Sarcasm Muted: One Woman’s Journey To Giving Straightforward Responses Amidst Other Challenges

One of my students approached me after class. It was the first day of class and I’d given a short blurb of who I was and what I did before coming to Grad school. Here’s an excerpt of the conversation that ensued between us:

Student: Hi, Tolani. So, you’re a pharmacist, and you’re from Nigeria.

Me: Mais oui (but yes), I am from Nigeria, and I’m a Pharmacist.

Student: I didn’t know that pharmacy was so popular in Nigeria. You’re the third Nigerian I’m meeting from our College that’s studying pharmacy.

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[The sarcastic part of me almost replied the student by saying, “Err, we are in the College of Pharmacy, it isn’t random that the Nigerians you meet therein will be studying pharmacy, or is it?” However, I didn’t do that, so I kept listening with the utmost attention].

Me: Like all other professions, pharmacy is quite popular in my country. We have nurses, plumbers, pharmacists, and all kinds of professions.

[At this point, I studied her facial expressions keenly and I could have sworn that she had the WOW look on her face, like I’d just told her that Obama was my second cousin (no, he’s not!)].

Student: Wow! [See, I told you she had a wow look. She just uttered it!]. All the Nigerians I have met so far are very smart.

Me: Yes, indeed.

Student: Well, thanks for letting me know.

[At this point, said student lifted their school bag and was about leaving but not before I asked them …]

Me: Where are you from?

Student: I’m from here (by here, they meant Texas).

Me: Cool! What part?

Student: Austin

Me: Nice to know


What’s the morale of the story? Glad you asked, here is not just one but three:

  • When people come from a place of limited understanding, hard as it may be, let’s try to provide non-sarcastic responses. The reason is, we want to improve on their knowledge levels and not make them feel stupid. As someone prone to dishing out sarcastic responses, exercising restraint can be quite hard, but not impossible.
  • Represent your country well wherever you find yourself. The said student had the impression that all Nigerians were brainy and smart. I didn’t intend to change that mindset.
  • The title of this post looks like a dissertation title. It shouldn’t be but it is what it is.

Mo is Nigerian;

Mo is not always sarcastic;

Mo will be teaching her students next on international pharmacy practice;

Mo feels good about bringing some positivity to Nigeria;

Don’t be like Mo, be yourself, as Mo is already taken!

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I'm ME: replete with the mien of a bard, scholar, Argonaut, Jesus-lover, funfinder, bibliophile, Koreanophile, partner, and wanderer!

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