While delivering a presentation on the activities of Action for Culture and Ethics at an Equality and Diversity group meeting, I relayed a personal experience to show how the simple composition of an African body system reacts differently to that of a Caucasian and how the understanding of that could help us to understand how people of different culture/ethnicity would behave differently. Such an understanding will foster integration, where we appreciate other people’s cultures and ways of doing things. What we’ve had so far is the expectation of the minority cultures (mostly migrants) to adopt the behaviours of the host communities and which is causing cultural conflicts with the host communities and even within African families in the UK.
My experience: ”About 2 years ago, I suddenly noticed that I was getting very tired around the middle of the day for no obvious reason. Getting a good night rest or staying longer on the bed seemed not to have any impact on this new status of my system and I had to approach my GP. Series of blood tests were carried out over a course of 3 months before my GP discovered that I was short of Vitamin D. That’s the vitamin you get from the sun and since we have limited sunlight hours in the UK, my body had run short. In fact, Vitamin D level was at the borderline according to my GP and I was prescribed a Vitamin D supplement.”
After the meeting, a lady who also gave a presentation stopped me on my way out and sort of, approved what I said about Melanin. She told me how the GPs at the area where Asylum Seekers were housed many years ago were prescribing anti-depressant to a whole lot of these Asylum Seekers because of low mood until someone got worried about a sizeable percentage of the Asylum Seekers, mostly from the African countries suffering from low mood at the same time. That concern led to the discovery that it was the shortage of Vitamin D because of the limited sunlight hours in the UK.
In Greek language, Melanin (a group of natural pigments) is termed ”dark” or ”black” and the dark skin of an African person is due to the presence of melanin which is a natural sunscreen preventing the penetration of the sun’s UV rays through his/her skin. The presence of melanin in an African person is connected to his/her natural and cultural location, which is Africa. The melanin is then inherited by his/her offspring/s.
The fact that a Caucasian lives in Africa for many years, and may be tanned, will not automatically make him/her to have dark-skin offspring and neither will an African give birth to a Caucasian-like child because he/she has lived in Europe for many years. This shows further that if an African has to automatically carry about that natural and cultural identities wherever he/she goes, then, it would be futile and retrogressive for us to consider that his/her cultural behaviours must be changed to that of the host communities before he/she could be accommodated as integrated.
The fact that my GP did not ask me to go and get acclimatised to the weather of the UK (neither the ones involved with the Asylum Seekers) but gave me the supplement which is necessary to boost my depleted Vitamin D, we believe, at Action for Culture and Ethics, that the host communities should consider giving the minor cultures a breathing space to practise their cultures (as long as it is not crime and does not violate other’s rights) and stop criticising them or judging them because they do things differently.
There is the need, and urgently so, for the service providers and government agencies like the Police, Social Services and the NHS to engage in trainings geared towards understanding the cultural differences so that we could have society which is just, fair and equitable. There is an urgent need for persons of African origin and the African-led organisations to also engage in similar training so as to foster confidence and stability in the members of its community and especially among the younger generation who have to deal with two cultures and are expected to be balanced.
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