Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post presents a long excerpt from a chapter of the 2005 book by Godfrey Mwakikagile entitled "Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities" (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: National Academic Press, 2005).
This post is closely related to this recently published pancocojams post: Comments On A YouTube Discussion Thread About Black Americans Hosting African Themed Parties http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2017/11/comments-on-youtube-discussion-thread.html.
The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.
I present excerpts of online books/articles and hard to find books and articles in order to raise awareness of this material. Pancocojams visitors are encouraged to read these entire books/articles.
All content remain with their owners.
Thanks to Godfrey Mwakikagile for writing this book and thanks to the publishers of these online chapter excerpts.
Also, click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/10/ataka-is-mean-spirited-word.html for a 2011 pancocojams post entitled "Akata Is A Mean Spirited Word".
EXCERPT FROM "RELATIONS BETWEEN AFRICANS AND AFRICAN AMERICANS: MISCONCEPTIONS, MYTHS AND REALITIES"
[retrieved November 28, 2017; This portion of this quoted work is fully given up to the end of this excerpt. The ellipses ["..."] don't represent any material that isn't quoted.]
"African and Black American Relations: Good or Bad?
Chapter Four: The Attitude of Africans Towards African America
Announcing a new title:
Godfrey Mwakikagile, "Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities" (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: National Academic Press, 2005), 302 pages, softcover edition. $12.95.
This work looks at relations between Africans and African Americans from the perspective of an African, and of shared perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. Incorporated into the analysis are stories of individuals who have interacted, worked and lived with members of both groups in Africa and in the United States, including the author himself. Stereotypes and misunderstandings of each other constitute an integral part of this study, explained from both perspectives, African and African-American.
The author, a former journalist in Tanzania and now an academic author whose books are found in public and university libraries arund the world, has lived in the United States, mostly in the black community, for more than 30 years. He articulates his position from the vantage point of someone who has lived on both sides of the Atlantic, focusing on a subject that has generated a lot of interest among Africans and African Americans through the years. And it continues to be one of great misunderstanding between the two sides, in spite of increased contacts and communication between Africa and Black America, and between individual Africans and African Americans in the United States and in Africa.
Excerpts from "Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities"
What is the state of relations between Africans and African Americans? How do Africans see black Americans, and how do American blacks see them? What is the experience of Africans with black Americans and what is the experience of American blacks with them, individually and collectively, in general? How are Africans accepted by black people in the United States? And how are black Americans accepted in Africa? Do Africans see Americans blacks as fellow Africans, cousins or distant cousins, or just as Americans?
These are some of the questions answered in this book, written by an African, and based on his experience for more than 30 years interacting with African Americans, and on the experiences of many Africans and African Americans quoted in this study: Godfrey Mwakikagile, "Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities" (National Academic Press, 2005), 302 pages. Available at:
Here are sample chapters four and five:
Chapter Four:The Attitude of Africans Towards African Americans
AFRICANS don't feel the same way about everything just like other people don't; nor do they think alike anymore than whites, Orientals and others do. But there are some things on which many of them tend to agree or share perceptions because of their common African background and history. One of those subjects is their attitude towards African Americans. But even on this subject one cannot generalize and say that is how all Africans feel or think.
The purpose of this chapter is to explore what is perceived to be a consensus among a large number of Africans on how they see African Americans, and what I myself have observed in my dealings with both in the thirty years or so I have been in and out of the United States.
I am here reminded of what I heard after I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Detroit in 1976. I moved to Grand Rapids to attend Aquinas College in this conservative and predominantly white mid-western city in southwestern Michigan that is also a Republican stronghold as much as it has been for decades. I was the only African student from Tanzania and the second in the school's history to enroll there. There were a few other African students and they all came from Nigeria, except one student who came from Sierra Leone.
I got to know all the African students well and we interacted on regular basis on- and off-campus. Since they were mostly Nigerians, it was they who invited me to their homes, as much as I invited them to mine, to socialize and talk about what was going on back home in our continent. Now and then, the subject of African Americans crept into the conversation since we were also around them and even went to school with them. We lived mostly in the inner city, which was predominantly black, and we interacted with quite a few of them, inviting them to our homes. The black American students at Aquinas College, most of whom came from Detroit, was another group we dealt with, especially on campus.
But, almost invariably, whenever the Nigerians talked about African Americans, they would use the term akata. I didn't know what they meant by that and I never asked them. It didn't take me long to figure out that they were referring to American blacks. I did not detect any hostility towards them, or a condescending tone when they talked about these cousins of ours in the diaspora. They were always friendly and laughing, although I am not sure I interpreted correctly what the laughter meant most of the time back then. It was not until years later that I found out what the term akata meant after I read an article in the Detroit Free Press by a Nigerian reporter, or someone with a Nigerian (Yoruba) name, who explained what it meant: a brutal wild animal or something like that. It is said to be a Yoruba term.
Shortly thereafter, I again stumbled upon the term on the internet when I was reading an article posted by an African American who was a member of a Yahoo discussion group, Mwananchi (meaning countryman or citizen in Kiswahili), which addresses many issues in a Pan-African context and in a very intelligent if not highly intellectual manner; and one of whose members is the acerbic and highly controversial Ghanaian professor of economics, George Ayittey, who teaches at a university in Washington, D.C.
The writer of the article was hurt and deeply offended by the use of the term akata by some Africans to describe their brothers and sisters in the diaspora and who had the misfortune of having their African ancestors shipped in chains to America as slaves. The same subject again, later in November 2004, came up for discussion and one of the members of Mwananchi, a Kenyan, had this to say:
"I am not in a position to fully address the issues you raised in your recent posting on the perjorative term "akata" used by others in this or other forums to refer to African Americans. I am an old member in this forum but rarely comment on issues raised by others unless I have something meaningful to contribute.
I am from Kenya and the only information I have on the Yoruba is scant and unhelpful in this discussion. I studied the history of West Africa in high school back in the mid- to late 1980s for examination purposes and other than the gods: Sango, Oranminyan and Oduduwa, there's nothing else I can say about the Yoruba.
However, as America wakes up to the reality of a new wave of immigrants from Africa, it is inevitable that a number of socio-political and economic issues will come to the fore pertaining to the interaction that we Africans have with our African American kindred as well as the rest of the host population. As a well informed African who has spent close to a third of my life in America - and still learning - I am very aware that we all share the burden of ignorance of and on each other as we struggle to be part of this mosaic that makes America what it is.
Up until the late 1990s when a clear increase of refugees from war torn countries started pouring into America, most of the African immigrants came to America on student visas. This is the cream of society back home. As of today, there's clear research that shows that Africans in America are some of, if not, the most educated, well paid and upward mobile group of all immigrants in this country. Many people will dispute this and I for one am not well paid, my high education in America notwithstanding.
However, most of us come here with little understanding of the history and complexities of the African American experience in this country. Beside Martin Luther King and Marcus Garvey, very few Africans - even the educated ones - know about the pivotal role played by numerous prominent and other nameless African Americans in the development of this country. Without understanding the history of the African Americans and their relationship with the White establishment, we will forever be wallowing in the cesspool of misconceptions and hearsay.
On the other hand, very few African Americans have an understanding of the new Africans migrating into this country. It is a sad FACT that there are more black men in prisons in America than there are in colleges. This is due to a myriad of factors that are a daily reality of this American life (sorry, Ira Glass).
To most Africans, our experience in America with African Americans is not a pleasant one. May be this is because of the low educational levels of most of the American blacks that we are likely to meet combined with our scant knowledge of the aforementioned African American experience. I, for one, was once told by a not very well educated black brother to learn to speak English properly. I was not offended because I knew the brother did not understand my accent. The setting was not proper for me to teach him a few basics of socio-linguistics.
Speaking of English, I am not sure he'd ever heard of Pope, Chaucer, Moore, Marlowe or Thomas Hardy and how different they would've sounded to him if he ever heard them speak. I studied these literary giants in school in Africa and have even made a pilgrimage to Canterbury, Kent, to drink a beer in the Marlowe: the very pub where my favourite English poet of all, Chrsitopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Sheikh El Zubeir (Shakespeare) was stabbed to death at the age of 29 back in the 1600s. But this is beside the point.
To the bratha, I needed to learn some English. It is saddening that to most African Americans, according to comedian Chris Rock, Africa is far, far away beyond the oceans! True but not so quite exact. A lot of African Americans have been bought into the stereotyping that Africans have perpetually received from the mass media in the West: that we are all dirt poor, ignorant, uncultured and at various stages of starvation living in the Hobbesian world where life is short, bruttish and nasty. Well, there might be some truth to that but NOT quite entirely.
It is imperative for us to address our differences as black kindred in America in every imaginative way. I personally live in a state that is 97% White. It is the second whitest state in the nation wedged between the first and third whitest states. I have minimal interaction with African Americans unless I go to the club for a drink. I know less than 8 African Americans and yet I have lived in the US for close to ten years. As a student of humanities, I know that my minimal exposure to my African American brethren is something I must personally overcome.
I will recommend anyone in similar circumstances to utilize the many opportunities that are available to us in order to bridge this sea of ignorance. The internet, is a prime example. There are quality TV programs out there too that are very informative on the African and the African American experience. PBS and C-SPAN as well as National Public radio offer a window of opportunity to those of us struggling to achieve this goal. That's how I met some of my favourite contemporary African American thinkers: Eric Mike Dyson, Cornell West and Charles Ogletree.
To those who live in places well populated with African Americans, try and attend their church services and other social functions and you will all be amazed how wrong we are in our pre-conceived notions of each other. May be with a little understanding of our respective experiences, we will overcome our differences and even celebrate them with those bonds that tie us together as we try to improve ourselves and stake a better claim in this great American experiment.
Well, for someone who rarely posts, this is so long a letter. I would recommend a book by Mariama Ba by the same title: "So Long a Letter" to those who want a glimpse into the life of a Senegalese woman in the last century in Africa.
Let the discussion continue.
This posting on the internet by an African from Kenya highlights the profound ambivalence we sometimes have towards each other, while many of us don't try hard enough, if at all, to bridge the communication gap and learn more about each other.
In fact, the use of the term akata is at the core of this misconception of what we think and know about each other, fuelled by stereotypes manufactured by the white dominant society which portrays Africans as primitive savages, and black Americans as advanced savages in a civilized white society they seem determined to destroy with their propensity towards violence. And that is the meaning of akata which is used to describe black Americans as brutal wild animals.
Yet, for some inexplicable reason, I had never heard the term akata before, until I moved to Grand Rapids, although I lived in Detroit and knew many Nigerians including Yorubas some of whom were my schoolmates at Wayne State University. But they probably used the term as much as the ones in Grand Rapids did. And just like the ones in Grand Rapids, the Nigerians and other Africans who may have used the term in Detroit to describe or insult African Americans were not all Yorubas. In Grand Rapids, there was only one Yoruba student who was also my classmate at Aquinas College. The rest of the Nigerian students were Igbos, and they used the term akata quite often. I don't know if some of them were just joking or used the term in a different context. But I do know that, for whatever reason these Nigerians used the term, many African Americans who knew what the term meant back then would have been highly offended as much as the ones today are, had they heard them call black Americans akata.
There is no question that to many African Americans who know what the term akata means, its use only confirms what they have known or suspected all along: "Africans don't like us; they just don't." In fact, that is one of the subjects that comes up quite often in conversations between Africans and African Americans, with black Americans asking: "Is it true that they don't want us over there?" I have been asked the same question a number of times and have done my best to respond accordingly. I even wrote an article on the subject, published in a school newspaper and quoted in the Michigan Chronicle, in the early seventies when I was student in Detroit.
And there seems to be some credibility to the charge that may be a significant number of Africans, not all of us but probably a large number amongst us, have a negative attitude towards black people in the United States. Some people attribute it to arrogance among Africans who think they are better than American blacks, for whatever reason including cultural differences, loss of identity among black Americans since they no longer have their true African identity that was destroyed during slavery; and even an "identity crisis," as some Africans may see it, contending that black people in the United States really don't know who and what they are: they don't know what part of Africa they came from, and which tribes they originated from or belong to; they are not as African as black Africans in Africa are, because they are racially mixed, with only very few of them, if any, having retained their true biological African identity.
Others, especially African Americans, at least some of them, say Africans are just jealous of them because black people in the United States are better off economically than the vast majority of black Africans most of whom are desperately poor and live in the most backward and poorest continent on earth. There are also those who may feel that Africans are not as civilized as they are. The list goes on and on.
But whatever the case, we cannot deny that problems exists, or that a significant number of Africans don't have a negative attitude towards black Americans. And it didn't just start. I remember reading an interview with Andrew Young by Charlie Cobb, a prominent African American journalist and civil rights activist from the sixties who at this writing was working for a major African news organization, allafrica.com, and who once lived and worked in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when I was still there before coming to the United States, which is highly relevant in this context. Andy Young said when he was a student at Howard University, he met a Nigerian student who was very bright, probably the smartest on campus according to Young, but who also was very arrogant, thinking he was better than black Americans; and asked Young, "When are you going to get civilized?"
Whatever he meant by that, there is no question that he had preconceived notions about African Americans which did not correspond to reality. And coming from Africa, the "Dark Continent," he really had a lot of nerve to ask Andy Young such a question. It would have been very easy for Young or for any other black American to hit right back and bring the Nigerian to his senses: "Look at who is talking!"
If black Americans are not civilized, how civilized are the Africans? And in what ways black Americans are not? Having dealt with Africans for a long time, Young knew how to handle the situation and probably handled it the best way he could. He explained in the same interview that he grew up with Africans in his house, since his parents were used to taking in African students studying in the United States. As he stated in the interview on July 22, 2002:
"My parents always had African students in our home in the 1940s. They felt that they had been educated by American missionaries - New England missionaries - and that part of our responsibility was to educate others. So, our home was almost a boarding house for African students at no charge.
I [also] started in 1974 with Arthur Ashe bringing [African] students to the US. We'd bring them in and keep them in Atlanta for a while at my house and we'd find places for them at Michigan State [University] or Texas Southern or other colleges. We had a kind of Underground Railroad on education....
When I was a freshman at Howard University, the smartest guy in the school was a Nigerian. And he used to say to me very condescendingly: 'You're a bright boy. When are going to get civilized?'
And there is a Nigerian success tradition that is older than the African-American tradition. It is not as successful as ours but it is older. It's like Jamaicans. They have a hard time listening to us as African Americans. They were ahead of us in their decolonization and West Indian thinkers have always been....Well, it's like Stokely [Carmichael] didn't think he had anything to learn from John Lewis. Our view is seen as somewhat neo-colonial."
What Andrew Young said illustrates a very important point concerning the attitude of a number of Africans, and some people from the Caribbean, towards African Americans. It is condescending; it is also paternalistic reminiscent of what Dr. Albert Schweitzer said, although in a very perverted way, about black people: "With regard to the Negroes,...I have coined the formula: 'I am your brother, it is true, but your elder brother.'"
That is a loaded statement with all that it implies. The conclusion is obvious on who stands where and for how long. Chronologically speaking, the younger brother will never catch up with his elder brother. Also remember this: elders are wiser. And therein lies the arrogance of some Africans and their negative attitude towards African Americans: they are the original Africans, true black people; black Americans are not. They come directly from the motherland, African Americans don't; Africa is the repository of knowledge, wisdom and genuine black African culture. Black America is not. Case closed.
Is that why "Africans don't want us over there?," a question African Americans ask often. "Is it because we are not really black or African? Aren't we really the same people?" Those are legitimate questions. But is it really true that we, those of us born and brought up in Africa, really don't want to have anything to do with black people in America?
Whenever I have addressed this subject, I have always assured my listeners, African Americans, that it is simply not true that "we don't want them over there, in Africa." I also remind them that African Americans are not the primary target or the only people on the defensive against this kind of attack by some Africans. Many people of different ethnic groups - or tribes, whatever you choose to call them - in many African countries also don't like each other anymore than they do black Americans.
It is not selective prejudice against black Americans only. In fact, when African Americans go to Africa, some of them end up being welcomed and embraced by some of the very same people who are at war with members of other tribes right there in their own country.
Also just remember this: hundreds of thousands, and even millions, who have died in wars in Africa - for example between the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi, the Hema and the Lendu in eastern Congo, the Tiv and the Hausa in Nigeria, the Igbo and the Hausa-Fulani during the Nigerian civil war in the sixties - all these people who have been tortured, slaughtered, and sometimes even burnt alive, are Africans right there in Africa, killed by fellow Africans. They are not African Americans from the United States. It is carnage, it is hate far more deadly than what is or has been directed against African Americans by some Africans who don't like them.
But whatever hostility exists towards African Americans, overt or covert, it is definitely not an omnipresent phenomenon on the African continent. African Americans have through the years since independence been welcomed in large numbers in Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, and in all the other African countries. And many of them have settled there permanently. You will find them today.
Yet, there have been some incidents, not many but enough to raise eyebrows, arising from misunderstandings, mistrust and suspicions of one kind or another including negative attitudes, which may have strained relations between Africans and African Americans in some countries. For example, some members of the Pan-African Congress-USA, the group based in Detroit which sponsored me and other African students in the early seventies, were unceremoniously kicked out of Ghana, right from the airport where they were denied entry into the country. That was not long before the organization offered me a scholarship to go to school in Detroit.
I don't know exactly what the reason was, why they were tossed out of Ghana, but I remember some of them saying they were kicked out for no reason at all. What may have come into play here, like in some other incidents involving African Americans on the African continent, is ingrained suspicions towards all Americans, black and white or whatever, as some kind of spies or agents of the government, working for the CIA or being involved in some kind of scheme to undermine African countries and governments. And it is not difficult to find "sinister" motives behind any trip by any American to Africa, given the highly notorious track record of the CIA and the American government on the continent through the years.
Ironically, Pan-African Congress members were some of the staunchest supporters of Africa, and of leaders such as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, president of Ghana, a country from which some of them were tossed out in a very humiliating way. And it defies rational explanation to assume that every American who goes to Africa is on a spying mission for the CIA. But whatever the perception, there is no question that it has had tragic consequences in some cases. Perception is reality, no matter how you look at it.
Yet another reason why Ghanaian officials at the airport in Accra may have been hostile towards African Americans who were not allowed to go beyond the airport but were instead put on the next plane back to the United States is the perennial problem many black Americans complain about in their relations with us: the negative attitude of Africans towards African Americans borne of prejudice against their own people, and for no reason, none whatsoever. It's just hate, is the way they see it.
What happened in Ghana to the Pan-African Congress members reminds me of what happened in my country, Tanzania, in 1974. The parallels are almost exact in terms of treatment. Just as the African Americans who went to Ghana from Detroit were kicked out of the country as soon as they arrived, a number of African Americans who had just arrived in Tanzania were caught in the same predicament, detained and tossed out of the country for security reasons. Like those in Ghana, the black Americans who went to Tanzania were some of the strongest supporters of Africa and of African leaders such as President Julius Nyerere, the leader of the very same country from which they were kicked out. But that is the subject of another chapter in this book.
Suffice it to say, regardless of what happened in Ghana and Tanzania and elsewhere in other African countries where African Americans may have run into problems with the authorities, as a case of mistaken identity or deliberate decisions by the authorities of the host countries to kick black Americans out for no justifiable reason, there is ample evidence to show that in general, and in overwhelming cases, African Americans have been welcomed by Africans without any problems and have enjoyed the hospitality extended to them in a way they probably never expected. The best proof of all this is the African Americans themselves who have been to Africa and who live in Africa.
It is true that there has been some distance, in terms of communication and direct contact, that has been maintained by both sides for different reasons mainly because of misunderstanding and preconceived notions about each other. For example, when I was still in Tanzania, I remember seeing groups of African American visitors in Dar es Salaam, the nation's capital, walking up and down the streets, and going into Indian shops - what Americans call stores - without any of the local residents welcoming them or talking to them.
We knew they were black Americans - they were called "American Negroes," or just "Negroes," even by Africans in Tanzania and elsewhere in those days. And we could tell from their accent, the attire, and many times from the way they looked that they were Americans, and not black Africans born and brought up in Africa. They had their own look, hard to describe but easily detectable by us; their Afro hair style, for example, which most local residents didn't have; and even colorful dashikis they wore which most people in Tanzania didn't wear like they do in West Africa. Yet, there was no overt or covert hostility towards them. It's just that neither side took the first step to try and bridge the gap between the two. We were so close, physically and genealogically as well as biologically, yet remained so far apart, face to face.
It was a yawning gap that remained through the years even when I was in Detroit. A couple from Detroit affiliated with the Pan-African Congress-USA, and fiercely proud of their African heritage, went to Tanzania in 1975. They stayed in Dar es Salaam, the capital, and the same city where I went to school and worked as a reporter. When they came back to the United States, they were somewhat disappointed because of their experience in Tanzania.
They said no one welcomed them, the people just glanced at them or stared at them and stayed away from them. And I understood their frustration. The deeper problem is that neither side addressed the fundamental problem: lack of communication. Again, as in many other cases, neither side took the initiative to try to bridge the gap although, I concede, it is the local residents, Tanzanians, who, may be, should have taken the first step to welcome their cousins from the diaspora. You welcome visitors or strangers into your house, they don't welcome you.
This partly explains why African Americans say Africans don't want them over there. But that is only a part of it. Most of the people who say that have never been to Africa. And many of them don't even know much about Africa. As one cabinet member under President Robert Mugabe said on BBC when President George W. Bush criticized Mugabe for rigging the 2002 presidential election - forgetting what he himself did in Florida in 2000 - and whipped up sentiments among Americans against the Zimbabwean leader: "Most Americans don't even know where Zimbabwe is." Even Americans themselves, including blacks, couldn't dispute the validity of this statement by the Zimbabwean cabinet minister.
Therefore, while African Americans have legitimate reasons to blame some Africans for their negative attitude towards them, they themselves should also admit that there are many African Americans who also have a negative attitude towards Africa for a number of reasons, including being brainwashed by the white man to hate their motherland by always portraying Africa in a negative light on television, in books and newspapers and magazines; and their own lack of interest in Africa regardless of what the white man says. It is a two-way traffic. One is no more guilty than the other. And it is up to both to bridge the gap. Many Africans and African Americans are doing that. But we still have a long way to go, as has been clearly demonstrated by the stereotypes both sides continue to have about each other, although neither is better than the other.
One of the worst stereotypes is that Africans hate African Americans; conversely, you hear some Africans saying black Americans look down upon them and make fun of them for being backward and uncivilized. There is some validity in all this but, mainly it is a clash of perceptions, and dangerously misleading. As Kwame Essien, a Ghanaian student and president of the African Students Union at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, stated in his article "Dispelling Myths about Africans and African Americans" in the school newspaper, The Carolinian, March 18, 2002:
"I had a great awakening about racial stereotypes when the members of the African Students Union did a presentation during the Shades of Color Conference. The Multi-Cultural Affairs Office deserves applause for the great program. Some of the issues raised by some of the African-American participants were 1. There's the notion that Africans HATE African-Americans. 2. Africans who were born and raised in Africa say that they are the only 'TRUE AFRICANS.' Such stereotypes shows that black students do not know a lot about each other.
I am not speaking for all Africans. Before I address these problems let's say a little about slavery and how it has affected the relationship between blacks in the diaspora.
It is obvious that Africans contributed to slavery, but what most people fail to see is the bigger picture. Slavery was not only intended to exploit free labor from Africans; but it was set up to destroy the black race.
During slavery white supremacists in Europe and America did their best to sever the relationship between Africans and the descendants of slaves. Dr. W.E.B. Du-Bois and others who wanted to bridge the gap between the black freedom struggle in colonial Africa and the civil rights movements in America were terrorized and destroyed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). They wanted to divide us so that they could suppress us forever. Roots, the film by Alex Haley explains this notion.
The white slave owner terrorized Kunta Kinte, the African slave who wanted to keep his African name and culture. Slaves on the plantations were held hostage and stripped of their African heritage because of the threat it posed to the white power structure. Some of the confusion and mistrust among us as black people could be attributed to the legacies of slavery.
To make the situation worse in the twentieth and twenty first century some racist people capitalized on their monopoly over the media to create more divisions among blacks in the diaspora. Whenever you hear about Africa on the news or in the newspapers you see famine, diseases (AIDS, Ebola), civil war or some negative images of Africans. Why do you think nothing positive is said about Africans? Some blacks outside Africa deny their African roots because of such depressing and distorted images.
In Ghana (West Africa) where I was born nothing positive was said about African-Americans; we only heard about the greatness of white America. Think about the twenty first century media propaganda against blacks. African-Americans are portrayed as criminals, violent and lazy while Africans are treated as 'uncivilized' and backward. They want us to believe this. The media should not mislead US. My opinion is that Africans do NOT hate African-Americans. In the African culture we are not raised to hate any human being. Hate is a human problem; we Africans hate Africans too.
Concerning the issue of a 'True African.' It is ignorant for any African to claim that we are the only 'True Africans,' this is a backward ideology. What about children of African immigrants who were born at Moses Cone Hospital? An African is not defined by a birth certificate from an African hospital, neither are we defined by our Mandingo accent. NO African has the right or the license to approve who qualifies as an African. You are an African if you accept that your ancestors were Africans. Don't be surprised; we have some WHITE Africans too.
We Africans owe African-Americans for the sacrifice they made during the civil war and the civil rights movements. Desegregation benefited Africans too. Without Nat Turner, Frederick Douglas, Ida Wells, and many others, Africans would not have enjoyed the social privileges we have today in America. All of us need to be open-minded and have a dialogue to help us eradicate the stereotypes and ignorance we have about each other. We cannot blame everything on racism and do nothing to change our situation. Let us continue the legacy of Pamela Wilson, Director of Multi Cultural Affairs (deceased), with a 'UNITY DAY' program to address our differences. Please join the African Students Union to help dispel these myths among us.
As Dr. Martin Luther King said: 'We have to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools.'"
What is sometimes so disturbing about some of these negative remarks by Africans when they talk about African Americans is that they come from different parts of the continent, delivering the same message of indifference towards American blacks. And because they are not orchestrated or coordinated, they give the impression that hostility or indifference towards black Americans is a pervasive phenomenon among Africans on the African continent and in the United States as well as in other parts of the world where Africans live. That is simply not true.
Yet, conflicting signals now and then coming from some Africans only reinforce the notion or the perception that Africans in general don't want to have anything to do or have nothing to do with black Americans. And it is not just because they are Americans that they don't want them; it is not because these African Americans were born and raised on American soil, although that may be one of the reasons, such as jealousy. These African descendants in the diaspora are even denied their African heritage by some Africans who call them "white." And as Kofi Glover, a Ghanaian professor of political science at the University of Southern Florida, bluntly states: "Whether we like it or not, Africans and African Americans have two very different cultures."
I am not saying that Glover is one of those Africans who say black Americans have nothing to do with their African cultural heritage or are not African at all; I'm simply saying that he is emphasizing what is an indisputable fact: there are fundamental cultural differences between Africans and African Americans. The culture of black Americans is essentially European. They have been immersed and submerged in the culture of their European masters and rulers for centuries, although there are still remnants of African culture across black America.
It is not their fault that they lost their African cultural identity - which many of them are trying to reclaim - but it is also true that when they lost it, they became Europeanized culturally, although they did not and could not become European for the simple reason that they were still an African people. And that causes some misunderstanding between the two sides, with some Africans going to the extreme and calling black Americans not African at all, as demonstrated by the following examples.
When some African Americans went to Kenya - I think they were business executives or some other kind of businessmen and may be even scholars - and said they were also Africans, their Kenyan counterparts, black Africans, said, no, they were not; they were "white Africans" born in America, as reported by The Economist, obviously because they lost their African culture and identity after centuries of slavery and living in a predominantly white country of which they had become an integral part.
In Ghana also, a significant number of Ghanaians don't accept black Americans as Africans and even have a term, obruni, they use to describe them. They call them "white." The word obruni is used in that context, meaning white, and may be even in a derogatory sense - or to maintain distance - by some people in the case of black Americans; in spite of the fact, the indisputable fact, that many of these very same black Americans whom they call "white" originated from the same place, Ghana, are members of their tribes - the Fanti, the Ewe, the Ashanti and others - and even of their families.
They are their blood relatives, no matter how many centuries apart, separated since the slave trade. As Malcolm X said in one of his speeches, "There is no tree without roots, and branches without a tree." And as Ghanaian president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, stated: "All peoples of African descent whether they live in North or South America, the Caribbean or in other parts of the world, are Africans and belong to the African nation."
And it is consoling to our brothers and sisters from the diaspora when they find out that not all Africans feel this way and treat them as total strangers or outcasts. They learn this when they deal with different Africans in the United States itself; they also find out about all this when they go to Africa and meet many Africans who welcome them and embrace them. There are some problems now and then, here and there, but the hospitality extended to African Americans by Africans makes many of them feel at home in Africa; be it in Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Gambia, Senegal, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland, Togo, Benin, Uganda or any other black African country."...
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