Nonfiction Feature: “there are things that your privilege will not let you see” by Jola Naibi


……….like the woman in church who asks me a question like I should know the answer because my skin is a certain color & when I tell her that I do not know the answer she tells me she likes my accent & asks me where I am from originally & I tell her that I am Nigerian & there is no originally in my story & I am still from there & she gasps & tells me that she has heard about the girls & how lucky I am to come to this country & to get an education & what a shame it is what is going on in that part of the world as if she is immune to that sort of thing & I think she believes that because she knows some trending news story she knows all about that part of the world so I tell her that I did not learn to speak English in these United States nor did I attend school here & I went to an all girls school in Nigeria &  my mother went to an all girls school in Nigeria & her mother went to an all girls school in Nigeria & we were never kidnapped & what happened with the girls is sad & unfortunate & can happen anywhere in the world when things start to fall apart

……….even here

……….& I can see that she is taken aback & I am taken aback because she is taken aback & I am taken aback because she is unable to see beyond her own privilege

……….like the man who spends six months in Cape Town & begins to parade himself as an expert on Africa & takes offence when someone points out that Africa is not a country & he is adamant that he is African now & I want to tell him that I have lived in his country for more than a decade & I am still called an alien

……….but I remain silent because I am too hurt to speak & I know that if I open my mouth I will unleash a torrent of anger that will be misunderstood & I remain silent because I know there will come a time when I will talk

……….& that time comes when the children are separated from their parents at the border & a man says to me that he does not know how any parent would put their children through that sort of thing in the first place & I ask him if he thinks the parents are deriving any pleasure in taking their children through such a perilous journey & I share with him the poem home by Warsan Shire in which she says that

……….no one leaves home unless home chases you

……….fire under feet

……….hot blood in your belly

……….no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear



……….run away from me now

……….I don’t know what i’ve become

……….but i know that anywhere

……….is safer than here


……….& I remind him that the families at the border are not any different from his that the children at the border are not any different from his two sons and one daughter & that if he was in that position he would do the same thing & that we are all vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life

……….& he looks down in silence & I hope I am getting through

……….I hope I have been able peel back the layers that have made him blind to certain things

……….I hope that I am able to let him see the things that his privilege will not let him see


Jola Naibi was raised in Lagos, Nigeria, studied in the U.K., and now lives in the U.S. Reading and writing fuel her energy, and her first book, Terra Cotta Beauty, is a collection of short stories set in Lagos, which was published in 2014. She writes as she remembers.