Americanah: Racism within Cultural Context

At the end of chapter 37, Shan says that the reason why Ifemelu can write on her blog so candidly about her observations about racism on the blog is because she is an outsider, who doesn’t have the cultural context or background where she has been subjected to racism the way African-Americans are and that she would be labeled as angry and shunned. I found that passage really striking, as we have seen the way Ifemelu is disconnected to a lot of the systematic racism and discrimination that black people feel in America, because she has grown up without that oppression and has only encountered it as a young adult. It is interesting how racism and discrimination are different in other cultures/countries, because for us, the “American racism” is the baseline and standard which we are used to, and reading all of Ifemelu’s blog posts so far, where she writes from the perspective of someone newly encountering the way American racism works, how would it read differently if an African-American woman were writing this? While I don’t know if I exactly agree with Shan, I cannot help but wonder if because Ifemelu’s blog is distinctly written from an outsider perspective, it is easier to swallow for potential readers who undoubtedly contribute to the systematic racism that exists in the United States.

2 thoughts on “Americanah: Racism within Cultural Context

  1. I also found Ifemelu’s approach to American racism extremely interesting. She certainly knows about that problems that exist for African Americans in America and knows many of the cultural issues with hiring discrimination, housing segregation, police violence, etc. is based solely on skin color, not where they come from. Given Ifemelu’s knowledge of this, I am surprised that she never considered her inability to get a job could potentially have come from simply being “black” — even though she does not identify as such. She instead questions her accent, her qualifications, her resume, her approach, and basically everything else besides hiring discrimination. At one point, she does question if a man did not hire her because she paused when answering if he could call her by a nickname, but this seems tied to her status as an “American African” as the ASA states. I also really like the last line of your blog post because while the blog is written from an outsider’s perspective making the idea of contributing to systemic racism easier to ignore, the novel itself is written for an outsider audience, specifically an Igbo audience, making it more difficult for non-Igbo — or simply non immigrant Americans — to understand.

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  2. Continuing off of this comment I also want to highlight the perspective of the novel and how as an American reader certain parts of the novel are uncomfortable even humiliating at times. I specifically like how the novel calls out racism and certain cultural issues that I never would have thought about. Having to change your accent, hair, and be constantly aware of how people perceive you based on a name is something that I have never thought about on a daily basis. The novel reflects these issues in a very confrontational way which helps to emphasis these problems in society. This exposure to the many Americans reading this novel is perhaps a way to raise awareness.

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