A Child’s Foe, Favoritism

I’m convinced. Well, I’ve always known. Now I’m just consciously recognizing its pernicious existence: favoritism. But not your ordinary last-kid-picked-kickball sorta favoritism. Nope. Its the bred that rotted my teeth because I slid under my bed and chewed gum and ate candy in resentment. It’s the my-one-child-outta-five-is-my-ultimate-favorite sorta favoritism that drives middle children, like myself, askew. Because 9.95 times / 10 times, we aren’t the recipients. Inversely, our pampered siblings live an unimaginable lifestyle; a utopia of sorts.

Kehinde embraced the exclusivity that riding with his father (Kewku) implied. They were alone and Kweku was kind. Kweku, the dying, dead, dissolving father in Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (2014) resembles everything adjacent to kind. Passionate. Loving. Providing. Intelligent.

Hard-working. Etc. Never as gentle, nurturing, or vulnerable. Never kind. Until Kweku finds himself “shoved…to the sidewalk outside” of his former hospital of employment (79). There, physically tossed out, slightly embarrassed, Kweku finds Kehinde frazzled right beside him. Kehinde was “surprised to find the world…revolving” too (79). This moment, which Kehinde was partially privy to, altered the dynamics of the Sai family, and Kehinde was aware of these universal shifts.

Child Favoritism

After confronting his former employer, being thrown to the curb, and watching chaos spill into the ER, Kweku gathered his son and they headed for the car. While en route, Kweku “was burning with the desire to say something brilliant, something wise and overriding” (80). Finding nothing brilliant to say, Kweku settles with “I’m sorry you saw that,” in which Kehinde clarifies “[s]ight is subjective” (80). Finally heading home, Kweku “drove without looking, without needing to, from memory. Seeing instead of looking. He drove home by heart (my emphasis added, 81). A colloquial statement, “he drove home by heart” means Kweku navigated home by his-way-of-knowing. However, in this logic heart is anthropomorphized: it borrows the human quality of memory. No only can Kweku remember the way home, but his heart (a bodily extension) too recalls. If Kweku’s heart has memory, or the ability to remember, then must it have other human qualities? Next, Kehinde’s decree that “[s]ight is subjective,” succeeded by phrases complicating what it means to see, points to the heart as a vessel of sight: something to see through. The preceding line of my emphasized quote—“Seeing instead of looking”—privileges seeing over looking. Implying that seeing is more intimate than looking. Seeing is linked more with home; it’s deeper inside. What’s deep inside and associated with home? The HEART! Hence, Kweku’s heart is humanized more with the addition of sight. It can recall, therefore think, and now see. Kweku’s heart appears to be a metonym, not for himself but his son—Kehinde. Kehinde is Kweku’s heart.

The heart is an extension of Kweku. It symbolizes the whole of him. Likewise, Kehinde is an extension of Kweku, a biological one. A child carries the same biological make-up as their parents—gaining equal parts from each parent—making them annexes. Socio-culturally, a son is thought to model after his father: be like him in manner. Thus making him a replica. The biological meshed with the socio-cultural insists that a son is a literal extension of his father. Augmenting this point, by –linking home and heart—has a dual meaning. As a preposition, a way of knowing; an adverb, proximity to an object. Thus, Kweku could either be driving by knowledge of the way home, or he could be driving by (with/next to) his heart, Kehinde. Therefore, the conflation of both by and heart and their double meanings into this colloquial phrase, symbolizing familiarity and comfort, marks Kehinde as the favorite of Kweku. He is with him at his smallest and raises him up. Kehinde pumps life back into his doppelganger. Arriving home, Kehinde displays his “genius” painting to his father, and awards Kwefu by choosing him over Fola (82). The once downtrodden Kweku, out on the curb, now “laughed” and “giggled.” Kweku’s life been restored, by Kehinde, his heart.

Without Kehinde, Kweku would surely die. By virtue of the everyday-phrase, the father-son relationship is implied to hold great import. Kehinde becomes an appendix to Kweku; not only his son; maybe even him reincarnated, the vessel through which a piece of him took a liking to. Kehinde is Kweku’s favorite.

Selasie, Taiye. Ghana Must Go, New York: Penguin, 2014, 1-160.