So I recently read this paper (which I link below) that posed this question:
“Do these results indicate that Africans are more integrative into the white dominant culture than African Americans are?”
My immediate answer was yes. My experiences and observances so far demonstrated a higher likeness towards Whiteness that begun to significantly change only once my interactions with African Americans grew. In my personal experience, my love (self-love) and advocacy for the Black diaspora, and all its features, would not have existed if I did not fully integrate with African Americans and see their issues as my own.
With my early stages of my development occurring in a White (European) setting, and also within the African community, there was an inclining towards viewing Whiteness as the goal or reference point. In the African community, (more than African Americans) there is a sense of upholding White people as better than Black people, which I believe stems from colonialism and the strive to reach the higher development seen in White western countries.
In addition, in some shape or form, I was being molded or molding myself into becoming a version of a Black African Immigrant that was acceptable to White society. I would study rigorously to show that the only African girl in my class could keep up with her Italian classmates.
There was a part of me that worked tremendously hard because I thought I (singlehandedly)could show that Africans can achieve the same goals set and accomplished by White Europeans.
I saw myself that way until I moved to the United States. My pride in being African was not associated with my Blackness. It was more cultural than racial. I knew, had experienced, and understood racism. But in my effort to fight racism in my own way by proving myself, in classrooms especially, I did not see that racism extended past me, past Africans. There wasn’t just our Black. But then again, I was not quite fully aware of the extent to how deeply anti-Blackness could run within others or ourselves.
When I moved here, I witnessed many (older) Africans try to distance themselves from African Americans: either by moving into a predominantly white neighborhood, telling their children to be wary of African Americans, condemning the lifestyle of African Americans, or failing to acknowledge or understand how systemic racism has impacted African American communities and how it extends to Africans as well.
At the same time, I witnessed African Americans belittle Africans: with derogatory terms, bully kids just for of being from Africa, or appropriate and diminish African lifestyles, without understanding it, or try to deny their African ancestry.
Many were the occurrences that led me to understand how anti-Blackness has been internalized within the African Diaspora to creating and amplifying cultural differences in complex ways.
As writer Nemata Blyden perfectly explains it “… I noticed the so-called divide between “Africans” and “African Americans,” while easily straddling both communities. This allowed me to understand the major differences between them, and to recognize that their historical experiences, while comparable in some respects, were radically different in others. From my vantage point, I also saw similarities that neither group would have recognized in each other.“
Moving here, I came to understand how systemic racism operates to oppress ALL Black people, learn the history and efforts of African Americans to dismantle racial discrimination, and their contributions to society and pop culture, and immense work to uplift pride and love of being Black. This is what allowed me to shift my reference point away from whiteness.
I now know I am deserving of everything because I said so and not because a white society deems me as worthy.
My goal is to not conform, belittle my Blackness in a way, to make white people comfortable. My goal is to exist fully, loudly Black however I may define it to be.
My point is I would not have reached this conclusion if I did not work to expand my interactions with African Americans, in a way that allowed me to share and understand their work to uplift Blackness.
I believe while a lot of work is happening within African communities to uplift ourselves, the fight against White supremacy (in the US particularly) is lacking, often seen as not “our” fight. In a way, it is because many Africans still uphold whiteness as what to strive for, rather than making our own goals.
Articles to Read:
- “BLACK AFRICANS AND AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES” Case study by Shola Ajiboye
- “The Fiasco between Africans and African-Americans” by Joseph Abua
Videos to Watch:
- Colonialism in Africa: Yesterday, today and tomorrow | DW News Africa: explores how the Black Lives Matter movement extends to the work to eliminate persisting legacy of colonialism around the globe.
- History of Africa with Zaineb Badawi Series: detailed history of the African Diaspora from pre-slave trade to post colonization times.