Friendly Advice to the African Headed to Liberal Arts College America


Congratulations on your acceptance letter my friend. You must now tap into the deep rivers of American survival craft that I, with the help of the wise ones, have fashioned for the better part of a dozen years. You have struggled mightily to gain that visa, found just the right angle to pitch your proposal for a grant (‘I was a child soldier before I went for a sex-change operation and I shed tears for the environment every night’) and you are very clever and have read many books. But, and indulge me in saying this, you are a babe in nappies when it comes to the Herculean challenges facing the African man in his first year at an American liberal arts campus. The bigger your scholarship, the more prestigious the school, the more you need me. For a one-time fee of beers, which I will collect when I next see you, I will let you in on a few of my many secrets of how to keep the winter darkness at bay and your sanity intact. Here are some basics that you may want to keep in mind:

1. Black Man Rage: This is unavoidable on the whole and should be managed carefully. Every once in a while, you will feel a massive surge of anger at a very reasonable stance or action by a white person. Breathe deeply when you feel it coming on and let rip when it first appears. Allowing it to build will only guarantee its nuclear-like proportions when it eventually explodes; better to let it go at grenade stage. BMR, which is a clinically proven state, is brought on by mercy, understanding and a certain slow nodding motion that has been perfected by the white denizens of liberal arts colleges. I could tell you more grasshopper, but you will learn as you feel. There is only one situation in which you must avoid BMR: when you are inevitably stopped by the cops. You will have generously suppressed it earlier only to see it emerge in the presence of an armed man with little compunction shooting terrorists and angry black men.

2. The Drought: You must forget sex for three-six months after your arrival on campus. You will discover that your language of sex (unless it is monetary) sounds like Martian to the co-eds around you. Being a writer and having dreads might allow you to cut some of the Drought period but make no mistake, there shall be a drought. What this will do is increase BMR and can potentially be demoralizing. There is nothing quite like disrespecting people who then refuse to be seduced by you. It crushes even the strongest egos. Even those that the owner did not know they possessed. The Drought will lead you down several wrong paths. It will make you believe for instance that the slow-nodding liberal girl from a small town in California is about to give you action. Nothing could be further from the truth, she is likely of the opinion that you are a diseased pet placed on campus for her entertainment (and here I stop to collect my breath and swallow a sudden, bitter spike of BMR).

3. Collegiality: this is a biggie. The fact that you are going to a college town means that the faculty sets great store by this word, and that they are supposedly proud and committed to teaching. Nothing could be further from the truth. Small towns breed intense jealousies and rivalries that use weapons of exceeding pettiness to win the day. The spoils? You would hardly recognize them but everyone around you will be attuned to nuances that you can barely guess at. My dear, you are a collegial fellow and so this itself might be your saving grace since you will appear to fall straight into line. And a line is what it is. My advice for what it is worth is that you must do occasional writerly huffs and adopt a few eccentricities. Walking barefoot on a snowy day for example will go a long way to excusing your every absence from collegial gatherings.

4. The Smile: the slight movement of the lips that you will confuse with a smile and that will eventually make you wish that you could punch through it. The Smile is a very great danger to the African who is suffering from the Drought and is therefore partial to BMR. You, being collegial, will no doubt initially respond to this movement of the lips with a Sambo type smile that shows a delight that you can hardly explain at the sight of this almost-stranger. When you finally realize that they are not smiling and that it is at best merely a courtesy and at worst a sign of nervousness or fear at your screaming blackness, you will be liable to losing it and going down a particularly bad path. I heard one African scream for a whole afternoon at anyone who moved their lips in said fashion to him.

Let me leave you with just those four items. There will be others should you need or want them. Remember, there is no spoon, it is you that must bend… Peace African, have a good trip. I’ll see you when I come to bail you out.

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About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

20 Responses to Friendly Advice to the African Headed to Liberal Arts College America

  1. Keguro says:

    If I may weigh in:

    1. Forget what your name should sound like. Learn to think of yourself as a connected string of consonants and vowels.

    2. Remember, you are Africa.

    3. Craft a story about how your people live. Decide the name of the tree in which you grew up. Be careful to choose a recognizable type.

    4. Very Important: Dollars are not Shillings. Reduce the number of zeros you like to spend. Forget about conversion. If you convert, you will never spend a dime.

    (I quite like this; it should be an ongoing series!)

  2. MMK says:

    kegoruro – this should indeed be a running series. My suffering will then at least benefit some other poor suckers 🙂

    I was born in an oak tree, honest I was. Then mummy swung down with me in her arms so that I could complete my college applications.

  3. plez... says:

    I went to a technical university in the deep south and majored in electrical engineering over 20 years ago. This should be required reading for any Black man going to a predominantly white college or university in the US… REQUIRED READING for self-preservation! Good job!

  4. Anonymous says:

    5. African Americans – your initial reaction will be to absolutely hate and despise them because you carry racist attitudes and sentiments you’re not aware off. If you’re lucky to get to know some personally to you learn to absolute love them. See, grasshopper you don’t know yet that you are Black, I mean you have black skin but you really don’t know what that means in the US. Give it time you will learn.

    Blacks in American have lived with this understanding of what being Black means for 400 years. Fight to get past the cold stares, the mocking and teasing that you will receive from some of (they too have racists attitudes about you). Start with the dread locked, natural hair, dashiki wearing ones, they will be easier to approach. They will annoy you with their rosy and romantic images of Africa and her origins but you will eventually learn to respect and understand their need for it. They will teach you African American culture and etiquette (never double dip!!!) .You think you know from them from the numerous 50 cent videos you have seen but nothing could be further from the truth. Oh and for your safety and mental health never attempt to treat a sister like you heard Snoop Dog treat a woman in his rap songs.

  5. Anonymous says:

    MMK

    “There is nothing quite like disrespecting people who then refuse to be seduced by you” this is Brilliant!!!!!!!

    If you’re a guy this means “the High yellow luscious round behind black girls from the city” Oh men, how you will absolutely lust and despise them both at the same time. At the risk of being absolutely political incorrect I advise you to seek out the over weight “Green Card Special” and work your way up.

  6. I just wanted to say this is an absolutely brilliant post. As an American with quite a few friends from various African nations, it pretty much sums up every single feeling I’ve ever heard expressed.

  7. MMK says:

    plez & the ZenFo Pro – thanks for commenting. Freshman year WAS a painful ordeal. You are eighteen, thousands of miles away from the environment you grew up in, you’ve found books that were banned back home so your political consciousness has grown more in a month than it has in the past decade, you are broke, lonely and confused. And we haven’t even got to your first brush with racism or plain ignorance, the first time you heard the loud thud of car door locks caused by your approach or the young woman terrified of you in the elevator.

  8. Anonymous says:

    First time post, long time reader. This is brilliant, and I agree that it should be a regular feature. If I may weigh in too:
    Learn the following come-back line, for your own sanity.
    1. When told “you speak such good English,” reply, astonished, “So do you!”

  9. wanduma says:

    Fantastic, but it made my stomach turn as I remembered those days!

    You guy, the fake smile (teeth baring) is the worst! By the time I figured it out, I was a sullen bitter black man.

    Let me add one more. It is very likely that sporting your mitumba ‘winter’ jacket may kill you. I realized the hard way that my warm mitumba coat that my mum had lovingly picked out for me did not even pretend to put up a fight against the January cold. One walk to class and the jacket was done.

    Ah the drought… you were kind to not mention the eventual dropping of any standards you had in order to end the drought – the “streak-breaker”. I understand if you do not want to go there. Shudder. Ok, this may be mean spirited, but its for real. The sad thing here when you realize it is you, my friend, that is actually the streak-breaker.

    I join the call.. “Series, series”!

  10. wanduma says:

    Knew it! That fake smile is deeply unhealthy…
    http://www.mobuzz.com/shows/2844.html

  11. Woi! That drought for freshman year was maddening. As were the smiles.

    Very entertaining stuff, this is.

  12. MMK says:

    universally speaking – I hope that you have since recovered from the drought and that it has not wounded you too deeply. I am still smarting, I can still see – in my frequent nightmares – what I had to do to slake my thirst. The depths to which I sank. sob…

    wanduma – you are clearly a person greatly in need of medication. Why did you leave your land to go to the sexual desert known as freshman year? They really should have handed out a little warning brochure at the American embassy when we went to apply for our visas.

    anonymous – If I had a dollar for everytime I was told ‘you speak such good english’ and ‘you are so articulate’, I would be a millionaire. And then I would use that million to take out contracts on the life of the next person who ever says that to me again. Thanks for commenting.

    Yes, I will put up one more post on:

    Beer Keg Etiquette; How to Get Laid at a Fraternity Party; Why you should take English as a Foreign Language instead of Freshman English; How to ensure that your newfound black consciousness does not destroy your chances of earning a degree.

  13. acolyte says:

    As one who has decided to turn the drought into a quest for chastity instead of bonking human blimps. I have to say this was a most illuminating post!
    -Come sem 2 I stopped smiling.All I do now is nod at you I only smile if I know you.
    -What about the subtle insinuations made by profs about your ability to handle work ie can you handle that?Let me know if you need help.
    -Black Man Rage is inevitable just dont brood on it.
    -What about the fact that few people do a favour for you here unless it helps them?
    -Also the fact that the way cliques here ostracise foreigners lead to all foreign folks becoming pals?
    We need a series up in here!

  14. Ms K says:

    I don’t know whether to enjoy the fact that I can laugh at this!!

    Brilliant. LOL @ the drought and the smiles. Altho the smiles happen here too. As in here at home in Africa.

    I’m off to laugh in the corner lest I invoke BMR.

  15. Kabinti says:

    Three cheers for all liberal arts school attending Africans (male or female). Was a part of that group at one point and you couldn’t have stated it any better. The smile was the WORST part for me. Secondly, salaam rationing – the salaams that came once a week despite the fact that you passed each other every day on the SAME path to lectures. Peeps would pass by you the rest of the week like you were any other Mugumo tree on campus!

  16. Great post. Picked out as one of two featured posts in daily Best in Blogs feature at Candide’s Notebooks (www.pierretristam.com).pt

  17. Ntwiga says:

    Very nice post, I wish I had seen it all those years ago. It would have saved me a world of pain.

    Expanding on your ( and Keguro’s ) excellent comments:

    1. Be prepared to explain how & why you speak English so well.

    This might seems to be foolishness given that you need to have met some prerequisite as far as English langauge skills go to gain admission but unfortunately, such is life.

    I personally prefer to tell all questioners that we are required to complete a 20 minute crash course in English at the airport before they let set foot on American soil.

    2. Be prepared to explain to those who might actually known about Kenya why it is that you are NOT a champion long distance athlete.

    3. Prepare yourself to repeat everything you say for the first 6 months atleast 3 times.

    It will not be fun.

    As a counter-point to that, prepare yourself to repeat everything you say for the first 6 months when you return home.

    Brace yourself for the sneers as all and sundry pronounce that you now “talk through your nose”.

    -Steve

  18. This is a brilliant post! I’m sharing it with buddies. A lot of us are nodding our heads and thinking, “if I knew then what I know now….” Anyway, that’s life–we live and learn!

  19. MMK says:

    girl next door – this was the pain of college life. It was actually quite grim. Will try and do more posts on the subject. Thanks for being so generous.

  20. OMG. Thanks to Kenyan Girl for turning me on to this site. This post was hilarious and the subsequent comments even more so.

    “How to ensure that your newfound black consciousness does not destroy your chances of earning a degree.” Priceless.

    You’re being added to my site.

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