Forced slavery is the tie that binds
The legacy of slavery binds but also keeps Africans and African-Americans apart. Many African-American black people boast the closest they have ever come and will come to Africa is Busch Gardens and Disneyland.
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Africans vs. African-Americans
"Just because African-Americans wear kente cloth does not mean they embrace everything that is African," says business owner Eromosele Oigbokie. Africans and black Americans often fail to forge relationships blaming nationality, ethnicity, culture, economics and education.
"A shared complexion does not equal a shared culture, nor does it automatically lead to friendships," says Kofi Glover, a native of Ghana and a political science professor at the University of South Florida. "Whether we like it or not, Africans and African-Americans have two different and very distinct cultures."
Glover agrees that while some Africans suffered under colonial rule and apartheid, not all can relate to the degradation of slavery. In Ghana, he says, "we did not experience white domination like the Africans in Kenya, Zimbabwe or South Africa. We do not understand the whole concept of slavery, or its effect on the attitude of many African-Americans, mainly because we were not exposed to it. To read about racism and discrimination is one thing, but to experience it is something else."
Many black Americans are ignorant about Africans, Oigbokie adds. They share comic Eddie Murphy's joke that Africans "ride around butt-naked on a zebra." "They think we want to kill them so that we can eat them," Oigbokie says, laughing. "I remember a black person once asked me if I knew Tarzan. I told him, "Yes, he is my uncle."
Africans admire the American struggle for civil rights. Yet, when some come to America and discover black is not so beautiful, they insist on maintaining a separate identity. "When indigenous African people come to the United States, they adopt an attitude of superiority ... about individuals who could very well be of their own blood," Tokley says. The axe forgets what the tree remembers.
Some African customs, such as female circumcision, shock Americans. Other traditions have been forgotten, or, in the case of Kwanzaa, invented in America. Africans tend to have a strong patriarchal system, with differences in attitudes about family and work.
"Most of the friction between African people centers around the class issue," Yeshitela says. He says when blacks and Africans fight over jobs; they are buying into a conspiracy to keep them at odds. "I don't like the artificial separations that won't allow the two of us to get together. It is not in our best interest to always be at each other's throat." Especially since the two groups are in the same boat now, Akbar says.
"If you visit Nigeria or Ghana, the masses of the people are locked in the same circumstances as poor African-Americans," he says. "Both groups seem content to do nothing other than what they are currently doing.
"However, the denial among Africans comes from living in a place where all the bodies that surround them look the same as they do. That makes it easier for them to fail to see that the folks who are controlling the whole economy of Nigeria are the oil barons - and they don't look anything like (black) Africans."
Another point of contention, Akbar says, is that blacks appreciate their heritage more than Africans do. "We have to convince them to preserve the slave dungeons in Ghana or to continue the weaving of the kente cloth." Tours to Africa are booming. Feeling rejected at home, many middle-class blacks turn to Africa, Yeshitela says. "But in the final analysis, culture won't free you. Any ordinary African will tell you a dearth of culture is not the source of our affliction.
"We're faced with a situation where less than 10% of the total trade in Africa happens in Africa. The rest is exported from Africa. The future of all black-skinned people centers in Africa. That is our birthright and someone else has it. The struggle we have to make lies in reclaiming what is rightfully ours." It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.
Excerpt from author Tracie Reddick A shared complexion does not guarantee racial solidarity.