The Struggle for Liberty in Africa

by Magatte Wade,
from CATO's Letter,
Summer, 2019:

I was born in Senegal, on the west coast of Africa, and right around age seven the biggest question of my life came to me. Because right around that time, my family decided that I should join my parents in Germany.

There are two things I will never forget. The first is my grandmother telling me: “You are about to go to this place where almost no one is going to look like you. Literally not look like you. They’re going to have a different skin color.” And she said, “Also, most of them will be speaking a language you do not speak.

Back then I spoke French and Wolof, the traditional language of Senegal. And she said, “Also, those kids are engaged in a process that you have not been engaged in, which is going to school. But I don’t want any of that to intimidate you.Their different skin color is still a color of skin of a human. That language that they’re speaking might be different, but it is still a human language. They’re human and so are you. And going to school is something that little humans do. Therefore, let none of that intimidate you. Go over there and you’ll figure it out, because you are no less than anybody.” With that message, she sent me off.

So, I went to Germany, and I saw that all that my grandma had said was true, but another thing I immediately noticed was all this infrastructure around me. All these paved roads everywhere, and the fact that all the homes had a phone, even though back then it was still landlines. I turned a faucet and the water’s coming straight out, you know, it’s just all of these weird things. And to me, that was so strange. So my question at age seven was: “How come they have this, and we don’t?” And it became a lifelong question that I had to answer.

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