Last week, I had the opportunity to go to an event hosted by the African Student Union.
I was there to cover it for the newspaper, but it got me thinking about America and what we could be doing better as a country.
If you haven’t read my other story, the event was a way for ASU to teach other students what it truly means to be from Africa and what members’ day-to-day lives looked like back home.
While they were discussing their friends and villages, I realized that America has a lot to learn from some of these countries.
Americans often have misconceptions of not just Africans, but of many different cultures. We perceive them as not as good as us just because they’re not the same, but honestly, it’s arguable that they’re better.
One of the things I learned at the lecture is that everyone cares about each other in Africa.
If you’re struggling emotionally or financially, your neighbors will be there to help you.
Even if you’re just having a bad day, almost everyone in the village will make it better by saying hello or stopping to talk for a few minutes.
It’s impossible to walk down the street, ride the bus or go to the market without having a conversation with a stranger and maybe making a new friend.
Americans are selfish, to put it bluntly.
Yes, there are some truly good people out there, but for the most part, we’re only worried about ourselves.
We don’t stop to check in on each other or help a struggling neighbor without thinking twice about it.
We put ourselves above all these other countries, but why? Because we have more money? Because we might be technologically more advanced? Because we have better school systems?
Is that really what matters?
We’ve started to focus so much on being the best that we’ve stopped caring about the most important thing: the people.
We sit idly by as terrible things happen to other people because it’s not our problem, right?
Why should we get involved in someone else’s business? If they wanted our help they would just ask.
We need to get out of this mindset and learn a thing or two from other cultures.
Don’t wait to help someone until they are desperate enough to ask. Spot the people you think are struggling and offer them help right away.
Stop letting people go through things alone because our culture could perceive it as rude to insert yourself into someone else’s life.
Too often, we stay silent because it’s easier. When we do get the courage to speak up, it almost always turns into a fight.
We need to find a better way to coexist with one another.
In most African countries, they can have political debates without riots starting or hate crimes being committed. They can peacefully go out wearing a shirt of their favorite politician and vote without problem. Discussions are had instead of fights.
We often don’t come up with real solutions to problems because we spend too much time fighting over who is right and who is wrong. Everything is so black and white, I’m right and you’re wrong.
We would never admit that the other political party might have some good points, because that would hurt our ego too much.
It’s not about who is right and who is wrong anymore. It’s about compromise. It’s about hearing what the other person has to say and finding a way to solve the problems this country faces.
We’re starting to run our country like a business.
We’re not thinking what is best for the people anymore when making decisions, we’re thinking, What is best for America? What can we do to help America make more money? To have the best education? To be better than everyone else? To make America great again?
But that’s not what matters. What we should be asking is what can we do to make America the best place to live? How can we improve ourselves so that everyone else’s quality of life increases?
While money and education are important, they’re not everything, like we often think they are.
To truly “make America great again,” we need to go back to the basics.
We need to remember what our ancestors were fighting for in the first place. They had a vision of inclusion and equality for every person who sets foot in this country.
They saw what this country could be, and a lot of that vision lines up with what is happening in Africa today. But instead, we put down their culture instead of learning from it.
Don’t get me wrong: I love America. I couldn’t imagine having grown up anywhere else, and I feel incredibly lucky to call this country home. But I also understand that, as a country, we’ve strayed from what really matters.
The ASU lecture made me realize that maybe the solution is simpler than we think. It starts and ends with truly caring about each other. We need to stop separating ourselves.
It doesn’t matter what religion, race or gender you are. It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is or who you voted for.
What matters is that we’re all people.
We all struggle; we all go through hard times.
We need to start remembering that and treating each other better.