It Will Compel Even the Most Reluctant to Empathize with Ferguson in Under 10 Minutes

This 14-minute film about race and empathy will stop you dead in your tracks this Halloween weekend.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on November 1, 2014.


It’s probably one of the most difficult emotions to teach. It’s the emotion that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama want most for their daughters to be able to readily tap into—the ability to put oneself in another’s person shoes and experience the world from his or her point of view; to feel the highs, the lows and the nuances of a situation from a completely different vantage point—and then to be able to incorporate that point of view into your own decision-making.

It’s an idea that ran through my head again and again and again as the nation was reeling from the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin and then Jordan Davis and then Renisha McBride and, most recently, Michael Brown.

“A life is a life is a life,” I said to myself over and over again.

The short film AmeriCAN, which was released to the public on Wednesday, captures that sentiment so compellingly. Written and directed by actor Nate Parker (Beyond the Lights, The Great Debaters), the 14-minute film begins at the dinner table and ends with a single gunshot that Parker is hoping will shake viewers—particularly white Americans—out of this trance that suggests that black skin is less than, inferior.

“We’ve been conditioned to dehumanize black skin,” Parker said during an interview with The Root.

At the dinner table sits a white family: the father (a police officer), a mother and their two sons—a teenager and his younger brother. The teenager has an African-American friend, J.B., whom he wants to hang out with, but his father doesn’t want him leaving the house to meet up with J.B.—and especially not at night.

“I want to keep you from bad situations,” the father explains to his son—an eerie foretelling, but more important, indicative of the violence that this white man associates with all black boys, even J.B., a black boy he knows personally and considers to be “a good kid.” The irony.

Spoiler alert: Events unfold that night that allow this white police officer and, hopefully, white viewers to experience the grief that has become all too familiar for far too many black parents.

When Parker was in Ferguson, Mo., during the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, he said that what he found even more disturbing were the white protesters who were holding signs and chanting messages expressing their support of the police and the officer who fatally shot Brown, Darren Wilson.

That some white people couldn’t understand why black America was up in arms about the excessive police force that is used against black men, and felt that it was appropriate to communicate their support for Wilson so soon after the incident, seemed “worse than what actually happened,” Parker explained.

There was a lack of empathy. And AmeriCAN does a fascinating job of giving white Americans the burden to bear as well. But “the film is not an indictment,” Parker said again and again. He wants people, especially cops, to “take a beat.”

“Just take a beat,” he said, and be more conscious about the way dark-brown complexions are not valued in America, and the brutal way we perceive the intentions of black men. If more people—both law enforcement and civilians—took a beat and imagined young black men as their own kids, it would go a long way.

AmeriCAN left me stunned, saddened and yet oddly vindicated that activists like Parker (he maintains that he’s an activist first and an actor second) are using every tool at their disposal to change the messaging so that those white Americans who are sick of black people complaining about racism and police brutality get it.

This Halloween weekend, AmeriCAN allows white Americans to dress up as blacks, just for a moment. It’s a soul-baring journey that everyone ought to have.

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WATCH: Diana Discusses Raven-Symoné’s Contradictory Comments On ‘What Is American’

Raven spoke as if all Americans are mixed-race or perhaps not clear about their ancestry.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This segment was published at The Root TV on Oct. 7, 2014.

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NY Times, Check Your Stereotypes at the Door When Discussing Shonda Rhimes’ Work

shonda rhimes - ny times

Aside from how asinine the term “angry black woman” has become, it couldn’t possibly describe the brilliance and dimension that Rhimes has brought to prime-time network television.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on September 19, 2014.

In an attempt to shed light on Shonda Rhimes’ newest show that she’s executive-producing, How to Get Away With Murder (premiering Thursday night), New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley kicked off her piece with a quip that sent the Internet into a frenzy:

“When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.”

We’ll discuss the use of that pesky stereotype further down the line, but first things first: Rhimes, in response to the New York Times piece, thought to make it clear to Stanley that she didn’t create the show.

But let’s get into the meat of Stanley’s argument, which I thought was a well-intentioned but weak analysis of Rhimes’ work.

Stanley cherry-picked three black female characters from Rhimes’ shows—Miranda Bailey (played by Chandra Wilson) from Grey’s Anatomy, Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) from Scandal and Annalise Keating (played by Viola Davis) from How to Get Away With Murder—and used them to make the argument that Rhimes was making good on some personal goal to push “angry black women” to the forefront of television, but not before making them a bit more complex and layered.

Stanley opined that Rhimes was presumably fed up with the cookie-cutter, pristine image of Clair Huxtable from the early 1990s—you know, the kind of black women whom white people wished for blacks. Black women who are morally upstanding at all times and are eternally compassionate and forgiving human beings. Rhimes was also presumably tired of seeing the neck-rolling, finger-waving, not-taking-any-mess black women from sitcoms. With Bailey, Pope and now Keating, Rhimes apparently is living out her creative dreams of giving black women more of a realistic edge on TV.

“Ms. Rhimes started small with Bailey, a secondary character, not a star; moved on to the charismatic best friend Dr. Naomi Bennett on Private Practice, now canceled; and then went big with Olivia. Now she is shooting the moon with Annalise,” Stanley wrote.

Ehh–not exactly. Yes, Rhimes creates multidimensional characters. It’s one of her greatest contributions to network television. But nary a one of those characters’ race comes up all that much in their storylines.

Contrary to popular belief, Rhimes’ shows are still predominantly white. Grey’s Anatomy has one of the most diverse casts on network television, but Miranda Bailey is in a supporting role. And aside from how prominent Kerry Washington is on Scandal, that cast also is predominantly white (yet still diverse in a lot of other ways). Last, How to Get Away With Murder also features an African-American woman in the lead with Viola Davis, but early previews show us that it will also feature a diverse ensemble of wide-eyed law students, crafty attorneys, prosecutors, defendants and judges who all make up our criminal-justice system.

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WATCH: Diana Debates ‘Black Female Privilege’

The Root staffers unpack reactions to the use of this phrase in a recent piece. What can this conversation teach us about the sensitivities that surround discussions of race, gender, fear and power?

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on August 28, 2014.

It struck some people as an oxymoron. They couldn’t wrap their minds around how the words “black women” and “privilege” were being used in the same sentence in this article, let alone how they were being used to describe anything having to do with the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. That I said Brown’s death made me more aware of the privileges I hold as a black woman seemed “ahistorical” to some readers and treasonous to others.

They—understandably—wanted me to make mention of how we black women, too, are subjected to police brutality, and how we are often on the receiving end of senseless acts of violence inflicted upon us by ordinary civilians. Take Renisha McBride’s death in Detroit, Marissa Alexander’s ordeal down in Florida, or Marlene Pinnock, the middle-aged woman who was pummeled on the side of a California highway by a white cop. Josie Pickens, writing at The Root, summed up these sentiments here, asserting that the degree to which black people protest about injustices committed against black men is often much more heightened, visible and impassioned than it is when the victims are women.This disparity, she argued, created a false sense of security among black women and could even put us in danger.

Taking into consideration all of the responses—and recognizing the many harms suffered by black women in this country because of racism, sexism and, while we’re at it, sexual orientation—I still maintain that I enjoy certain benefits as a woman that evade black men. One commentator contributed to the discussion in an interesting way, tweeting, “While many [black females] would have [black men] admit to patriarchy, they rarely consider the privilege of being alive.” Another woman who shared my point of view said, “I think my black female privilege has allowed me to challenge authority with zero fear of execution.”

I’m curious about what is behind what felt like a gag order issued by some commenters on any reference to the advantages I believe I enjoy as a black woman. I reject the presumption that black women are somehow negating the trials and tribulations we experience when we speak about, and acknowledge, the advantages that our gender affords us. Does black culture even allow us the space and agency to explore the upsides of our black womanhood?

In The Root TV video above, I discuss some of these ideas with editorial fellow Diamond Sharp:

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Michael Brown’s Death Reopened My Eyes to My Privileges as a Black Woman

black female privilege

Sometimes you have to subscribe to a different set of rules when co-existing alongside black men.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on August 20, 2014.

I didn’t fully understand the privileges that I enjoy as a black female in America until a recent incident, punctuated by the shooting death of Michael Brown, made it all the more clear.

Yep, you read that right—I’m touting my privileges as a black female, not my woes, which are typically what are written about and expressed.

I’ll start with the incident: Long story short—my black male friend and I were having drinks at a restaurant when I got into a pretty saucy exchange with an older, drunken man about the venue’s music. In an inebriated, four-minute slur of sorts, he stuttered on and on and desperately tried to prove some insignificant point. Boy, did I feel chastised and harangued—but more importantly, I was annoyed.

My friend waited longer than I liked to tell the guy to essentially stop speaking to us. “Enough,” my friend said, but in my opinion, that “enough” was several minutes too late. Plus, his delivery lacked the scorn I felt this drunken man deserved.

My friend explained to me his rule of thumb: that I should have ended the conversation with the stranger the minute it became antagonistic. He also said that his potential involvement—particularly as a black man—might not have ended peacefully or justly. He suggested that in the future, I should try to look the other way if a person who isn’t in a clear state of mind tries to speak with me. As luck would have it, the drunken man returned, and after ignoring him, I was able to see that my friend’s advice worked.

That wasn’t the first time I realized that black men in this country have had to learn to navigate these waters much differently from how I’ve had to as a black woman. Black men live by a different set of rules that at times fly in the face of how I tend to live my life.

By nature, I am never opposed to ruffling a few feathers in the name of fairness and doing what’s right. I speak up for myself—at times emphatically. Injustice makes my insides churn, and I’ve spoken up many a time when I felt that a police officer was being overzealous or condescending or exerting power out of pure ego and not necessity. (Much as I imagine Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and Michael Brown did—to varying degrees—when they were approached by white civilians or confronted by white law enforcement.)

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New Rules: Hillary, Cut It Out; Ebola for Guantanamo; and More Perks for Black Women at Work

new rules_august 15_cover

Allow me to get my ‘Bill Maher’ on for a moment.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

The ‘Hillary Clinton’ portion of this article was published at The Root on August 15, 2014.

They say much truth is said in jest. Plus, Bill Maher’s on vacation, so allow me.

It’s time for new rules:

1. New Rule: If we ban Ebola patients from the U.S., then we have to shut down Guantanamo and rid Cuba of our detainees.

ebola cuba

Since we’re getting all particular about each nation keeping their cooties to themselves, it’s only fair that we put our Guantanamo prisoners on the first red-eye out of Cuba.

Surely Donald Trump—who tweeted that we should “stop Ebola patients from entering the U.S.”—and all those people sending nasty e-mails to the Atlanta hospital treating America’s two Ebola patients, would understand if Cubans decided to take a page out of their book, and developed a new sensitivity for how they’re a stone’s throw away from the world’s most accomplished terrorists?

And it’s not even that the Donald Trump’s and Ann Coulter’s of the nation have all of a sudden become hypochondriacs. It’s pretty clear that implicit in their concerns is the xenophobic idea that the Ebola virus is a West African disease that ought to be dealt with over there, and not here. Hell, Donald Trump said as much when he caught himself trying to cloak his disgust in compassion, suggesting that the patients ought to be treated “at the highest level,” but, of course, “over there.” Some people just can’t fathom the idea that a foreign pathogen is brewing in our midst. It’s as if the Ebola virus is messing up America’s feng shui, and folks are worried that we don’t have the appropriate device thingy to zap those negative particles away.

I mean let’s not act like America doesn’t have a few “harmful” exports that intrude on foreign lands on a habitual basis. I mean there’s McDonald’s, that horrible twerking sensation and the Kardashian clan’s family vacations.

Plus, with regard to the Guantanamo trade-off, the Cubans were never really fond of us housing our most dangerous criminal minds in the southeastern pocket of their beautiful island. This Ebola crisis gives their argument new ammunition. If we ban our Ebola patients from U.S. shores because Ebola is somehow un-American, then we should exercise a little quid pro quo and show the world that we’re ready to act on our principles by ridding Cuba of our detainees.

So, America, send Donald Trump a huge gift basket for this honor, and make way for the likes of Khaled Sheik Muhammed and Abdul Haq Wasiq because they’re coming to a correctional facility near you.

No more subjecting Cuba to our prison virus.

2. New Rule: Your black female colleagues get to have the big piece of chicken during company outings.

black women at work

And that’s just one of the quick-fix remedies to correct for the travesty that black women make 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes for doing the exact same job—this according to a new study released by the National Women’s Law Center.

Others remedies can include a 4-day work week, her own shelf in the refrigerator, extended vacation time and her own personal assistant.

It’s ironic that these finding have come in light of how some black women have been in the spotlight lately for the ways in which they’re trying to balance being a mother and being a career woman. There’s the South Carolina mom who was arrested for leaving her nine-year-old in the park while she went to work and the Arizona mother who was arrested for leaving her children in her car while she went on a job interview. These women are trying to make a dollar out of the 64 measly cents that they are given, and so it’s no surprise that some of them don’t have enough money to afford adequate child care.

So the next time you see your black female colleague taking a half-day, don’t cry foul or furrow your eyebrows, offer to buy her some lunch, thank her gratuitously for her contributions to the company’s bottom line and bow down.

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Nigeria’s Civil War on Film: Love, Betrayal & Tragedy

half of a yellow sun 2

A beautiful love story is set against the brutal civil war that nearly split Nigeria in two.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on May 13, 2014.

Movies rarely do books justice, and thus I was surprised that the film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun captured the nuance that author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie achieved in her award-winning novel.

The stellar ensemble cast is partially responsible. Wealthy Nigerian twin sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) are each involved in romantic relationships that are effected by the political and social unrest underway in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war of the late 1960s. Olanna, the caramel-complexioned and somewhat prissy sister is dating (and eventually marries) a sharp-tongued revolutionary professor by the name of Odenigbo (played by Afro-British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor). Kainene, the chocolate-complexioned sister who’s funny and delightfully acerbic, is dating a white British writer by the name of Richard (Joseph Mawle). Throughout the course of Richard’s time in Nigeria, he begins to identify as a Nigerian and ultimately a Biafran. It’s such an interesting character arc to see this white man come into himself in Africa.

Newton’s and Rose’s on-screen chemistry is palpable. They’re distant, yet synchronized—as is often the norm for sisters. Both Olanna and Kainene are smart as whips, cultured (they were schooled in London), and have an uncomfortable relationship with the wealth they stand to inherit.

Then there’s the story of Ugwu (John Boyega), the village boy who comes to live with Olanna and Odenigbo in the city as their housekeeper. His blossoming relationship is with modernity and the Western way of life. Odenigbo, a pro-Igbo zealot, wants to shake Ugwu of his subservience and teach him the importance of getting an education. Ugwu, in turn, is quiet as a mouse, yet seems to have an upperhand on Odenigbo in another way: Ugwu is very observant and is aware of people’s ulterior motives, like how he senses that Odenigbo’s mother is trying to drive a wedge between her son and Olanna.

“Go back and tell your fellow witches that you did not see my son!” Mama Odenigbo sneers at Olanna during their first encounter. Her pidgin English makes the cut from the verbal lashing all the more deep.

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The “Regular Black” and “Ethnic Black” Experiences in College

ethnic black _l2b

Students at Duke University during the 2014 Duke Africa Fashion Show (YouTube)

Kids on the nation’s campuses know the lengths to which some students go to distinguish their brand of blackness.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on April 8, 2014.

I’ll never forget the expression on my friend’s face during one of our African-American-studies classes at Duke University, when she was asked to clarify her response—for what seemed like the umpteenth time—to the question, “Where are you from?” after having answered, “America.”

“Look, I’m just regular black,” she said, with an air of frustration plainly woven into her response.

Regular black. It’s become a sort of declaration used by some native black Americans to distinguish themselves from first-generation black Americans—those whose parents migrated to the United States from Africa or the Caribbean. A friend of a colleague said that the term “JB,” or “just black,” was regularly used at her alma mater, Yale.

And these terms have gained popularity as a convenient shorthand, particularly at top-tier universities and Ivy League schools, where a 2007 study found that approximately 40 percent of black students had at least one parent born in a foreign land—nearly half of the black-student population. Meanwhile, only 20 percent of black college students across the nation have at least one immigrant parent, which means that ethnic black students are overrepresented—and have a large market share—at the very best colleges in America

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‘Beautiful’? What about ‘Pretty’ or ‘Hot’? Why Do Brown-Complected Women Get Grandma Compliments?


Sure, she’s been celebrated. But the language with which Lupita Nyong’o’s beauty is often described is a reminder that some of us haven’t strayed far from our hesitation to embrace brown girls.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on March 12, 2014.

Perhaps my brown-girl sensitivities are tainting my view, but I feel like there’s something going on with the words we use to describe Lupita Nyong’o.

Lupita is pretty, she’s cute and she’s a legitimate dime. And I use those adjectives intentionally, because it seems like these words are rarely used to describe her good looks in everyday discourse. Nor are they frequently used to compliment chocolate-complexioned black women in general. If you pay close attention to what people are saying—whether in TV shows or romantic comedies or even just hanging out with a few fellas on a Friday night—it seems that a large chunk of men, at least a lot of the guys I know, will lay eyes on a good-looking woman, turn to their boys and launch into a variation of “She looks good,” “She’s bad” or “She’s fine.”

For brown girls, though, it’s wholesome, grandma-esque adjectives like “beautiful,” “stunning” and “gorgeous.” They’re the kinds of words that some men, particularly young men, reserve for their mother, daughter, cousin, auntie or when a woman is all dressed up for a special occasion, like Sunday service, the prom or a wedding.

A friend on Twitter noticed this trend, too:

When you do a Twitter search for the terms “Lupita” and “beautiful,” the list of results you get back is a mile long. But the same search for “Lupita” and “pretty” turns up comments like “pretty dress,” “pretty brilliant” and various exchanges about whether she’s even pretty at all.

And even when writers are trying to celebrate her, they wind up doing their own version of this, too. A Time photographer called her “captivating,” the Daily Mail described her as a “breathtaking beauty,” a New Zealand paper said she has a “striking beauty” and the Huffington Post labeled her “stunning.”

Some men really do use words like “beautiful” and “gorgeous” to compliment women—but I get the sense that the uptight language often used to describe Nyong’o’s beauty is reserved for wholesome (read: boring) women whom men appreciate but don’t actually care to court, sleep with or flaunt to their boys as proof they’ve got game.

The datable girls who qualify to be the next “Mrs.” usually start off as “pretty,” “cute” or “sexy.” There’s even a school of thought that if a man calls a young woman “beautiful,” it’s because he doesn’t actually think she’s all that attractive. “Beautiful” is the politically correct term. It’s the go-to adjective to appear couth, when guys want to describe your personality and spirit in lieu of your looks.

Plus, I feel like I can tell when someone is trying to ingratiate themselves with me to atone for a prior offense—and that’s kind of how I feel when people call Lupita “beautiful” but not “hot.” There is a deep-seated preference for lighter skin and European features, and while counterintuitive, it almost seems as if this effusive praise for Nyong’o’s beauty actually demonstrates that.

On one hand, the collective gushing reads like an apology for the way beauty standards have historically subjugated brown-skinned women. And on the other hand, it’s as if people are going all out to boost Lupita’s self-esteem. The praise isn’t simply a spontaneous, organic reaction to this woman’s beauty; it’s a compliment, yes, but one that comes with a lot of baggage.

We’ll know we’ve arrived at a place of skin-tone aesthetic equality when men—and black men in particular—fashion magazines and America in general can admire Lupita’s beauty in the same imaginative, flamboyant—even salacious—way that people have expressed admiration for Beyoncé, Sofia Vergara or Angelina Jolie. There’s unabashed awe for these ladies’ looks, without further qualification. They’re simply referred to as “hot.” Full stop.

Brown-skinned black women want to be wanted in the same manner as caramel-complexioned black women—even if the praise is less polished—because that suggests there’s parity between different hues.

Don’t gaze at us and then put us up on a pedestal, never to be touched or spoken to or courted. We’re tactile beings just like other women, and we want the good—and sometimes the bad—reactions that come along with being sexy, pretty girls. We don’t need to be coddled or reassured.

Our beauty isn’t rare—it’s rather ubiquitous when you just open your eyes and rid yourself of narrow Western standards of beauty. And guess what? You can express your attraction by using the same colorful and colloquial vocabulary used to describe those bad “light-skin” chicks from around your way. 

Sure, Lupita’s gorgeous, even “resplendent.” But you know what else? She’s also fine as hell.

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The Tiger Mom on Why Nigerian Americans Are More Successful Than You

Amy Chua; generic image

Amy Chua; generic image

Amy Chua has a theory about why black Americans groomed in this West African culture are more accomplished. Plus, those hilarious spoofs parodying Nigerian traditions.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on February 25, 2014.

Depending on who is asked, the following news lies somewhere between Nigeria’s low ranking in the upcoming World Cup Games (frustrating) and the air conditioning system now operating in Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed Airport (promising).

“Nigerian” is the only black ethnicity listed among the eight social groups that have a “cultural edge” when it comes to succeeding and climbing the ranks in America, best-selling author Amy Chua, the “Tiger Mom,” argues in her new book, The Triple Package.

Chua gained some notoriety with her controversial 2011 parental memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she exalts the Chinese culture for its ability to rear high-achieving children in America. In this new release, Chua teams up with her Jewish husband, Jed Rubenfeld, to add seven more cultures to her all-star list: Nigerians, Jews, Indians, Iranians, Lebanese Americans, Cuban exiles and Mormons.

If you are Nigerian and feel honored by this recognition, now’s your chance to azonto obnoxiously in your cubicle.

But this may not be celebratory news because, according to Chua, Nigerians are already well aware of their culture’s prestige. Possessing a “superiority complex” is one of the three core qualities that all eight groups are purported to have. Being fairly insecure, and thereby feeling the need to prove themselves (doesn’t this contradict the first tenet?), is the second. Having the ability to control one’s impulses for immediate gratification and being able to endure intense periods of hardship and austerity is the third.

This trifecta compels these Triple Package ethnic groups to strive for excellence in America, since they believe wholeheartedly, and without a shadow of a doubt, that they can achieve greatness. They push their American-born offspring to do the same by drilling a by-any-means-necessary persistence into their work ethic.

“That certain groups do much better in America than others—is difficult to talk about … because the topic feels racially charged,” a passage from the book reads. Chua and Rubenfeld claim that their findings actually debunk racial stereotypes, since there are black and Hispanic groups that are outperforming some white and Asian subgroups.

“Cubans in Miami climbed from poverty to prosperity in a generation. Nigerians earn doctorates at stunningly high rates … [these] groups have a cultural edge, which enables them to take advantage of opportunity far more than others.”

To save themselves from the wrath of those American groups who did not make the cut, Chua and Rubenfeld describe how America itself was once a Triple Package culture but eventually lost that edge. The co-authors want so badly for that “old-fashioned American dream” to be revived, although a few critics in this country are already saying “Thanks, but no thanks” to the implicit offer, going so far as to call the book’s entire premise dead wrong. This historical analysis explains how several of the early wave of immigrants whom the authors cite actually had financial, political and educational advantages from the beginning.

Having been exposed to two West African cultures myself (my father is Nigerian, and my mom, Ghanaian), I see some credence in Chua and Rubenfeld’s thesis about how some cultures have distinguishable characteristics. However, I’m leery about how they extrapolate the elite eight and don’t give proper due to the circumstances that influence cultural traits: economy, geography and policy—not biology.

All this talk coincides with the popularity of several videos made by first-generation Americans and Brits with parents from Nigeria. They give some insight into the characteristics that make Nigerians so unique.

Nigerian Father Responds to a Teenage Pregnancy

For instance, in the Nigerian culture, there are clear expectations of what is required of you at every stage of your life. And if a person chooses to jump the gun and skip ahead a few steps, then he or she must be prepared to accept the responsibilities that come along with that decision—but not before hearing an earful from Mom or Dad.

Nigerian Mother on Respecting Your Elders, Education and Career

It is fairly common for Nigerian parents to encourage their children to partake in those career paths that may be arduous but have clear, predictable and, more importantly, profitable outcomes, like medicine, engineering or law. Education is thus very important. Getting B’s won’t cut it—lest your mother cut you.

The Power of Prayer

It is not out of the ordinary to be awoken in the wee hours of the morning to the sounds of a Nigerian mother praying incessantly for her children and her family.

Eating Healthy and Settling Debts

A Nigerian father will always remind his children of how privileged they are to live in the States or the United Kingdom. You will hear the story of how he put a barrel of fruit on his head and sold the fruit at the market for two hours every morning for his mother (hey, Dad!) and then walked many miles to school—barefoot.

Championing Democracy

My father and uncle came to the U.S. in the early 1980s during the Reagan era, and within a couple of years they could recite the name of nearly every U.S. congressman and senator. Being politically aware and knowledgeable about domestic and global policy issues is common in Nigerian households. Most Nigerians could go toe-to-toe with Chris Matthews or Bill O’Reilly on any issue, any day of the week.

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