03-06-13 said: We talked about the division of Africans and black Americans in my social work class today, in your opinion what do you think causes these division between these two groups who should help support and build each other up. Thanks.
It comes from a lack of understanding on both sides. It’s largely ignorance of where people are coming from. The images given and portrayed shape perceptions. We also largely don’t know each other or our histories.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but what I can do is give you anecdotes from what I have seen and experienced, particularly in school. This might be a little long, but read it in its entirety.
Many Africans tend to think that success is all about meritocracy and determination. They believe if you work hard and go to school, then the sky is the limit. They simply don’t understand the system and how it works. There is no course of study for African immigrants on things like redlining, predatory lending, the prison industrial complex and other things put in place to curtail Black progress. There is no course of study on the systemic oppression of Black people in America, so they are arriving here not knowing a lick of that. They are coming with a blank slate when it comes to Black American history and identity. If we are honestly speaking, that could be said about most Americans as well. The plight of Black people in US history is deliberately omitted, so for the African who comes here to go to school for instance, they tend to generalize and can’t fathom why Black Americans are not prospering in this supposed land of freedom, milk and honey.
Many Africans will then use themselves as a barometer, because after all, they left their country and went to school in the US and made something of themselves. In that comparison, they are failing to realize that the only reason they are able to attend these schools and have these prestigious jobs in the first place is because Black Americans fought, bled and died for it. Not to mention that if a white employer had to hire a Black person and there were two Black candidates, and one is let’s say a Nigerian, while the other is Black American, the employer would probably hire the Nigerian over the Black American. I know they would. Many white Americans are more comfortable around Black immigrants than Black Americans. I know this. Ask any African with white friends, and they will probably tell you that one of their white friends has said something along the lines of “You’re not like Black people” or “Why can’t the Black people here be more like you?”. They get to have Black friends without any white guilt or the “race card” business.
Black Africans come from racially homogeneous countries, so they aren’t really race conscious. They have no real reason to be. It only becomes an issue when they go abroad, especially in the US. This is something many Black Americans need to understand first. The concept of Blackness is a unique thing here. No one identifies themselves that way in Africa. You identify by ethnicity, so you are Igbo, Yoruba, Luo, Akan, Bambara, Mande etc. You don’t go around saying “I’m Black” when someone asks about you or when you tell people who you are. The problem lies when Americans think this description is a universal one, and not one applicable to the West, the US in particular. What kind of identity would “Black” be in Ghana? That’s basically the entire indigenous population, but everyone there isn’t the same, hence you identify by ethnic group. This lack of understanding has made some Black Americans think Africans “don’t want to be Black”, when it’s not that at all. It simply isn’t a way to identify yourself. This is a western, and primarily a US identity marker. Now, I self ID as Black, because I am, and I am in the US. However, If I lived all my life in Nigeria, I would be Andoni/Obolo and Igbo first. Different places, different contexts.
On the other side, some African Americans view Africans very negatively. This cannot be denied. I bore witness to it for years. It’s hip to be African now, but it wasn’t always this way. We’re all dancing to old hits from Fela and new hits from Wizkid and whatever Don Jazzy serves up, but this type of environment didn’t exist in the 90s when I was growing up. You’d get laughed at for listening to things like Fela back then. You can forget about wearing African print. When the Chibok girls got kidnapped, there were many “Rock a Gele” and “Rock a Crown” rallies. In 1995, a public gathering of young African women in headwraps and geles would not have happened. No young African girl/woman in her teens and twenties would be rocking her gele with that kind of audacity, many of them would be too ashamed to do it outside of African events. African kids weren’t wearing African prints and ankara fashions to school. No way. They wanted to blend in, not be themselves. The last thing they wanted to be was themselves, and that was because they were forced to believe that who they were was not a good thing to be. Their culture and existence was maligned.
It’s not so bad now (or perhaps I’m unaware or because I’m an adult and not a kid in school), but growing up in the 90s was a very different space compared to now. In a sense I was shielded as a student athlete, so I never really got shit and no one really bothered me, well because they didn’t really have the guts to give me shit and they valued their well being because I wouldn’t have hesitated to knock them into next week and I had done it before, so there was that. Other than a few questions during lunchtime about the food I would sometimes bring, that was really it. I wasn’t a big fan of cold bologna sandwiches, sloppie joes, cold fries and whatever nonsense they fed us for school lunch. Why would I eat that when I could bring fresh jollof rice and chicken my mama made? Cold slop at school or fresh food made with love from home? It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. Early on, some tried to make fun of my food, which was bizarre. I mean, I’m here eating warm jollof rice and roasted chicken, you’re eating a cold bologna sandwich on wonder bread. Why someone would I’m the loser for eating good food was beyond me, but I didn’t give a shit. I kept eating my food. After a while, everyone realized that I didn’t care. When you don’t care, it sort of disarms people. Shit, my body was battered from football practice and the weightroom, you think I’ll be self-conscious about eating jollof, plantains and chicken? Shit, I needed the fuel. I was the guy licking his fingers and chewing chicken bones in the lunchroom. People would ask why I ate chicken down the bone. I said because it was delicious. They later even asked to try some of my food. This one girl would sit next to me all the time and ask for some of my “exotic rice”…lol. I learned not to give a shit early on and I preferred Nigerian food. People got the hint.
Sadly, I can’t say the rest of the African kids had it easy like I did. They got teased, bullied, beaten and tormented unmercifully for literally existing and being publicly African. This is no hyperbole, I mean that. It was everyday. I knew kids who came home crying because they hated their names and were tormented for it. They all tried to downplay their “Africaness” just to survive. My friend Chinedu went by “Chinz” and his brother Emeka became “Mega”. Chinedu wanted so badly to divorce himself from all things Nigerian and African. He just wanted to blend in. He was a skinny, studious guy, so there was no respite for him in athletics.
While white kids might say a thing or two, the people harassing him and other African kids daily sad to say were fellow Black kids. It was non-stop. Snide remarks like “African Booty Scratcher” to things like go back to Africa to calling them monkey, nappy head (when they had the exact same hair and went to the same barbers!), dark skin, crispy black, burnt, asking if they swing from trees and lived with wild animals, if they lived in a house and just overall fucked up things were normal. I defended the little kids on the bus, but I couldn’t be everywhere at all times. This harsh treatment really messed up the minds of many African kids and it’s not something you can get over when it happens everyday for years. Not to mention they perhaps weren’t rocking the freshest clothes, because fly gear is not a priority for African parents. Sadly for them, not looking “fresh to death” in high school back then was basically a crime and it drew even more attention to their way. So here they were, the “African booty Scratcher” with a weird name, wearing high water pants and played out sneakers. Maybe one day they were rushing to school and didn’t put on enough lotion and they were a little ashy. They would be finished that day. They had a bullseye on their heads and there was no escape.
This fucked with their identities, where they fit in with everyone else and how they communicated. They were made to feel ashamed for who they were. They were also ashamed to be seen with their parents, especially during parent teacher conference day, because their parents likely spoke with heavy accents or would sometimes wear traditional clothes, something that under normal circumstances would be proud of, but their “Africaness” had been so maligned, they wanted nothing to do with it, so a parent wearing traditional clothing, speaking with an accent brought shame.
Now, we are all grown up, and I still keep in touch with some of them. They are coming to terms and learning to accept their African identities which is good. “Chinz” is now Chinedu again. He’s happily married to a fellow Igbo woman and his brother “Mega” is Emeka again. In a perfect world, what happened in school should be old news, but the world is not perfect. How they were treated has shaped their world view and perceptions on not just Americans, but Black Americans. When you get treated like shit everyday for many years, it’s going to have an impact on you. It can also make you not relate to the people who you feel “wronged you” or you might not feel empathetic to outright injustice because you have separated yourself from them. i.e. When something bad happens, they can rationalize and say “It happens to a Black Americans. It doesn’t happen to us. It’s not my problem.”. Some might even think theyre a better person after a while because they’ve made something of themselves and most of the Black kids who tormented them are not in the same station of life they’re in. In their minds, it’s the “revenge of the African booty scratcher”.
I try to facilitate and help people let go of the past, but I’m not Iyanla and I can’t fix your problems. It’s also easy for me to tell someone who has been hurt to let go of the past. I don’t know their pain. So I don’t tell people this. I just listen. Maybe try to educate them about things if they’re receptive to that and let the chips fall where they fall.
Anyway, this is long enough.
tl;dr - I’m not sure if this fully answers your question, but as to why there is a division, it’s because we don’t know each other’s plight. Many of us are ignorant about pertinent things in history that shaped African and African Diaspora societies, and most of all, many of us have imbibed white supremacist stereotypes and images about each other. An African does not get the idea that Black Americans are criminals out of thin air, and a Black American does not get the idea that Africans live in jungles from no where. Those are hard coded perceptions and stereotypes that we did not create, but many of us believe.
If it’s any solace, Africans have divisions among themselves too…lol
Anderea is talking about this video game:
The description of the Video game below is very triggering and disturbing, if you’re easily triggered I’d advise you to not read it:
"The pornographic video game "Custer’s Revenge" generated many gang rapes of Native American women. In the game, men try to capture a "squaw," tie her to a tree, and rape her. In the sexually explicit game, the penis goes in and out, in and out."
The video game sold 80,000 copies.
“Women are more likely to be attracted to personality and men are more likely to be attracted to physical appearance.”
Woah maybe that’s because we teach women to see men as people and we teach men to see women as objects.
Ding ding ding ding ding.
Isn’t amazing how people don’t give a shit about misogyny until they can accuse muslims of it in order to justify their islamaphobia?