Second-Class Citizen

by Buchi Emecheta
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Discuss the theme of racism based on stigmas and stereotypes in Second-Class Citizen.

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In Buchi Emecheta's Second-Class Citizen, Adah doesn't really understand how stereotypes and stigmas contribute to racism and discrimination until she joins her husband, Francis, in England.

Adah is used to being among the middle or even upper class in Nigeria. Her family is well off (at least until...

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In Buchi Emecheta's Second-Class Citizen, Adah doesn't really understand how stereotypes and stigmas contribute to racism and discrimination until she joins her husband, Francis, in England.

Adah is used to being among the middle or even upper class in Nigeria. Her family is well off (at least until her father dies), and she receives a good education. She struggles for a while when she has to live with her uncle and is treated as a servant, but even then, racism is not an issue. Adah ends up with a good job after her marriage, and she is really a first-class citizen.

But this all changes when Adah moves to England to be with her husband, who is studying there. Francis tells her at once that life is different in England. Here, they are second-class citizens, and this is because they are immigrants and are Black. Here, people look at Adah and her family with disdain, not because they know them but because they stereotype them. Because they are Nigerian, they must be undesirable.

Adah and her family live in slum-like conditions. The apartments they rent are tiny and filthy, but many people will not rent to them because of their race and their immigrant status. Landlords actually write "Sorry, no coloureds" in their advertisements, and when the family is evicted from their current apartment, they have a very difficult time finding a new place. One landlady takes one look at Francis and Adah and lies that the apartment they have come to look at is already rented, even when it is not. They end up living in a dirty, rundown building owned by another Nigerian immigrant. Adah cannot find good care for the children, either, and her son becomes very ill because of it.

Indeed, Adah learns quickly that people subscribe to all kinds of ridiculous stereotypes about people of different races. They refuse to look at Adah as a person. They cannot see beyond the color of her skin and her status as immigrant.

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