As soon as I knew that I would go to Mali, I kept reminding myself: “Don't be a Black White Saviour”.
We all know what a regular “white saviour” is – a white person who believes that they can save Africa and solve our problems (completely ignoring that the probems they try to solve are caused by them and their countries, but that's another story) because they come from the so-called developed world and think their Whiteness is some sort of magic spell that can make our lives better.
The thing I have in common with white people is that I, too, was born and raised in a first world country. This means that I was conditioned to view and look down on Africa and Africans the same way White Europeans do.
I have recognised that I could treat Africans on the continent the same way I was treated in Europe by Whites. That is to say that I could consciously and/or unconsciously see them as inferior, less intelligent, in need of help. My help.
Sadly, growing up I thought so. I believed that I was a better African because I wasn't a real African. I was African on the outside but inside I was European. I was one of the lucky ones who wasn't born and raised on a poor, disease-ridden continent but instead on this “heaven” we call Europe.
I still have to work out how I will successfully get rid of those ideas and biases. I have to put my 'European ego' in check. I have to be careful with my Western privilege. And Africans have to help me out.
Although I like to think of myself as being humble, I fear that some of my brothers and sisters might be so mentally colonised, that they put me on a pedestal and in a position I don't deserve (on the flip-side I'm scared that I won't be accepted as an African for the very same reason).
My fear is justified. Some years ago, my father went to the hospital with his mother. They were the last ones to join the queue but as soon as people found out he had a European passport, they let them jump the queue.
Knowing who I am and how hard I fight against oppression and undeserved privilege, I don't want to be part of a group that oppresses another just because we were born on the 'right' side of the Mediterranean Sea. This is why as soon as I get the Malian citizenship, I will give up on the Italian one.
Some say it's not an intelligent move, but it has nothing to do with intelligence. It's a matter of integrity.
The only thing I will use from imperial and colonial Europe are the tools she has given me to be the smart person I am today. I don't take for granted the education I have received or the simplicity with which I have accessed books or the internet. I have to use these means for the benefit of Africans.
As for now, I will be a student and an observer. I will learn the Malian way of life, trying not to impose my views thinking they're better. I will remember that I'm here to find my African self and not to make Africa a new Europe and Mali a new Italy.