IN America, all men are believed to be created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. But Nigerians are brought up to believe that our society consists of higher and lesser beings. Some are born to own and enjoy, while others are born to toil and endure.

The earliest indoctrination many of us have to this mind-set happens at home. Throughout my childhood, “househelps” — usually teenagers from poor families — came to live with my family, sometimes up to three or four of them at a time. In exchange for scrubbing, laundering, cooking, baby-sitting and everything else that brawn could accomplish, either they were sent to school, or their parents were sent regular cash.

My father detested it when our househelps sang. Each time a new one arrived, my siblings and I spent the first few evenings as emissaries from the living room, where our family watched TV after dinner, to the kitchen, where the househelps washed dishes or waited to be summoned.

“My daddy said I should tell you to stop singing.”

Immediately, they would shush. Often, they forgot and started again — if not that same evening, on a subsequent one. Finally, my father would lose his imperial cool, stomp over to the kitchen and stand by the door.

“Stop singing!” he would command.

That usually settled the matter.

I honestly cannot blame my father. Although they hailed from different villages across the land, their melodies were always the same: The most lugubrious tunes in the most piercing tones, which made you think of death.

Read it at NY Times.