I’ve heard of the splendor of America several times since I arrived in Burkina Faso in June.
“I want to go to America,” “Once I finish school, I’m going to America for University. The schools are better,” “If I go to the Unites States I will never come back here, there is no money here,” “We should have chicken for dinner again. In America they eat chicken every day for dinner,” “Take my daughter with you to America,” “America is good right? You have good women there. I want one…white women are better than African women,” “It’s easier in America. Everyone has money, and it’s clean clean! Right?”
Burkina Faso is the poorest country the Peace Corps works in, in fact, it’s the poorest country in Africa. However, the poverty is not always obviously seen or felt. As one man in my village put it, “You have shoes on your feet don’t you? You eat every day don’t you? You have a job, yes? You are not poor, Burkina is not poor.”
Nevertheless, the poverty is there. But still I think about the struggles in the States. The economic recession we faced and how it affected Black men more than any other group, the blazing inequality between men and women (and the intersectional effects on ethnic minorities, especially Black women), the outrageous and ever lasting institutionalized racism, and the difficulties of immigrating to the U.S. and trying to become a citizen. The list goes on.
But who am I to say it’s better to stay in Burkina than to take the leap to America? Perhaps the speculative benefits for some are better than the present reality. Perhaps it’s merely good to have an aspiration. Maybe life would be better for them in the U.S. No one can know for sure. But surely, life is always greener on the other side.