Photo Credit: Lemi Ghariokwu
Every day, more tension rises among Blacks. I am not just talking about Blacks living in America, but even Africans. After a very long conversation with a friend, she narrated how her move to America was a whole new experience. You can tell many Africans do not want to be identified as “Black” due to the negative stereotypes attached to the African American community.
This may sound foreign to those who live in Africa, but once you migrate to a diverse country like the United Kingdom or United States, you are faced with having to understand this foreign term: racism. When Africans migrate here, they are automatically initiated into the “African American/ Black” ethnicity. It doesn’t matter if you are from Togo or Haiti, you are a Black American.
Within this one ethnicity, there is a big divide between Africans and African Americans. Historically, in the era of slave trade, Africans were separated from their homes and brought to various parts of the world to be properties of the slave masters. As a result of this, those Africans lost their culture after many generations of being in a foreign land and no connection to the motherland.
The truth is, being a Black woman is tough (both African and African American). You have to comply with culture, fight for what comes easy to your female counterparts, manage a family, have to prove yourself to everyone, work twice as hard and still try to build something for yourself. The last thing we need is further divide among ourselves.
I attended a predominantly Black institution in Texas and for the first few months, I had a lot of learning to do.
In many cases, Africans and African Americans divided themselves because of the superiority complex that both parties expressed. A lot of this divide comes from ignorance. In Africa, slavery is not taught in schools and being Black was all we knew because everyone was Black.
Some Black people are offended when called African. While this is not what we are identified with, we have to understand the roots of our culture. Being a Black woman in the US is not easy at all. I have heard severally that “Africans are not like black people,” and “Africans who come to the US are likely to succeed and they do not understand why African Americans cannot do the same.” This misconception gives the illusion that Africans are superior even in the land of other Black people. To White observers, Black immigrants seem more polite, less hostile, more solicitous and easier to get along with while native blacks are perceived in precisely the opposite fashion. This partly has to do with coming from a country where Blacks were the majority and people did not experience the stigma that Black children did in the United States.
Many Africans packed their bags to the land of the free for many reasons and have come to assimilate into the new land and learn the “American culture”. By default, we seek out our fellow Blacks to call friends in hopes to learn the new culture. Until we realize the culture is one that says Africans are different from other Blacks in America. African Americans are also identified as akata by other Africans. While I am guilty of using this ugly world, I have learned that it further contributes to the divide we are trying to bridge together.
A few years ago, I was talking to one of my friends in Nigeria and I had to explain what the word akata meant. It’s funny how we think Africans living in Africa created that word, but in fact, it was a word brought on by the new wave of African immigrants in the 60’s. We need to continue to embrace each other and accept each other for who we are.
Fast forward to 2020, especially with the recent call for Black Americans to reconnect with their African roots with the Year of the Return. This is a step in the right direction to further bridge the gap between our differences.