Quote Boat: Second Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta


“But Adah could not stop thinking about her discovery that the whites were just as fallible as everyone else. There were bad whites and good whites, just as there were bad blacks and good blacks! WHY THEN DID THEY CLAIM TO BE SUPERIOR?” Second Class Citizen, page 52

I am currently taking an English Literature course that covers literature written by African female writers. So far so good, although the workload is becoming a bit too much to handle. Anyways, I enjoyed reading this novel although there were times when I wanted to passionately murder the protagonist’s husband. Various themes such as patriarchy and feminism are manifested within this novel but the theme-of-focus is racial discrimination.

Adah, the protagonist, grew up in Nigeria, during an “enclosed” post-colonial time period. The book starts off with Adah as a child who meets a family member who has returned from England as a successful lawyer. Young Adah makes the connection between being successful and England thanks to this encounter and aims to go to England as well. Years later, she does leave Nigeria with her two kids to meet her husband in England.

Adah is not spared from racial-discrimination and eventually begins to accept the idea that “the whites” are a “superior, pure” race. Even when conflict arises between Adah and secondary character, Trudy, though it is not Adah’s fault, the reader can sense a feeling of inferiority coming from Adah. However, the conflict Adah has with Trudy is what leads to her epiphany about race, as expressed in the quote.

This is one of the explanations my professor offered that I find most supportive: Adah most likely internalized the idea that white people, especially from the mother-land, England, are all superior intellectual beings. It is only until Adah meets Trudy does her image of white people change. One can even assume that she probably never had a bad experience involving a white person for her to come to this realization that everyone is capable of being either “good or bad” regardless of their race.

this book was published in 1974.

It is 2014.

It boggles my mind how racial discrimination is still out there. I know it is an unfortunate (ridiculous) notion that most of us internalize during childhood, but how many more centuries must past before the whole idea of a “superior race” is fully eradicated? Similar to Adah’s epiphany, we are all capable to being a good person or a bad person. Our skin color never had and never will have any correlation with our morality.

In a much brighter light, I am surrounded by people who are against racial discrimination. On a much broader scale, creative thinkers express their ideas of racial equality through writing, music, or painting. But then an event like the murder of Micheal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, happens. The illusion of racial equality gone, shock sets in, and I ponder on how primitive, ridiculous, atrocious shit like this is still happening.

Simultaneously, I see the progress within us humans– the citizens of Ferguson protested, twitter buzzed with supportive words, some news reporters exposed honest coverage of what took place, and much more.

In a a slightly optimistic view, racial discrimination is not here to stay but centuries could past before this social misconduct is simply just a historical theme for future generations to learn from.



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