Just when Africans thought that the yokes of colonialism have long been downed in the doldrums of history, it appears there still remains some fundamental work when it comes to a shift in mentality. For some of us, it only gets better unless one is a toubab or let me put it this way, one has to be black on the outside but toubab inside to do the right thing or get things done in the right way.
It is not uncommon to hear one person rebuking or scolding another by telling him/her in the face that ‘ah iteh manke toubabo ti’ or ‘yow doh toubab’. Usually one tends to find him or herself at the receiving end of the aforementioned lines when they had failed to deliver on a promise they had made to someone; when they failed to turn up in time at a meeting point; when they never showed up at a highly anticipated dinner or date at a cool eatery as agreed by both parties.
In reinforcing Professor PLO Lumumba’s assertion that Africans have lost faith in themselves, the African or better still, The Gambian, is fond of crediting the other person for being a toubab when a promise has been fulfilled or when one is deemed too gentle, calm and collected, well cultured or found to be exhibiting all those mannerisms that are required of people with civility.
It is commonplace to hear even a family member remarking with glee remarks like ‘Talib mom toubab la. Bariwut affer kom Sultan’ or my own aunt in Jokaland drooling in ecstasy ‘Nfamara ning adoko mang kiling, hee womu toubabo leti’. Make no mistake, this is not a thing for the less educated only but ironically, even people that are well read but sadly not well informed. Perphaps, it could be the after effect of Phd (not the other one) but a smartly conceived abbreviation standing for ‘permanent head damage’. Worryingly, the habit of referring to the well behaved as toubab and seeing the other guy as the anthesis of anything noble or dependable is symptomatic of a people at cross roads; a society where some people still need reminding that the African is as graceful, gentle and equally human as the toubab.
Lest we forget, if there is one thing that history has taught us, it is that Africans have long since been doing things in their own way; standard of behaviour and rules that govern the way they live and relate to each other. However, this does not and should not in any way mean that we as Africans, especially us in The Gambia, should keep meandering in the past by merely considering our seemingly unending failure to honour appointments and surfacing at rendezvous and other functions as business as usual.
For far too long, meetings, most often highly important ones, would take a great deal of time before they could be kicked into motion because every single person who should be in attendance is driven by the notion that every other individual is going to turn up late since that remains the norm for non-toubabs like me.
Evidently, the cobwebs of what has become a deeply entrenched stereotype do not seem to be disappearing from our shores anytime soon, for it is an issue of the mindset. Ironically, the toubab tag is also conferred on someone who finds it difficult to wake up early in the weekend. That, according to a friend of mine in bitimrew, is a fallacy that is very much at odds with the realities in the West.
by Famaa Fofana