I am a basketball fan through and through. Ever since Accra Hearts of Oak clinched the “virgin cup” (the first CAF Confederation trophy) from my onetime darling club, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, my passion for soccer descended on a downward spiral. I remember crying after Joe Hendrix missed that penalty and Charles Taylor was denied the perfect sweet revenge on his former club. Soccer had inflicted enough harm onto me. Not forgetting the infamous Asamoah Gyan penalty kick in South Africa.
With these strings of losses, I found refuge in basketball. It is a more exciting game. The high flying athletes donned in sleeveless jerseys can augment a painful loss with their “out of this world” athleticism. Last year the Golden State Warriors denied my bandwagon team, Cleveland Cavaliers from lifting its first trophy. Of course it was a sad moment for me but LeBron James’s power dunks and Steph Curry’s 3 pointers from Timbuktu was enough compensation.
Basketball is the only game that keeps me awake into the wee hours of the morning. Well to be more accurate, it is one of the only games. There is the occasional wake keeping to watch the Super Bowl or a Mayweather fight. Boxing is not one of those games that gets me jittery and scrambling for tabloids on the latest ringside news. But a big name fight always gets everyone talking and being the talkative I am, I never miss a chance to be part of the conversation.
HBO big name fights are not the only boxing bouts I watch. Ghana has its own fair share of boxing big names who can get you glued to the television. Azumah Nelson is easily the first name that comes to mind. Then there is Ike Quartey, Joshua Agbeko and the Joshua “Okro Soup” Clottey. These are the names which have graced the lewd streets of Las Vegas and had their names on the lips of gamblers in 24/7 casinos. The names of pugilists who have not or are yet to make it to American cable TV is a long one. The most obvious one is BUKOM BANKU.
A native of Bukom, Braimah Kamoko aka Bukom Banku is the most endearing boxer in the country. His lack of respect for the basic functional and grammatical rules of the English language tickles us. Weary from our 9-5, we laugh out loud when he pronounces a word wrong, something he does with abandon. His antics in front of the camera can almost be mistaken for anti-establishment stones being thrown at the media industry. But I bet he does not fully appreciate the power he yields.
Like a nation starved of quality humor from its standup comedians, Bukom Banku has substituted most of the bona fide comedians around. He has endeared his way into our heart so much that when he put up a farce of a boxing bout with another jocular boxer, Ayittey Powers, attendance went through the roof and even a former head of state attended. He has had stints on a couple of TV shows in addition to an on and off music career.
Bukom Banku is obviously a celebrity by Ghanaian standards. His name is a household staple. So like other venerated, for want of a better word, he has been allowed to go away with a tad too much. The boxer takes his pugilism beyond the squares of a boxing ring. He has been cited in several instances for assaulting his wife and other women who refuse him sexual favors. He has unashamedly averred such stories, repeating it during interviews while we laugh at his warped English and ignore his domestic abuses. Bukom Banku has had his way for far too long in this country and the derision with which he engages in his shenanigans blinds us.
If everything else he has done in the past has blinded us, the sudden whitening of his black skin should not. The bald headed, brash talking Bukom Banku we knew last month was as black as Wesley Snipes. We woke up earlier this month to a picture of his legs looking like ripe plantain. The picture looked like the man was suffering from a bout of vitiligo in its early stages.
After the image went viral within a few days, Bukom came out to declare that he was bleaching. Yes, bleaching. In fancier words, he was reducing the melanin concentration of his skin to look like an “obroni”. And that was exactly what he was going for. To look like a white man.
In a widely shared interview, Bukom repeatedly talks of how he does not like being black, how this is his choice and how being “white like Michael Jackson” would make him a good German Ambassador because Germans would see him as one of them.
On the issue of choice, it becomes very difficult faulting him. Society these days thrives on protecting the agency of individuals so long as the choices they make is well informed. It will be hard showing how informed Bukom Banku is about making altercation which could potentially harm him.
His third reason should be enough reason to disregard this as the actions of a nut job. In as much as the president has been accused of making some questionable appointments, chances of him appointing an unlettered aggressive man with no working understanding of international relations as ambassador to Germany are as slim as my GPA. If this were his only reason for using the self-hating lotion Claire, then this would have been an open letter to all psychiatric hospitals in the country to check up on Bukom.
It is the “I don’t like being black” statement that is worrying. That is why I am taking a break from a busy exam week schedule to rant. Bukom Banku is not the only one who does “….not like being black”. He just happens to be the loud mouth with no filter who came out talk about his self-hate.
In Chimamanda’s Americanah a sentence stands out glistening on race relations and issues in a racially monolithic country. “I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.” The lack of a racial divide largely means we as a people do not emphasize our blackness. Unlike South Africa where there is an ongoing racial strife, albeit not in a (large scale) violent form, race issues barely boils to the surface. When it does, it usually has to do with underpaying Lebanese employers.
Bukom Banku’s silly “I do not like being black” statement shows us how self-hate can creep into people even when there are no racial issues in a country. The ubiquity of western literature and entertainment can undertake the colonization of black minds without the physical presence of white supremacy in a country. The plastering of white skinned models on magazine covers and upholding of European standards of beauty as what is most desirable catalyzes such hate.
While we see this trend on the rise, we continue to live in oblivion that the nonexistence of other races means we do not have to start teaching what blackness means and why we have to uphold it. Until we do so, people will continue to bleach to look “beautiful” and light skinned would be the only right skin.
Instilling “blackness” must be a conscious effort. “Black is Beautiful” must be drummed into every hearing and listening ear. Blackness definitely goes beyond aesthetics. It is a sociocultural and political thought theory whose limits cannot be probed in a single reading. For now, speaking out against this buffoonery of Bukom Banku should be the collective burden on our black backs.