Ifemelu attends a surprise birthday party for Blaine’s friend Marcia. The guests at the party talk about Barack Obama’s announcement that he is running for president. Ifemelu has started feeling more uncomfortable around Blaine’s academic friends, as they seem to live only within their specialized fields and not be curious about other knowledge. Ifemelu has met Blaine’s ex by now, a white professor named Paula who seems to fit more comfortably than Ifemelu herself does in his world of academia.
Just as in her relationship with Curt, Ifemelu starts to find cultural divides and misunderstandings between herself and Blaine. They are both black, but they are also from different continents and move in totally different circles of friends. Ifemelu once again feels like an outsider, disconnected from Blaine’s academic friends.
Paula is at the party as well, and she acts excessively friendly towards Ifemelu. Paula compliments her blog and then reads out loud a post from it called “Friendly Tips for the American Non-Black: How to React to an American Black Talking About Blackness.” The post is telling white people to stop bringing up their own suffering or their ancestors who might have been discriminated against, because everyone has suffered, but not everyone has suffered for the particular reason of being black. Ifemelu says that black people don’t want everything to be about racism, as this doesn’t actually help them in any way—so if they say something is a racial issue, then it probably is.
We get another blog post in its entirety, but here it is part of the action of the novel itself. This is yet another important point Adichie makes: that everyone has experienced some kind of discrimination or suffering, but only black people have experienced the particular kind of discrimination that comes with being black in America. So when talking about racism, white people should stop bringing up their own suffering, and just listen.
Ifemelu’s post criticizes many of the things white people say to avoid admitting that racism exists: things like “my ancestors were Irish” or “black people can be racist too.” The truth is that racism is different from simple prejudice, because racism has a complex system of power behind it, and white people have that power in America. Paula finishes reading and the guests compliment the post.
Ifemelu points out that when white people try to compare their own suffering to systematic racism, it doesn’t offer a meaningful human connection, but instead actually drowns out the voices of black people and alienates them further.
They replay the video of Barack Obama announcing that he is running for president, and different guests have different reactions: some think he has no chance, others that he could do it, and others are simply glad that he makes them feel good. Ifemelu doesn’t know much about Obama yet. One guest says that she is ready for a black president, but she doesn’t think the country is. Paula criticizes this, saying that there is no “the country” apart from themselves, the voters.
Barack Obama becomes a more major figure in the novel now. Obama was ultimately elected president in 2008, and became the first black president in America’s history. His candidacy and the hope it inspires becomes an important part of Ifemelu and Blaine’s relationship.
Ifemelu later borrows this sentiment for a blog post about the ridiculousness of asking whether the country is “ready” for a black president. After the party Ifemelu admits to Blaine that she was jealous of Paula. Paula seemed like a true activist and idealist, and Ifemelu realizes how much she and Blaine have in common. She isn’t jealous that anything would happen between Blaine and Paula, but only jealous because Paula is “good” in the same way Blaine is.
As a semi-outside observer of American culture, Ifemelu can emphasize how ridiculous it is that the country might not be “ready” for a black president, and even the fact that there hasn’t been a potential black president until now. Ifemelu once again feels disconnected from Blaine in that she doesn’t share his activist passion.
The chapter ends with another blog post, this one called “Traveling While Black.” It discusses how black foreigners are viewed in different countries, and how they are often looked down upon, even in non-white countries. Ifemelu mentions a friend saying that “native blacks are always treated worse than non-native blacks everywhere in the world.”
This is more commentary on racial prejudice as it appears around the world—the history of slavery and Western racism have made even some non-white countries automatically prejudiced against blacks.