Africans vs. African Americans?

A friend once told me that “before there can be unity between different races, we have to stop the seclusion we have within our own.”  The black community is comprised of all different cultures, yet rather than appreciate the differences that make us one, we divide ourselves and argue over who is better. This leads to debates such as Africans vs. African Americans which, in the words of a random twitter user, “seems like some T.I. versus Tip type stuff”. So, let’s talk about it.

First of all,  I understand that there is bound to be a separation between A.A and Africans due to continental divide along with slavery,  and involuntarily cultural assimilation. As much as we want to believe that we are accepting of one another, we aren’t. “‘Just because African-Americans wear kente cloth does not mean they embrace everything that is African,’says Oigbokie, a Nigerian business owner in Tampa.” (https://www.library.yale.edu). and “it goes to say for Africans as well. It starts with the parents. We have to stop judging people for being ‘ghetto'”. -Victor Adebayo. Though our traditions have strayed far from each other, we must realize that a majority of African Americans’ ancestry is rooted in Africa. We are descendants of the motherland yet we begin to feel no connection to it. We distance ourselves. We try to be so unique and different from our past because we tend to forget that our origins do not begin with slavery. “Slavery is the tie that binds, but the legacy also keeps the two groups apart.” said Tracie Reddick. My point is not to take away from the differences between the two but rather that we must embrace both. As I said in a previous post, in a nation built to oppress black people and p.o.c, the last thing we need to do is aid it by dividing ourselves.

“The chasm has prevented African-Americans from participating in the current economic boom in Africa and it has shut many African immigrants out of opportunities for economic advancement here in the United States.The problem stems from deep misconceptions, sometimes fueled by the U.S. media.” (theglobalist.com); The constant portrayal of Africa as poor, neglected,and dirty on television commercials and other media leads African Americans to want to distance themselves from it. This portrayal allows white American culture a justification for slavery and the many other atrocities committed against Africa. Once again, we forget that Africa is not poor, it has been robbed and looted by early European greed. It is not dirty, it is beautiful, it is the basis of all life.  On the other side, Jacob Conteh, an immigrant from Sierra Leon proposed that “many African immigrants buy into the erroneous notion that African-Americans are lazy and violent.They do not appreciate the great sacrifice African-Americans made, through advocating for their civil rights, to lay the foundation for Africans to be able to come to the United States and live in a country where both blacks and whites have equal rights, at least in theory if not always in practice.” and that “Before migrating to the United States, most Africans have typically dealt with white Americans who went to Africa as Peace Corps volunteers, missionaries, doctors or teachers. These Americans acted as mentors and guardians to the Africans and developed positive relationships with them.When they come to the United States, it has been my experience that Africans can easily identify with white Americans because they understand each other. Before migrating to the United States, the majority of Africans have had little to no direct negative experiences with whites. They simply do not hate them.” thus leading to the view of African Americans as beneath. (https://www.theglobalist.com/african-americans-african-immigrants-differ/) . Whether you or I agree with these perspectives, one thing is clear.-the debate between Africans and African Americans is one that hinders us as a whole.

Children of African immigrants who were once scorned and disrespected for their culture now see their tormentors clothed in dashikis and shouting “if she ain’t foreign, she boring”. The same things that they were once mocked  now become the latest trends. Style that was once called ghetto infiltrates the market with a different name and now becomes profit. Bantu knots become “mini twisty buns” and our skin becomes a fashion statement. I mention this to show that we have to realize-this divide aids in our oppression. It goes back to the William Lynch philosophy. Identifying and using key differences in the population in order to divide us allows a slave type mindset to continue for “300 years” plus.

An elder pointed out to me, that when stopped by police- they do not see African. They do not see African American. They do not see culture. They see skin. We are one in the same to them, and therefore we must defend one another. We must protect each other.  We must support each other. We must realize that our differences are what make us powerful. Peres Owino stated that “She considered Black Americans a lost tribe of Africans who’d been taken away from the continent, like children separated from their family home.”(ebony.com). We are apart of one another. Our blackness is what makes us incredible. It is our strength. It is our resilience. It is our unity.

“You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree. You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself. ” -Malcolm X

featured image: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BRz0_A4C0w

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