Your Ancestors Were Immigrants Too, Ya Know!

In Chapters 9 and 10 of Americanah, Adichie gives readers a glimpse of the struggles Ifemelu and Uju face as a FOB (fresh off the boat) and a six-year immigrant, respectively. There’s an obvious culture difference and repression as Ifemelu thinks hot dogs are sausages and Uju tells her not to teach Dike of anything Nigerian–Dike even says he doesn’t think he likes Nigeria.

Once upon a time ago, in 1492, the floodgates opened and all hell broke loose. 525 years later and here we are, the United States, a tossed salad full of citizens with different cultural backgrounds. I refrain from using “melting pot” as race tensions in the U.S. continue thus prohibiting its citizens from fully converging and respecting all cultures as a united whole.

Despite the fact that there is no actual American ethnicity–even Native Americans technically aren’t from here but Asia–there is a difference in attitudes on cultural embracement.

Generally, by the third generation of immigrant families, people start to lose connection with their roots–obviously this isn’t the case for everyone, but it becomes harder to remember where you came from as your family’s time and submersion in a new homeland’s culture increases.

Generally, conservative Americans of the upper class today like to display their wealth by proving the American Dream still exists because their older family members were able to make money and pass that wealth down to their children. News flash: the American Dream doesn’t exist and institutionalized racism prevails, thus ensuring immigrants (more specifically, people of color) are locked in the lower ranks of society.

But how does this relate to all Americans being immigrants at one point or another? Well, the point is, my friends, that from the start of colonial America, citizens have been disconnected with their roots, forgetting that Europeans were basically their brothers–and sisters.

Throughout U.S. history, there has been this idea of people “Americanizing” themselves so as to set themselves apart from their European comrades. This involves abandoning native tongues, dress, and customs for what is considered “American.” Eventually, POC took on this trend in order to fit in with white society, and now cultures from across the globe are considered too foreign for Americans. Of course, there are the white kids who love to act like they love learning about cultures outside their own (cultural appreciation) but end up appropriating them instead.

In essence, cultural identity is lost in the U.S. in attempts to conform to societal ideals. POC assume this is how they will rise above the lower ranks they fall into when immigrating to America–even though the wealthy elite continues to use systemic racism as means of preserving the social order. There really is no true reason to forget your past; embracing it is what makes people unique and more cultured than white people! Obviously, if you’re highly resentful of your past country, then there’s room for non-embracing your heritage, but think. You’ve only got a cultural background that distinguishes yourself from others, love and display it!

The Fake Communist’s Note: The point of this post wasn’t to tell POC immigrants that there’s no point in trying to conform and act like an American to others since elitists use racism to oppress minorities. The point was to say cultural differences should be embraced since they’re the only thing immigrants have when coming to a new land.

Having a Sugar Daddy While Not Being a Gold Digger

In Chapter 6 of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, readers learn of Ifemelu’s aunt, Aunty Uju, who happens to be the mistress of a married man. Everyone in society knows Aunty Uju is sleeping with The General as it is common for men of high ranks to openly have mistresses, but The General’s family is mad and threatens to hurt Aunty Uju after The General dies, leaving her as a vulnerable target. Despite the fact that The General was cheating on his wife, I do condone having a “sugar daddy”–just not when the money provider is already in a committed relationship.

First and foremost, according to millennial pop culture, a sugar daddy is–typically–a man who pays or gives favors to a–typically–woman for her company (this does not imply but isn’t limited to sex). There’s a large stigma with sugar daddies and, to a lesser degree, sugar mamas, because people assume the girls are gold diggers.

The difference between having a sugar daddy and being a gold digger is that usually “gold digging” women are seen as deceptive, conniving, and insincere. Conversely, having a sugar daddy or being in a “sugar daddy relationship” is basically a transaction deal. Although, in both situations, the party providing the money probably has a very angry family. In these cases, it’s usually grown up sons and daughters who go into hysterics at the thought of having a 20-year-old stepmom that will suck them dry of their inheritances after she becomes a widow.

The stigma with girls who receive cash in the form of companionship stems from the fact that people who lived in racist 1950s still believe in the American Dream. To be quite frank, it’s hella hard to survive in a competitive capitalist economy like the U.S., ESPECIALLY if you’re a college student drowning in student loans–I may only be in eleventh grade but I’m still not looking forward to the day I trade my soul for a piece paper and ten years of monthly payments to my alma mater.

I can’t personally speak on having a sugar daddy, but it seems like an ideal “relationship” for people with financial struggles. According to multiple online news outlets, Candice Kashani, a law school graduate at Villanova, was able to become debt free with the help of a sugar daddy or two. That is a true life goal right there, my friends!

Anyways, people will debate if relying on others for money is morally correct, especially if that person is having sex with them. Honestly, integrity is overrated and traditionalists use it as leverage to make girls feel bad about their personal decisions. If you’d really feel bad about having sex for money, then don’t seek sugar daddy relationships, or work as a prostitute or an escort, but DO NOT judge others for their choices.

To be honest, if you’ve got it flaunt; people shouldn’t be ripping on girls in sugar daddy relationships when there are people who make their earnings as pornography historians.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby (Seriously, People Need Proper Sex Ed)

Chapter five of Chimamanda Adichie’s “Americanah” deals with young love and the desire to express it. It took me by surprise when Obinze’s mother called Ifemelu into her room to discuss sexual relations between her son and Ifemelu. How awkward can that be, right? What made it even more cringeworthy was the fact that his mother wanted to know when they planned on having sex. A bit odd, but her culture also differs from mine.

I’ll admit, it is a bit refreshing to read about a mother who wants to know when her child in a seriously involved relationship plans on having sex. It’s important to be safe and understand what you’re getting into. Although it differs between households, many parents in Western culture–specifically under the influence of religious doctrine–prefer that their children wait until marriage before “losing their virginity” (quotes because no one can actually lose a virginity, it was never a physical object to begin with).

There’s something comforting in knowing that an adult who has more often than not been a teenager who wanted to experiment with sex themselves cares about younger generations not making mistakes without hindering them from making their own decisions–despite the fact that some of these said adults only preach abstinence (PSA this is not helping anyone, teenagers ARE having sex).

What’s almost as bad as having adults just tell children to stay abstinent is that parents in 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have the ability to pull their children out of sexual education classes. This is especially hurtful to the younger generations who want to learn. Not every child wants to be sexually active, but it’s important that everyone knows so as not to have unwanted pregnancies or STDs. It also sucks that sex ed is being taught in middle school while kids are still not mature enough to understand how the birds and the bees work, but I guess it’s better sooner rather than later.

In short, parents, please discuss sex with your kids despite how awkward it is for us to hear. It’s better to know about contraceptives and the risks of getting pregnant even without physically having sex (yes, girls can get pregnant if sperm gets inside their vagina), especially during the times of the Alt-Reich.

Fake Communist’s Note: For those of you who don’t know, the Alt-Reich is America’s government for the next four years. These politicians want to defund Planned Parenthood, a major tool in giving proper instruction on and access to contraceptives for low-income persons.

Christianity and The Quest for Converts

During chapter three, the heavy Christain motif shines through as a remnant of Nigeria’s past under British imperialism. Ifemelu’s mother is so consumed with religion that she converts to three different sects when the previous fails to uphold God’s promise of solving her family’s struggles. Of course, Adichie bridges African and Western culture in “Americanah” by mentioning the heavy role Christianity/religion has by looming over citizens in any society. This book strongly resonates with me as I can relate to Ifemelu in the terms of her position on religion and family.

With a mother who is a devout Lutheran and a father who is a little-to-nonreligious Catholic, it used to suck being agnostic-turned-atheist. Similarly to Ifemelu, I questioned the presence of a God and wondered if it was all just a concept. After multiple refusals to participate in church services and many arguments, my mother eventually learned to look past the fact that she was losing all four of her kids to science. I don’t want to totally denounce religion, if people want to believe in an ultimate controller of the universe then that’s fine, but I just don’t buy it.

In the wise words of Ricky Gervais, “If we take something like any fiction, any holy book, and destroyed it, in a thousand years’ time that wouldn’t come back just as it was. Whereas if we took every science book and every fact and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back, because all the same tests would be the same result.”

I’ve personally come to believe that differing religions in a society are debilitating and can create tension. Anyone can see that, as people still do not know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim. Historically, factory owners purposely hired Catholics and other Christian denominations, because they knew the factory workers wouldn’t form labor unions with Catholics, thus no union. Obviously, you can’t make people not believe in order for everyone to have the same views, but people need to learn that not everyone’s going to agree (Google search “secularism”).

As with any family, religion can be a touchy subject especially when each member has differing views. It’s easy for moms and dads to think that they’ve failed as parents if they can’t get their child to believe in their god, but it’s universal for younger generations to drift away from more traditional stances.

There isn’t anything wrong per se with raising your kids to believe a certain ideology, but, parents, please don’t expect your children to conform to your belief system just because they’ve been brought up that way. I’m no parent and I don’t pretend to know what it’s like raising a child, but if you really want your child to believe then don’t ingrain your opinions into their head. Most kids–specifically teenagers–don’t do well to imposition and especially won’t listen to authoritative figures.

Forget Foreign Opportunities, Home is Where the Heart Is

Most readers expect stories involving immigrants to center around their struggles in their new country. It’s archetypal for authors to build a heartwarming story off the backs of foreigner protagonists who attempt to speak a new language and balance three jobs while still squeezing in time for love. Upon first glance, the blurb of Americanah makes it seem as though this will tell the tale of two lovers who part ways when emigrating from Nigeria to other parts of the world. Adichie’s novel steers readers into a different direction by introducing Ifemelu as a fluent English speaker, 13 year resident of the U.S., and a girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend as she plans on returning to her home country.

When observing Americanah through a postcolonial lens, the novel takes an unconventional twist in the way the protagonist is presented: Ifemelu has left postcolonial Nigeria for ex-imperializing powerhouse America. She represents the diffusion of two cultures as she finishes her fellowship at Princeton and avoids taboo American words like “fat,” while getting her hair braided at African salons every few months. Despite deciding to move back to Nigeria, it’s apparent that other African immigrants–more specifically, Aisha–disapprove of her decision without any plausible reason, i.e. marriage. Aisha’s distaste for life in African homeland epitomizes the stereotypical immigrant, one who leaves their past life to settle into a newer, more opportune country. Ifemelu defies immigrant expectations by coming to a new country to create a new and successful life for herself up before returning to her home country.

Similarly, Obinze leaves Nigeria for Britain and comes back with a high-class education. He uses his knowledge and agreeable attitude to climb up the social ladder and becomes a rich man. Despite the growing capitalism-based society in Nigeria–thanks to British imperialism–Obinze knows that the large house and beautiful wife does not complete his life. He longs for something more in life, past all of the material wealth and superficial people: Ifemelu.