This was originally written 7/23/2009 when I studied abroad in Ghana, West Africa. I will forever be changed by this country of love, hope, and humility.
As an American and particularly an African American, the first trip to Ghana can leave a person with mixed emotions and complex assumptions. The expectation of acceptance is extremely high and there are times when this expectation is not met. There is a strong yearning and desire in some African Americans to learn about where they came from and to define who their ancestors were. Unlike those who are Africans by birth, black Americans can not tell anyone much about their lineage. Rarely can a person trace their ancestral roots beyond three generations. Trans-Atlantic slavery prevented many family ties from being adequately recorded or remembered. This is a great injustice. Surprisingly, at times it seems as though the great hospitality that Ghana is known for is only reserved for whites. In some cases, white Americans will be serviced before a black Americans or even ignored until the white person is satisfied. For a black American, this is shocking. The black American may think “I am ignored and discriminated against in my own country because of the color of my skin, and I am ignored in Ghana for the same reason. Is there any place I can go that does not support and advocate white privilege and supremacy?”
However, in Ghana, it is customary for strangers to be treated with the up-most respect. A white person (in their eyes) is really a stranger. And while a black person is a stranger too, they are not viewed as a stranger in the same context. Even so, this customary practice may leave many African Americans feeling hurt, frustrated, and confused.
Despite these problematic areas of concern, Ghana has a peaceful environment that most Americans rarely experience. Crime is relatively low and people are less likely to commit extreme acts of violence. There are also people who will genuinely accept foreigners regardless of their cultural and ethnic differences. Thus, it is easy for any American to fall in love with Ghana. Overall, Ghanaians view Americans in several different ways. Americans and Ghanaians both hold extreme biasness and stereotypical images of one another. It is only through education and interaction that these stereotypes can be eradicated. I have learned valuable information about the African culture. I still will never know exactly where my great-great-great-great grand mother came from and how my family ended in up in the small islands of the Bahamas, but I realize that Ghana is the closer to home than America will ever be.