A few days ago, an African-American friend of mine on exchange at the University of Ghana told me about racial abuse he had suffered on campus at the hand of another exchange student. The lady in question, a white student of anthropology, also on exchange from the University of Vermont, spat on him and repeatedly called him a nigger because he sought to talk her out of verbally attacking another student.
Being a student of anthropology, the lady in question, Liz Cheli, knew exactly the effect her words and action were going to have and intended to achieve those very effects of demeaning and insulting a young black man by insinuating he was less of a human being because of his colour and casting on him the shade of a terrible and painful part of his racial history.
The condemnable act hasn’t received the swift condemnation and disapprobation it ought to have received from the University (which for the records has been made aware of this incident) neither has the lady had the presence of mind, conscience or propriety of character to apologize for her crass conduct.
It’s just another day in paradise for everyone- it seems- except that a Black man who was insulted and treated in such a despicable manner and who the paradise, of being in an African University where he can at least have the protection of his brethren from the abhorrent monster of racism, is lost forever.
But perhaps I assumed too much and wrongly so when I speak about the University of Ghana as a paradise free from the scourge of racism.
How can it be a paradise when the University has no clear-cut cultural policy which integrates local students and foreign students, but rather, inspired by a tactless desire to make the most money, pushes all foreign students to the International Student Hostel where they live in a little box of privilege throughout their stay, insulated from the realities of campus life, the daily insecurities and the struggle with amenities? How can it be a paradise when local students who can afford to pay for the pleasure of the International Students Hostel are turned down because they do not have a 3.0 GPA, a requirement which doesn’t apply, matter or exist in relation to foreign students? How can it be a paradise when students are attacked by miscreants around campus and when nightfall places a curfew on some areas on campus, and when students bemoan the constant state of insecurity in some parts of campus while a statue of Gandhi, condemned by the facts of the past and the evidence of his own words as a racist, stands arrogantly in contempt of our collective sense of pride and history behind the Balme Library with the pleasure of two security guards protecting him 24/7? How can the University of Ghana be a paradise, for us, the sons of the land and our brethren who through the callous chains of slavery were transported like cattle abroad when the University, in the face of racism, still minded to count the profit they are reaping from exchange students financially do nothing?
Maybe it was a paradise when Dr. Danquah argued for a University of Ghana. Maybe it was a paradise that the Parliament of Ghana dreamt of building when they passed the enabling Act. But, what we have is far from a paradise. And it hurts!