CNN continues to prime us with the preamble to its pathology parade that is Black In America Part 2. Today's installment, "Continental Divide Separates Africans, African-Americans" focuses on the differences between "Africans" and "African-Americans." This piece purports to provide some insight into the the ethnicization of Black America. Now, this isn't to say that there are not real differences between the various elements of the Black Diaspora and that these conversations need to occur. But, in much the same way that the model minority myth is used to position "Asians" against blacks and other minority groups, Africans are now the "good" blacks. Here, in comparison to black Americans, Africans are high-achieving, apolitical, well-behaved, not disruptive, and particularly appreciative of the opportunities America provides to its immigrants.
Gordon and I always argue about this, but I don't feel a particular kinship to Africa or to Africans (as my mother says "those people sold us into slavery!"). I am a proud Black American and have always found the imagined dreams of mother Africa to be so much semi-productive Afrocentric fantasy. Ultimately, we have so much of our own history to be proud of here--in particular our struggle to recuperate American democracy and culture--that I don't feel a need to look afar for inspiration or belonging.
Notice, I did not say ambivalence or hostility. Nor, do I assert that Africa should be separate from our study of the "Black Experience." I also would not suggest that the Black Freedom Struggle was/is not a story best told through a lens of international influence and cross-fertilization. Simply put, ethnicity matters among Black folks, even while race continues to be a trump card.
1. How alike or different are Black Americans and black Africans? How does ethnicity complicate our relationships? How do folks from the Caribbean fit into all of this?
2. What are the lessons of race in America that black immigrants from Africa are resistant to learning?
3. Should black immigrants to the United States be eligible for affirmative action programs designed to ameliorate the historical disadvantages afflicted upon black Americans in education and the labor market? Is the admission of black immigrants to colleges and universities through these programs a betrayal of their intent and design? Are black Americans, in particular young black men, being excluded from opportunities in higher education, because ethnic blacks are now over-represented at elite institutions such as Harvard?
4. For those of you in higher education: what are the dynamics on your campus between native born black Americans and those from Africa and the Caribbean? Is there tension, cooperation, or collaboration? Is there one black student organization or are there many? Does this hinder the progress of black students on your campus or does it improve the campus climate for students of color?
5. Second higher education related question: what is the worst example of manipulating the racial bureaucracy (as I like to call it) which you have witnessed? I have seen white South-Africans awarded scholarships intended for African-Americans. I have also seen white North Africans play the system for their own gain where upon arrival on campus they assimilate/disappear into an undifferentiated mass of White students.
1. N'daw emigrated from Dakar, Senegal, in 2001. She works in a hair-braiding salon and has met African-Americans who share her values of hard work and family, but in most cases, "we are raised differently, taught different values and held up to a different moral code."
2. If the Western media are doing Africans no favors, then the African media are also a disservice to African-Americans because it portrays them as criminals, some immigrants say. Sandi Litia, 19, a Piney Woods graduate from Limulunga, Zambia, said she was initially scared of African-Americans because the African media show them "wearing clothes like gangsters and killing each other." Nkosi concurred that African media "made it seem as if they were these aggressive people that did nothing constructive with their lives except occupy prison space."
3. Chinedu Ezeamuzie, 21, of Athens, Georgia, arrived in 2003. He had spent the majority of his life in Jabriya, Kuwait, and came to the U.S. to pursue his education.
The recent Georgia Tech graduate said he considers himself Nigerian because his parents -- both from the village of Uga -- instilled in their four children strong Nigerian values of family, community, spirituality and self-betterment. In Athens, Ezeamuzie found his ideals at odds with those who shared his skin color at Clarke Central High School, his first stint in a public school.On his first day, he donned khakis, a button-down dress shirt and nice leather shoes. He caught the African-Americans' attention upon stepping into the cafeteria, he said.
"They give me the look," he said. "Why is this guy dressed like the white folks, like the preppy guys?"
He found clothes akin to what he saw many African-Americans wearing --- baggy pants and an oversized T-shirt. He relaxed his British-trained tongue and tried out for the basketball team, the 6-foot-5 Ezeamuzie said.
Ezeamuzie recalled finding himself more confused by his experience with some African-Americans: Why were they so cliquish? Why did they mock students for being intelligent? Why were they homophobic and bent on using the n-word? Why did every conversation seem to involve drugs, girls or materialism?
"They kind of accepted me. They saw me a little differently, but I was thinking this is a very narrow mindset," Ezeamuzie said.
4. Ezeamuzie and other Africans say they feel African-Americans too often dwell on slavery and the racism that has persisted for more than a century since the Emancipation Proclamation."We have all been tortured," said iReporter Vera Ezimora, 24, a Nigerian student living in Baltimore, Maryland. "Now that we are free, holding on to the sins of white men who have long died and gone to meet their maker is more torture than anything we have suffered."