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Wole Soyinka was featured on The Atlantic recently. In an essay, titled “A Nigerian Nobel Winner Exits Trump’s America,” Uri Friedman reopened Soyinka’s decision to interrupt his current legal status in the United States.

Soyinka who had been a legal resident since the ’90s decided to make his Green Card “inoperable,” by which he meant that anytime he went to the United States, he would apply for a visa like everyone else.

In the course of exploring the logic behind Soyinka’s decision to perform this “private” and individual act of resistance against the rise of Donald Trump as the President of United States, Friedman shares some of Soyinka’s comments on the current political climate in America.

Speaking from decades-long experience with fighting for social justice, Soyinka calls attention to what he sees as a threat to inclusion and racial justice.

On Trump’s Followers:

“What horrified me was not so much the individual demagogue, but to watch … [the] swelling numbers of his followers—to expect, for instance, that listening to that kind of rhetoric [from] a would-be leader of peoples, that crowds would diminish. But they did not. … It’s like seeing a people in a different light for the first time.”

On Divisive Politics

“Once you create outsiders, you enlarge the colony of outsiders,” Soyinka continued. “You don’t have enough within the original catchment area, [so] you then begin to include others, not merely on the grounds of religion, but on the grounds of race, tendencies. The minorities become social targets, whether directly or indirectly.”

On Regressive Racial Discourse

“I witnessed the assertion of the black peoples. And one was encouraged by that beginning transformation, which attained its apogee with the election of the first black president of the United States, and [the first American president with] African [heritage] for that matter. One didn’t thereby imagine that racism would die or anything of the sort. But I think that that temporary summit of black equality, this symbolic ascendancy of Obama, [suggested] that social consciousness in a progressive way would be the norm. Mr. Trump’s campaign was a sharp, deliberate reversal, almost as if Barack Obama had just been tolerated all along.”

On Political Opportunism

“this is a critical period globally, with extreme violent, brutish religious fundamentalism, which of course must be fought to a standstill…But with a situation like this you also need a large mind which is capable of distinguishing, which is capable of plodding [its] way through, the nuances of this violent, oppositional situation, not somebody who will use the excuse of the solidarity of hatred for these religious extremists as an opportunity to rope in, to have a blanket attitude towards, those who, for instance, profess the Muslim faith.”

You can read the full article here.

 

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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