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What if Rachel Canning Had Been Born to African Parents?

rachelBy all means, you’ve heard of Rachel Canning. You may not know her name, but you certainly know her story. She is the 18 year old high school student from New Jersey who is suing her parents for failing/refusing to pay her college tuition and weekly child support. The details come right out of a local “WTF” newsletter.

As I gather, Rachel is a fairly good student and is on the cheerleading team. Her father is a police officer. Her parents have rules, some of which demand that Rachel do chores and be home by 11pm to meet her curfew. This is standard parenting procedure, because as any parent (and certainly any police officer) can tell you, nothing stays open past 11 pm besides legs, Krispy Kreme and the occasional Wal-Mart. These rules did not sit well with Rachel and she ended up moving out. She contends that her parents kicked her out; they say she moved out voluntarily.

I know Rachel. I know Rachel because I’ve BEEN Rachel. I went to school with dozens of Rachels.  You’re 18, you’re popular, you’re accomplished in your own right, and you’re pretty sure that you’re grown. Never mind that you can’t legally have a drink. You CAN vote and you’re eligible to work for most American employers, which translates into grown. The difference between this Rachel and all the other Rachels you and I have grown up with is that we are/were not stupid.

As any African, Haitian or Jamaican individual will confess, there was NEVER a time they would even fathom suing their parents for their upkeep, particularly when that individual has failed to hold up their end of the bargain in the parent-child dynamic. That dynamic is very simple: you do as I say as long as you depend on me. Sometimes, that tentacles of  that dynamic extend into adulthood, with African parents desperately trying to assert some level of control over their adult children.

“Why aren’t you married yet?”

“When will you born grandkids for me?”

“If you had been a lawyer like I told you to, you would not be suffering as you are now!”

I cannot imagine anyone from Africa or the Diaspora suing their parents for bi-weekly support or college tuition after so vagrantly disregarding the terms of an established parent-child contract. Hei! Your parents will come and catch you in your sleep should the thought ever cross your mind! Of course we have all grown up with issues with our parents, and you may have thought certain unflattering thoughts about them and their rules…but to utter them was inconceivable, let alone pursuing court action on the matter!

I asked some people from the Diaspora and at Home what would happen to Rachel if she had been born of African parents. After they stopped laughing, these were their responses:

Male from Haiti: My mother would have laughed. Then she would have punched me in my face. Then she would have called my father to come and collect me from the hospital because I was making her late for work.

Female from Georgia: Oh, God. What? No, no, no, no….

Female from Ghana: Haaaahaaahaaaa!!! Have you met my father? You lie bad!

Male from Ghana: You see, the thing is we have all grown up watching our parents struggle to pay for our education, work so hard to maintain even the most basic comforts of modern life, and boast of our accomplishments to others that we identify with the struggle. Their struggle is our struggle. We are not so far removed from what it takes to raise a child in this world. That’s why we would NEVER consider suing our parents for something like this!

Male from Ghana: Malaka. Come on. Ask me a more serious question. Sue from the where??!


As for this one, I blame her parents. Obviously she did this because 1) someone put her up to it and 2) She felt like she could get away with it. Of all the stupid things my friends and I cooked up together, all the inane plans and things “I woulda done if it was me”, it never crossed my mind, even briefly as an actual option. Those things were for girls far more stupid than I was. I remember I ran away from home at 18, thinking I was going to get a job at a radio station and go live in a flat in Tema or something. My parents kindly informed me that if I didn’t come home, that was the end of my college education (which I’M still paying for, mind you). After some prodding from an auntie, I was smart enough to realize in that moment that I could not make it in this world alone at 18…which is most likely the conclusion that Rachel came to. However instead of begging for her parents’ forgiveness for breaking their rules, she has mustered the gall and impudence to sue them!


Hmmm. Mom Squad. Mom Squad from Japan, New Zealand, Accra, Nairobi, Atlanta, Nigeria! What would YOUR parents’ reaction have been if you tried to sue them for any reason at all? Discuss! Discuss!!

This article has 15 comments

  1. Ms JJ (@MsAfroCAN)

    Her lawyer is her friend’s dad and with whom she’s currently living with. That family is obviously enablers and indeed a bad influence who encouraged her to do this nonsense. Now THAT’s bad parenting. They are making me do something I swore I never do and that is judge people’s parenting when I’m not even a parent, but really, all a child of Africa can do when they have grown up is appreciate their parents efforts. Somehow we always get to that point when we ‘get it’.

    • Malaka

      I don’t know why people have such an issue judging other people’s parenting skills. There’s NOTHING wrong with judgement. After all if you judge yourself you will not be judged! If a parent is in the movie theater with a screaming kid and refuses to move them during the movie that’s a bad parent.
      If your kid is acting out in a restaurant and you refuse to discipline them that’s bad parenting!
      As for me, I judge other parents all the time and I’m pretty sure that I get judged as a parent quite as often.

  2. Nana Ama

    Ever heard of the phrase “an idea that was still-born”?
    My 18 year old self would do my mother’s “job” for her and slap myself into next week for even daring to THINK of such a singularly stupid action, let alone voice it! Still-born implies having a form. This won’t even qualify as a wisp of harmattan fluff of an idea!

  3. starrbonn

    This is funny abeg, sue my parents, I can never even have such a thought cross my mind, not to even dream or imagine it. weLl its allowed over there. Nigeria where I come from even the Judge would give me some heavy knock and tell me to apologise and beg for forgiveness from my parents and send me home, which court would even allow my case, if at all my case makes it to court, its only 30seconds fame I would be entitled to. Rachel is lucky she has more than 15minutes of fame, she should common go and apologise to her parents, if you can move out then you can take care of yourself. I like my African parenting ooo and it made me what I am and I would do same to my kids, I’m not yet a mum

  4. AM

    sue who?!?! what does the word sue mean? spell it out for me, S-L-O-W-L-Y please?! aha, are you finished? yes, ma! boom twaf twaf slaps upside down my head, dead and gone to the ICU, and perhaps meet my maker would have been the outcome.

  5. Khadija

    My momma would say “I brought you into world and will take you out of it!! Try me and see!”

  6. Abena

    These white people and their nonsense!Sometimes who says being an African trained child doesnt have it advantages?
    i once made a mistake of reporting my dad to his friend that he beats me too much and i want that my dad’s friend to adopt me.The man gave me food and gave me the beating of my life for thinking such nonsense and after that he took me back home,all that foolishness disappeared from my heart.
    And you think i would want to sue my parents?in Nkrumah’s Ghana?which court?i laugh in Spanish! First of all the judge gonna put me in mbofra tur) school(borstal home) but not before some lashing!
    Malaka forget it!no African child,properly trained by African parent would think of such nkwasias3m!Period!

  7. Prou

    I am way over 18 and still cannot fathom how I would want …wait.. think of suing my parents for any harm, real or perceived, that they could have in the process of bringing me up, inflicted on my person.
    Even if I crossed that bridge and brought the lawsuit, the legal system in my home country Kenya would make such a mockery of it that I would die of shame.
    The people who inhabit the interwebs would hound me and the joke that I am would go ‘viral’ in the shortest time possible. I am sure my employer would look for an excuse to fire me, being my first job at the age of 18 and I would have no avenue for redress, my life would certainly be over. So perish the thought.

  8. John Batpist

    Childrens’ rights à l’Americain or european. That is what is waiting for Africa where everything white is adopted has human freedom. Racahel go ahead it is your right but remember also your responsibilities towards those who take care of you. Your family friends are leading you to hell!

  9. Iman Maiwada

    Malaka, i will be 32 in may of this year. i work and i am also very capable of fending for myself. I made the “bold” step to move out of my parents house when i was 27 cos i felt i was an adult. I got away with it for 3years until i woke up one morning to the thunderous poundings on my door and when i opened up, it was my uncle with a truck and some men i don’t know. Without a word said, i watched them move my entire apartment into the truck and i was packed along. I got home to meet my entire family waiting for me to explain where i got the nerve to live on my own as an unmarried woman when my family owns a house in the same city. My dear,that was the sorry end of my independence until of course i get married. I bet that would have been reason to sue my parents if i was Rachel and American. But then again,i am Iman and and very Nigerian.

    • Malaka

      Heeerrhhh. This is serious. I had to take a moment to collect my thoughts.

      In my view, this is an intensely different level of control, a level quite frankly, that I can’t possibly understand or imagine. I have officially “seen” it all!

      Stay strong sister!

  10. David S.

    Forget the reaction of my parents, can you imagine the reaction of an African judge if someone brought this suit into their courtroom?

    • Malaka

      I imagine the ruling would go something along the lines of: “Heh. My friend…GET OUT!!”
      Case dismissed.

  11. Ola

    It is just unheard off as a female in Nigeria to live alone unless,you are married no matter your age o.You will have to fight for it tooth and nail.

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