Today I came by a Ted Talk a young man from Cameroon in Spain. Sani Ladan tells his story, similar to that one of many others, crude and difficult. He left his home at a very young age and travel an odyssey in search for a better future. Following, as he explains: his dreams.
Sani wanted to study. He was first denied of that right. He, as an African who swam the Mediterranean to arrive to Europe, had no right to dream. That crucial element that many of us, lucky to have had a good house, food and family most of our lives, forget when we look at the hordes of immigrants risking it all – literally all- to arrive to a “better” place. They, like us, also have dreams.
I write “better” simply because for them, the arrival to Europe (or in the case of many of my Latin American sisters and brothers, to the US) it doesn’t immediately translate a better life. The struggles and miseries these fellow humans endure from the moment they leave their homes and families (not to forget about all the miseries they have been enduring since birth in many cases), are beyond one’s comprehension. And I will leave to them (or him) out of respect, to express how it feels to be an African immigrant in Europe. Check out his Ted Talk.
I relate to Sani in some aspects of being an immigrant from a poorer to a richer country:
I know how it is to be an immigrant in a foreign, “developed” nation. Again, I write “developed” because I do not agree with the common conceptions of developed and underdeveloped (or developing). However, for the sake of my argument, let’s agree that the United States is one of the most economically advanced societies in our world (so far).
I know how it is to arrive to a country that doesn’t want you there. I know how it is to work in the shadows, with the fear of being persecuted because you are missing a plastic identification that says you can work/ live there. That weightless piece of plastic that determines your value in the society. Simple things as working, or studying are allowed, or not, to you depending on where you were born. As if one could choose that.
I know what it is to have a level of studies, or awareness, but having to clean toilets, or working at a fast food Mexican restaurant, surrounded by fellow immigrants (who mostly came from far worse situations than mine) just to survive. Despite having the capacities and skills to do ANY better and challenging job, having to be talked down by colleagues and bosses alike.
I know what it is to endure racism, and discrimination just because my hair was curly, and my skin tanned. Because I had a “weird accent” of the local language (even though most immigrants speak at least 2 languages).
I know how it is to be hungry. To eat only at work whatever they gave me, and go to bed with only a glass of chocolate milk in my stomach because I did not earn enough money to pay rent and food.
But from those years, I also learned.
I am extremely grateful to the country that taught me so many lessons, and I will never support resentment. But in Europe the African immigrant’s situation must change. And it will change if the hosting societies change their perspective about them. They have the rights to work, to a better life and most importantly, as Sani says: to dream.
We must change how we think about equality and inequality. We must acknowledge and talk about it.
Inequality has a long history. As long as the history of humanity. An undeniable truth is that Europe is historically rich because it has dominated the whole world. And with that domination, it has exploited many areas of the world, particularly Africa and Latin America. First, expropriating the natives of richness and freedom, and then bringing technological development (to aid the exploitation of resources). In what historians call “the scramble for Africa“, diverse European powers have divided among themselves the whole African continent, including of course their native inhabitants and all their resources. As if Africa was just a drawing on a paper, these world leaders draw on a map the new borders of their colonies. The Europeans, according to themselves, had rights, the Africans didn’t.
Natives in the colonized areas lost all their rights and freedoms by the solely reason of the strength of European advanced technologies. Which instead of helping develop the rest of the world, the rest of the world was abused to sustain European power.
The same way the colonizers did when arrived to the American Continent. Which by the way, they did not “discover”. The Native American civilizations have been living there for centuries, and have built highly developed societies and cultures. All of it was wiped out. Stolen and taken: PACHAKUTI. The Europeans, according to themselves, had rights, the Native Americans didn’t.
By all means, I am not an anti-colonialist, but I am pro decolonization (I will expand my views on Latin America on another post, to describe how I came around understanding my own identity only once I moved in Europe).
I am lucky to be born of Italian decent, which gives me the right to live and work freely in this continent. For that reason, I feel the moral obligation to speak out about inequality in Europe. Europe has conquered the world, now the world is coming to Europe.
The world has fed Europe. Now, the world is hungry.