Dashing through the snow

Fake degrees, a form of resistance?

The thoughts in this article are all my own, but informed by ongoing conversations made popular by BBC’s the Documentary Podcast and CBC’s Marketplace.

Written by Patience Adamu

Lately it has been popular to expose and publicly shame people who have purchased their degrees. And although I agree that it is a problem, I want to draw your attention to a related issue–that unaffordable education perpetuates a system that is not merit-based and is oppressive to recent immigrants, racialized groups and those who live under the poverty line.

Let me be clear… it is important to be qualified for a job. But, I have read countless articles that discuss how university education does not adequately prepare students for employment. Yet increasingly employment opportunities require a university degree, often listing advanced degrees as an asset. We know that lived experience and work experience are huge contributors to most people’s qualifications today. We know that international education and degrees (particularly from the Global South) are discounted when considered by employers. We actively encourage friends and family members to slightly exaggerate their skills and experiences when in interviews, to use certain words to market themselves.

Yet we act surprised when people purchase and present fake degrees to support immigration applications, to qualify them for prospective employment and to try and get a better life.

In an information world that needs highly-skilled people, degrees are necessary to get jobs. So rather than focus on the symptom, fraud, we should be more interested in the cause. Fake degrees are a symptom of a finish line (security, stability, success) that keeps moving further and further away from the most vulnerable people in the world. Fake degrees are a way to resist oppression, unemployment and poverty.

As a PhD student who has been in university for 9 years – and in school for 23 years, I can attest to the frustrations of having to compete with those who do not have the same levels of education as I do. However, as an expert-in-training on the interplay between Race, Immigration and Labour Market outcomes, I am suggesting that we will continue to see this kind of behaviour if we do not change the way education, lived experience and work experience is achieved, perceived and rewarded in our societies. This article in no way suggests that I am in favour of permitting fraud or malpractice.

And congratulations to the Province of Ontario for providing free university tuition to those living under the poverty line. This is the kind of leadership we need to curb this activity.

“foreign credentials are less valued in the labour market because it is the ‘label’ of a Canadian credential, and not the knowledge of an educational degree, that is valued in the labour market” (Buzdugan & Halli 2009, p.370)

Buzdugan, R., & Halli, S. S. (2009). Labor market experiences of Canadian immigrants with focus on foreign education and experience. International Migration Review, 43(2), 366-386.

 

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on January 22, 2018.

Jollof Rice, a diversity and inclusion piece

Written by Patience Adamu

Growing up I remember being ashamed to bring my favourite food, jollof rice, to school to eat in the cafeteria. After all, I was the only African girl. I can recall that every time my mom insisted on packing this non-European lunch for me, I would not eat it; keeping my lunch bag hidden in my backpack and eating when I got home from school, before my mom got home from work. I was afraid that if I warmed the food and people smelled it, they would ostracize me and prevent me from eating with them.

During the lunch hour at school I would read in the library or find a place to hide in a stairwell. Whenever teachers or friends would ask if I ate, I would say that I wasn’t hungry, or that I had already eaten. Luckily, lunch was only 40 minutes long, and I used to be a real proponent of those breakfast programs.

Since my school days, things have really changed. Right now, the West African diaspora is encapsulated in a war—but really a celebration—of jollof rice. Jollof rice is a very popular dish in West Africa, and so happens to be my favourite food. Several countries in West Africa claim to be home to the superior recipe. No comment here on the status of Nigerian jollof. There have been countless lighthearted competitions, panel discussions and hilarious videos dedicated to the selection of which country makes the best jollof rice. And this makes me smile because finally, FINALLY… there is no more shame in me eating my favourite food in the cafeteria.

In some ways that shame is useful because it helps me to be aware of my words and my body language when interfacing with others and their food. That shame has made me hyper-aware of when people in the work or school cafeteria say that someone else’s food stinks, or when someone at the annual potluck calls unfamiliar dishes ‘ethnic’. Please remember that everyone’s food stinks to someone, and everyone is ethnic.

I only wish that every time my mom packed my lunch for me, I would have eaten it in the cafeteria.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn on February 12, 2018.

“Did you know?”: My experience at the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture

Written by Patience Adamu

Last week, I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. I had to wake up at 6:30am to “order” my free tickets. That is how popular this museum is. A majority of the people in the museum were not Black. And dare I say, I felt like white folks were taking up too much space at this museum. Not just by existing, but by literally taking up space.

Lunch was amazing. They served soul food in the museum’s restaurant. And they were so blackity-black-black about it, and in the most American way possible. The lunchroom was a continuation of the museum.

As someone who is well versed on the experience of Africans in North America, I thought I would be pretty well-versed in the history exhibited in the museum. But I felt like an imposter… honestly. I did not know everything. And although I am Black, as an African, a Nigerian, I am very far from African-American.

I had never learned too much about sit-ins and the role they played in the Civil Rights Movement. Black folks would sit-in restaurants that were white-only and asked to be served, often refusing to leave the restaurant until served. In the museum, they had a restaurant table with seats in it so you could actually “sit-in” and learn about the protests. Genius.

My one criticism is that the museum focused almost exclusively on overt forms of racism (how American of them), less on the continued impact of covert races and discrimination. But I think that’s just how museums are, it’s less about nuance and more about the fulsome experience.

I recommend the museum to anyone who goes to the DMV area. I was so glad I did it.

Museum - points of arrival

Kanye, If Slavery Was A Choice…

Written by Patience Adamu

I have been listening thoughtfully about what Kanye West has been saying about racism. I watched the interview with Charlamagne in full, as well as the interview with TMZ in full, and I continue to follow Kanye West on Twitter.

Personally I feel…
Kanye West is a creative genius. Geniuses are, by definition, more capable of thinking more concretely about that which others feel is impossible. But the issue at hand here is the following:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years… For 400 years, and its all of y’all, it’s like we’re mentally in prison.”

What we are witnessing is someone who does not know the difference between interpersonal racism (also known as hurt feelings) and a structural racism (oppression).

But I have questions…

  • Where is Kanye’s father? Black parents have the added responsibility of educating their children on the history of their ancestors and the American slavery/Jim Crow experience. Now that Donda (formerly a professor at a HISTORICALLY BLACK UNIVERSITY) has passed on, where is Mr. West. Kanye stated that he’s “out here in Hollywood, and my mom passed and I don’t know who I can trust”.
    • Footnote: Dr. Donda West, spent her life working at a Historically Black University, a university that was created during the Jim Crow era in the United States, when Black students were not allowed to attend universities (because those universities were all-white). Dr. Donda West is rolling in her grave right now – as is Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman.
  • Why is Kim Kardashian silent? As a public figure, I feel she should get her PR team together and write a carefully worded piece that supports her husband and his struggles. Kanye West is not “media trained” he just said what he feels “in love” but causes an immense amount of pain to the community of people who actually lived through this trauma and continue to be affected by it.
  • Did Kanye West live through slavery and not let anyone of us know that reincarnation is real? Real question. Why did he think he could quote that nonsense Harriet Tubman quote?
  • Does Kanye West realize that slavery did not just occur in the United States, but slavery existed for centuries in other places including the Caribbean and in Africa (by the Arabs)? His comments have consequences for formerly enslaved peoples around the world.

Ignorance is bliss…
This is why it is so important to teach history and teach it ‘no holds barred’. Kanye West has no idea (excuse my French) what the fuck he’s talking about. His ignorance has been exacerbated by an environment that does not (excuse my Ebonics) check him, and put him in his place.

Power…
Kanye West’s power is an interesting phenomenon. I find that he simultaneously overestimates and underestimates his power.

He overestimated his power when he stated in the Charlamagne interview that the “powers that be” impacted his ability to get back on the radio after the Taylor Swift incident at the MTV VMAs in 2009.
Again, when he showed up 45 minutes late to a fashion show and was Lebron’d (read a bit about what happened to Lebron when he left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010). This was a wake up call to Kanye West that he was tolerated, not celebrated. This is an instance where he overestimated his power in assuming that showing up to a show 45 minutes late would be okay.

He underestimates his power every time he states that he has been — and hates being — controlled. He does not state who is controlling him, but I think it might start with Kardashian and end with Empire.

Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed with

More footnotes:

Why did the Black homeboy with the dreads (from TMZ) not react to the slavery comment? Even the white TMZ owner/host guy was disgusted, confused and flabbergasted.

Kanye West lacks respect. However, it is still not okay for us to say that we want the old Kanye back. He’s gone. People change and evolve, and living through the death of your mother, almost losing your wife (Paris robbery) and becoming a father to three children is enough for a total evolution.

Chance the Rapper has done more for the City of Chicago in the few years that he’s been famous, than Kanye has. So please stop talking about Chicago, and be about it.

Shout out to TMZ’s Van Lathan.

I appreciate the ability of Kanye to bring the transnational Black community together – even if it is together against him.

#torontostrong

torontostrong

Written by Patience Adamu

Today is seven days since a young man drove a rented vehicle onto the sidewalk in North York, Toronto and killed 10 Canadians, seriously injuring 15 others.

As Torontonians, we all were struck by different aspects of the event, but I was most struck by how close it felt. We have heard these stories before, from places in the U.S. and across Europe. But we know these things, and we naively know that they are not supposed to happen in Canada.

Really what I’d like to speak about is how the police take down occurred. The officer did not harm the young man, he disarmed him emotionally, spiritually; the young man was afraid. The police officer was not.

In an age where we see so many frightened police officers who shoot unarmed men and women of colour (often repeatedly), it was rather beautiful to see a police officer that was unafraid. A police officer who was strong. In addition to the police officer’s demonstration of strength, is the city’s demonstration of strength.

I have never been prouder to call this place home. And I have never believed more, that Toronto is the best place on earth.

Diversity our strength.

My sincerest condolences to those who lost someone during the incident on Monday, April 23, 2018.