Ifemelu becomes friends with a Senegalese professor at Yale named Boubacar. Blaine doesn’t like him and seems jealous of him, but Ifemelu feels a connection with him because they are both African and they share many similar experiences. Boubacar tells Ifemelu about a humanities fellowship at Princeton, and says she should apply. Boubacar often invites Ifemelu to visit his class, a seminar on contemporary African issues. She sits in one day and watches his students browse the internet on their laptops as he lectures.
The cultural differences between Blaine and Ifemelu have seemed especially wide lately, so Ifemelu finds comfort in befriending a fellow “American-African” who can better understand many of her experiences. Adichie throws in more critiques of academia and university life.
After the class Blaine texts Ifemelu about Mr. White, the old security guard at the library, whom Blaine had befriended but Ifemelu slightly disliked because of his sexist comments. Another employee had seen Mr. White exchanging money with a black friend and thought it was a drug deal, and so called the police, who arrested him. The university claimed that it was just a mistake, nothing racial at all. Blaine plans to organize a protest in front of the university library.
This is another all-too-common example of systemic racism, which is especially prevalent in the American criminal justice system. Mr. White, unlike most victims of this kind of prejudice, at least has someone like Blaine to speak up angrily on his behalf.
Blaine assumes that Ifemelu is going to his protest, but she decides to go to a lunch with Boubacar and some other professors instead. She feels bad about it when he starts texting her, and she goes back to the apartment and tells him that she took a nap and slept through it. Blaine comes home, very pleased at how the protest went, and happy that Shan made an appearance. The next day he finds out that Ifemelu was at the lunch, however, and he confronts her, horrified that she lied to him.
This is a less extreme example than cheating on Curt, but Ifemelu purposefully skips Blaine’s protest almost knowing that it will lead to trouble between them. She is sometimes dissatisfied with Blaine’s constant uprightness and moral discipline, and she rebels against this (mostly subconsciously) by telling a harmless but definite lie.
Ifemelu apologizes, but Blaine brings up other issues—how she writes her blog but doesn’t really live it, and won’t protest with him. He says the blog is just a game for her. She can tell that this is because she is African—he sees her as not angry enough because she is not African-American. Ifemelu calls Amarinta for advice. She says that Blaine can be “ridiculously high-minded sometimes,” but that he’ll get over it. But Blaine doesn’t seem to, and so Ifemelu goes to Willow to stay with Aunty Uju.
Blaine now gives voice to some of Shan’s implied criticisms of Ifemelu—that she doesn’t really know the suffering of an African-American because she is an outsider looking in. Ifemelu doesn’t have the family and cultural history of oppression, and so Blaine sees her as not angry enough about racism. The divisions and misunderstandings between them grow.
There is a blog post about what white privilege means, even if you’re poor and white. You might not be “privileged” in a monetary sense, but if you and a black person were both arrested for drugs, you would be less likely to be sent to jail. There are different kinds of privilege, but race privilege is an undeniable one. Ifemelu links to some questions from Peggy McIntosh (an anti-racism activist) about white privilege. They ask things like “Do you worry that your children will not have books and school materials that are about people of their own race?” or “If a traffic cop pulls you over, do you wonder if it is because of your race?”
Here Adichie even quotes an outside source verbatim, directly confronting white readers and making them acknowledge their own privilege. One point she makes about privilege is that you usually don’t notice it when you have it—you notice it when you lack it. Thus Peggy McIntosh’s questions highlight aspects of life that white people may have never considered, and shows how even there society favors them over other races.