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A Different Blackness; Africans Versus African Americans

N. F. Kenure

For the second time this week, I've come across videos of black American personalities speaking on the divide between Africans and African Americans, responding to the "do Africans look down on African Americans?" cringe worthy question.

I found that both times, in their responses, these celebrities failed to appreciate the complexities of the situation, that both sides do not understand that their perceptions of each other have always been in the hands of "white" media.

An important narrative pushed eagerly is that the blacks in Africa were equal partners (sellers) with the white traders in the Atlantic slave trade. I have come across African Americans asking Africans to own up to their part in the slave trade like someone really got to snap their fingers like Thanos and decided who got to stay and who had to go on a long boat ride. While African kings and business men like Msiri of the Yeke Kingdom, and many others, made fortunes for themselves as slave traders, most of the Africans who remained were just as subject to the caprices of their new masters who brought their own laws and religion. Please take the time to read up the atrocities of Leopold II of Belgium in the Congo. If you'd really like an education, find out about all of the African leaders; men and women who pushed back against colonial oppression and who consequently were exiled or killed, their families, villages, empires, ravaged to soothe imperial egos. From Ovonramwen of the Benin kingdom to Jaja of Opobo and many more whose stories have died with them.

On the other hand, most Africans are ignorant about the post-slavery black American. There is minimal knowledge of every inch of space that they have etched for themselves and the sacrifices it took to get to the point where they still have to insist at the top of their lungs that "Black lives matter".

The African immigrant in America is able to slide into spaces that are closed to the black American, concessions are made for the African whose relationship with white America is not quite as burdened by the politics of race and history. A simplistic example of this, is the reaction to one's hair being touched. To the African, all that this means, is an "other" wishing to experience something different, and the response is usually genial. The African American is more likely to respond to being "petted", with or without permission, with aggression, because it is in their own experience to have had no agency of their bodies as slaves and second tier citizens well into the Civil rights era. The African, as he climbs up the economic ladder, soon buys into the idea that black American is lazy. The movies and news depict the young black American as a thug and ambitious people will do well to stay clear of them. They who were born in this great land of opportunity and are still unable to do anything for themselves except be rancorous, when everyone back home would kill to tap into the American dream. The chasm widens when immigrants tell their kids not to associate with "Akata". Akata is a dirty word, we might not know the exact origins of the word and many have offered different meanings, but it is dishonest to claim this word is neutral. Immigrant kids in turn are called names like "booty scratcher", teased and bullied for their accents in school, reminded that they are outsiders . This stems from the image of Africa as shown by the media, one of extreme corruption and poverty.

Misrepresentation of Africa

The African American is glad to have escaped the clutches of poverty-ridden Africa on the coat tails of dead ancestors.

So the African kids remain at the bottom of every social ladder until they learn to change accents, to assimilate with the other kids and complete their morphing into African-Americanness. Their own experiences now vary from their parents’ and a hybrid of sorts is created- a new African American.

Next up- Mutual Roots and One Blackness: Setting Aside Our Prejudices.


Sep 26, 2018