13 Jun 2016

Nigeria's Joy Isi Bewaji Writes On What You Never Know Or Probably Never Heard of New York

Joy Isi Bewaji is the author of Eko Dialogue, a collection of short stories that has been interpreted on stage by The Crown Troupe of Nigeria. She is an editor, and has edited lifestyle magazines in Nigeria. She was a part of the 9-writers-4-cities tour in Nigeria, and is currently working on her second book.


Lagos thinks it suffers bad traffic?

Kikikikiki. I'm laughing into a cup of cappuccino.

Come and see traffic in Manhattan.

3am in the morning, and there's still traffic.


From the 10th floor, I can see the traffic- wormlike body stretching to eternity.

If you walk three miles through Manhattan, you'll find ten beggars...

Nine of them are black men.

There's stupendous luxury side-by-side overpowering lack.

When you skip out of Macy's where a flimsy Alfani dress goes for $112.00, you'll meet a black crackhead male asking for "change" around the corner.

Black teen rapper at the entrance of the subway. Spitting bars. Hoping for a spare dollar.

They sell everything in the streets. From banana to grapes. They prepare fruit salad by street corners.

A black woman is screaming "Jesus is alive."

A yellow man has a placard stating, "Give your life to Christ."

One minute away is a business complex where executives earn enough money to buy range rovers every other month.

There are coffee shops everywhere. Restaurants at every turn.

America is tough for the black man though.

In a firm of 200 members of staff, there's likely to be only five black people.

Two Nigerians. Two other Africans. One African American.

It's phenomenal inequity.

The system puts the African American down. It's the reason one African American in, say, Harvard is celebrated like a clown performance... to take away the disgraceful imbalance in the system.

One African American coding in Silicon Valley will make the headline like it's a big deal, when one thousand white kids, some as young as 13 years old, are doing same.

You don't feel the bite in the first years after relocating. But when you get used to 24 hours electricity and impressive internet service... you begin to question other things slapping you in your face.

I saw a white man, fully clothed, sleeping at the bus-stop.

It's a very impersonal society. All you need do in Nigeria is ask your friend's ex-boyfriend's uncle to house you for the night, or for a week while you sort your rent or unemployment...

Or bully your way into your father's house and reclaim your old room like a proper agbaya.

You might want to rethink the idea of sending your pre-teen kids to America for education.

Racism is rife.

Beyond poor education that we suffer in Nigeria... the worst thing a child can suffer is subtle and/or blatant show of discrimination.

Ethnic discrimination is an issue, yes. But if it hurts you badly, you can learn a local language of your choice and fit into the culture.

Economic status is a thing. If it pains you too much, you can work smarter and make money. Yes?

But racism is deeper. It is of the devil.

-Because you are never going to be white.

You are never going to win the system.

There'll always be the Oprahs. The one-out-of-one-hundred-thousand-black-success.

It is not good enough when one of out 20 white men succeed.

They may not be grappling with electricity in America, but they are fighting racial strongholds jealously guarded by a system that favours a race over the rest.

A system that tells a white swimmer that prison is not for him after being convicted of rape.


Your black beautiful kid is never going to truly fit into a system that tells him, "Is it true black men have reaaaaaaally big dicks?"

No, it is not flattery. It is racist.

You can't fix racism.

It is why you need to travel more. You get to appreciate the things you can fix in your own country.

Get over the euphoria of the first world fast, so you can pick the pieces of your own home.

Nigeria is fixable.

There are over 1.6m people in Manhattan...

They are heavily taxed.

But you can see where all the money goes into.

The system works.

Corruption will not let Nigeria be great.


I ran out of bottled water, and took a 2-mile walk to a supermarket by 3am.

Yes, 3am.

New York never sleeps.

Supermarkets and restaurants are opened 24 hours... Everyone is out. Nobody sleeps. Everywhere is safe.

A white chick is vomiting in a trash bin.

A 40-something year old woman in heels is heading out with her lover.

It's the life.

This is living.

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