes Dikes’s psychology and obviously will later blame it on the westerns and it is only that Aunty Uju wanted to be accepted by the whites by living as per the way they view things such as mode of dressing in a way to get out of trouble but little did he know that by accepting that it would make the later generation to think that whatever is done to them is right.

According to Caroline Levine, Ifemelu is introduced to an American society in which race is the deciding factor in creating a hierarchy in society, in which white people are always dominant and black people are always the minority. This would be able to cause negative stereotypes of blacks. Amonyeze adds, ‘It appears stereotypical images of immigrants largely persist because the dominant white culture perpetuates AMERICANNAH we can also say that racism comes out in the way we learn of the way blacks are treated in the whites countries such that there was like a hierarchy which at the highest was the whites then the Asians and the lowest was the Africans and it was not expected to change. A black person was used to be the lowest at the hierarchy of being wealthy or being respected there is an instance when Ifemelu used to work as a house girl there was a day an Asian came as a carpet cleaner to the house and wasn’t glad when he saw her as he thought she was the owner not until she declared that she was not, did things go back to normal as he could not accept it that a black would own such a huge house it was okay to work for the whites but not the blacks so it was the whites, Asians than blacks.

In AMERICANNAH there were instances which showed that the writer was portraying racism by the way that a character like Obinze, a childhood boyfriend to Ifemelu was treated badly just like a criminal who had committed murder or something and the author keeps on narrating to us that if it was a white who had such a crime would be treated differently. Obinze in America when he was found to have been in America illegally, they handled him badly and deported him back to Nigeria such that people would think he was some kind of a murderer.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie based AMERICANNAH mostly on racism she was trying to show how it was hard for the Africans to find jobs than the whites. Ifemelu a character in AMERICANNAH at the time she was still looking for a job there was a time that a tennis coach wanted to hire her but for his personal interests as he had put it so that she could help him relax, and shamelessly went on to say that he had one but had recently gone to Pittsburgh and the money he had paid her helped her a lot with her college debt. This shows that for African women to get a job or just Africans it was through hardships at a time Ifemelu had used a fake identity so that she could get work to pay off her debts.

Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi tried to capture instances of racism in AMERICANNAH, that is through Ifemelu when she in America in school the whites thought that she could not comprehend basic English and in a real sense, it was just the other way round, they used to speak to her with painful slowness, it is seen at the time where she went for registration as a new student the registrar, Cristina Tomas talked slowly such that Ifemelu thought that she had to have some sort of illness. The dominant culture socializes Americans to associate an English Nigerian accent with a minority group that needs to be addressed in simple terms. It makes Ifemelu feel inferior. Cristina acted that way because of maybe her isolated upbringing or they have been conditioned to speak that way to international students in a dumbed-down manner. In class, she is singled out as someone who will intuitively understand the plight of African Americans because of some half-formed belief in a nebulous, shared ‘black’ consciousness.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie brings forth the various relationships Ifemelu had in Nigeria and America. In America, she gets involved with Curt, athletic body, blonde, rich and charming. Even though Curt courts her and treats her the same way he would have treated a white woman by showering her with lavish gifts and travels and indulges in the mood swings as any other boyfriend would. Every time they go out white women just wonders how could he have chosen her as the women don’t find her attractive enough due to the reason she is black.

Curt’s mother also on meeting her she showed some dissatisfaction. In Ifemelu’s relationship with Curt, we can insist on the fact that there exists a racist overview of their relationship because black women are only with white men because of their privileges and white men involve themselves with black women due to their attraction of exotic cultures.

In AMERICANNAH, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses Ifemelu as the blogger in America and at times you cannot express yourself in America and not be seen as a racist due to the fact that she’s black. Ifemelu uses her blog entries to criticize and attack the different ways by which she felt that she was oppressed. Black people through her blog post could express themselves honestly about their encounters and what they truly feel as immigrants in the United States. As a blogger, she tries to explain how everyone fails to agree that there is racism and frequent oppression of blacks.

The thesis argues that Americannah makes the reader to recognize how institutional racism works in American society that is through the eyes and narrative of a black protagonist Ifemelu. Ifemelu expresses how white fragility functions that is it makes it clear that racism goes beyond individual acts of violence and leads the white liberal to broaden their definition of racism. Through their commentary on racism, the white liberal reader is led to see that racial oppression is within American culture and they are exposed to how racial minorities experience racism.

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Racism: the Double Cutting Sword in Chimamanda Ngozi`s ‘Americanah’. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/racism-the-double-cutting-sword-in-chimamanda-ngozis-americanah/
“Racism: the Double Cutting Sword in Chimamanda Ngozi`s ‘Americanah’.” GradesFixer, 30 Aug. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/racism-the-double-cutting-sword-in-chimamanda-ngozis-americanah/
Racism: the Double Cutting Sword in Chimamanda Ngozi`s ‘Americanah’. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/racism-the-double-cutting-sword-in-chimamanda-ngozis-americanah/> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2022].
Racism: the Double Cutting Sword in Chimamanda Ngozi`s ‘Americanah’ [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Aug 30 [cited 2022 Sept 22]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/racism-the-double-cutting-sword-in-chimamanda-ngozis-americanah/
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