Face-to-Face With Stereotypes

“You Can’t Eat GB With a Gio Man”

After the war, Gios are given a very hard time-although many do not want to acknowledge this. There was a case where a very good Gio friend say Gono) invited some non-Gios to his house. Just as a test, he asked his friends to join him for a meal of eat GB, a major dish of the gio and Mano ethnic groups of Nimba County. He was quite surprised when the two friends of his (a couple, let’s say James and Joyce) gladly accepted the offer without hesitation and ate with him from the same bowl with their hands in a very cordial atmosphere. Gono was shocked and in disbelief. He could only say, “I thought you people say Gio man da killer and you all can’t eat GB with them?” A stereotype was broken. Thanks goodness!

“Lawrence, Country Ass”

A little boy from the village in the interior boy went to live with an Americo Liberian family in Monrovia. Each day, before giving him his many household chores, it was always begin with “Lawrence, bring your country ass here.”  It was so much that when Lawrence finally got enrolled in school, during roll call, each one had to give their full name. When the teacher got to Lawrence and asked for his full name, he responded “my name is Lawrence Country Ass.” Lawrence has heard this many times from his adopted parents and thought “Country Ass” was actual surname!

“African immigrants only work Factories

At a time he was doing a graduate program in Information Systems at Drexel University, Dennis went to a job fair hosted at the Bucks County Community college Bucks Campus in Bristol. As the story went, he really did not purposely go for the job fair. He was taking a SQL certification class and was there for that purpose when he saw a job fair going on. He decided to check it out and as soon as he arrived, the lady at the table knew exactly what he was qualified for. “There are no more warehouse jobs open,” she told him with a straight face.

“Kpelle People Stupid”

A Pastor and his wife who is also a pastor living in USA had a bad experience which emanated from the stereotype that people of the Kpelle ethnic group are stupid. The couple is God fearing, hardworking, very kind and compassionate. The man happens to be Kpelle and his lovely wife of the Bassa ethnic group. Through hard work and the grace of God, the husband along with his wife was able to open few businesses in Monrovia and put his in law over all of them. Business boomed and the money was coming in. Unfortunately, the in laws thought to themselves that being Bassa, they were smarter and “should not be working for a Kpelleh man.” Evidently, they colluded to divert the businesses to their own and made all the necessary paperwork to reflect that. Their reasoning was that “they could not be the one making money for a “stupid Kpelle man.”

“Lorma People can’t speak good English”

Although he completed his required program to earn an undergraduate degree in English Literature, the stereotype that Lorma people or all people hailing from Lofa County can’t speak good English became his major impediment.

In December 1980, on Lynch Street in Monrovia, Liberia, Dr. S. Henry Cordor (a writer and prolific pamphleteer from Lofa County – website) told me that when he came to the University of Liberia to study, he studied English literature. However due to his Lofa background, he was never awarded his Bachelors degree which he earned at the university. He was saved by the mercy of a Peace Corps volunteer who saw his work, arranged for him to travel to the Iowa Writers Workshop in the United States of America from where he enrolled in graduate studies and got his PhD in English literature. He still was never given his bachelor’s degree from LU. Imagine all the unnecessary hoops and loops Dr. Cordor had to go thru and imagine how students who could have benefited from his skills never did!

“I want only White Doctors”

Based on a true story told to Dr. Amos Zumo by Dr. Robert Boakai

Some Liberian ministers came to the US in the early 90’s. They were directed to the late Dr Robert Boakai of DC, doyen of the Liberian doctors in the US because one of them had a broken  arm and wanted to see an orthopedist but this particular minister said he only wanted to be seen by a white doctor not a black one. Dr. Boakai said that he was trained by only black doctors and he could only refer black doctors that he had confidence in. This minister was not pleased. He later found a white doctor, orthopedist, who scheduled to see him in the DC area. When he got there, the nurse checked him in, the doctor assistant removed the temporary cast from Liberia, x-rayed his arm. The film was shown to the doctor by the assistant, he told him to recast it without even touching this minister. Of course, the minister paid through his nose for professional services to the doctor, assistant and for the supplies used without the white doctor ever putting his hand on his wound. The minister was furious but nothing he could do about it.

Hurry up, the doctor is coming!

About a few years, in one of the exclusive hospitals in the Metro where black physicians (not black housekeeper or care taker) are a rarity, during an evening consultation hour, Dr. Zumo went to see a patient. Seeing this black guy come in the room to assess the patient, the nurse (thinking that Dr. Zumo was one of the expected technician, CNA or patient technician) was told by the patient’s nurse, “whatever you are going to do in that patient room, please hurry up because the doctor is coming!” Dr. Zumo responded in a calm voice “I am the doctor.” The nurse could still not believe until the charge nurse clarified.

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