Newsflash, Africans, Black Americans are African Too
I feel as if the topic of African-Americans appropriating “African” culture hits my newsfeed at least once a year. In fact, two years ago, I featured a post about this very same topic. Honestly, it’s tiring to continue this conversation because I feel as if no progress is made after we’ve shared links, comments, and retweets. So, here I am talking about it once more. Because Black History Month is coming up, I feel the need to remind Africans that their heritage is my heritage too.
When it comes down to it, we’re all Black. However, we mustn’t dilute ourselves to simply “Black”. The African diaspora runs wide — from Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, on to the many countries within the continent of Africa. For many of the Black folk in America who are like me—descendants of slaves—, we have very little knowledge of our true origins. However, we can make an educated guess and assume our ancestors originated along the Western coast of the African continent.
That being said, as history books have (hopefully) noted, upon boarding the White man’s slave ships, the process of stripping and removing their native tongue, religious practices, customs, and anything else that would have given the stolen people a sense of separate identity began. After years of enduring slavery, America loosened our chains and granted slaves their independence. But by that time our original African ancestors were gone for generations and with them, they took the last hope of any sort of cultural connection to Africa. Since embarking upon freedom, we’ve suffered greatly from self-hate in attempt to assimilate more into the culture of Whiteness. This self-hate is still very present in today’s Black community. However, with the reawakening of the Black community, people are ditching the self-hate and choosing to love themselves inside and out. This is nothing new, if you’ve been paying attention, the movement was strong during several periods within Black history. However, it’s hitting the community in mass form.
So, yes. When I was young, I can remember people poking fun of other children and referring to them as “African Booty Scratchers”. While that insult was not exclusive to only “Africans”, it was said out of ignorance and self-hate. And if we’re being honest in the moment, kids are often just assholes. But beyond the children, their parents were probably the same way. And much like the children, the disrespect and disassociation stemmed from a place of self-hate and ignorance. This is not an attempt to right a clear wrong, but instead to give an inside perspective to those who aren’t aware. In the same way, some of the more aware first generation population note that the use of the work “Akata” is done out of ignorance and self-hate, they are not trying to justify the usage of the word, instead explain the thought process that breeds such ignorance.
With all of the of the self-hate of our African roots within the African-American community, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that we are people of African descent, and whether or not people embrace their African roots, they are still with them and running deeply within their veins. So, while a few hundred years, a few thousand miles, and a little bit rape from massa’ may separate Africans Americans from Africa, it didn’t separate them from their blood ties to the continent.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is… “This our shit too!” I’m not sure when or where “Africans” got the notion that the culture was theirs to guard from us. I don’t need anyone’s permission to find interest within African culture because it’s MY damn heritage. While I might not be an expert on the culture, it is still mine to explore, find my place within, and claim. Hell, I’ve never even stepped foot on the continent, but it is still a part of my DNA. There is no statute of limitations on exploring your own heritage.
There are people who claim that they find no issue in those who have a genuine interest in researching the culture, but only find it problematic when people use the culture as a “trend”. To this, I’d say, “Get over it!” While I would love for every African-American to have a passion for discovering their culture before the slave ship, it’s simply out of my control and authority. In the same way it is not for anyone to determine a person’s level of Blackness, it is not appropriate for someone to attempt to control a person’s expression of their African heritage.
We’ve all met a Black person who isn’t extremely connected with the Black community. They probably grew up in a neighborhood that is majority White and didn’t have many people of color as friends growing up. However, they are still Black—in many cases, Black as fuck. And it is not anyone’s right to deem them “not Black enough.” Growing up, out of ignorance, they might have poked fun of other Black kids by noting that they were “too ghetto” or whatever the fuck else White people brainwashed them into thinking. However, who are we to shame them for having an awakening or epiphany or simply deciding the ways in which they want to engage with the culture?— Don Lemon is a great example. Isn’t the point to come OUT of the sunken place? Why would we shame someone for having an “awakening”? It’s the same with African culture. Many people didn’t grow up with access to African culture or history due to ignorance and America’s general tendency to portray Africa in a poor and negative light. However, we’re going through a time of awakening, self-awareness, and self-love. And we don’t deserve to be shamed or dismissed because of it.
Because if African-Americans wanted to be petty, we could stand guard of our culture that we’ve built and decide that “Africans” aren’t welcomed to partake in African-American culture. Unlike overall “African” culture, not all people who are of African descent have a claim on African-American culture. This is because the descendants of slaves were the ones who created this. Hip-Hop, soul food, slang, etc.. These things were all derived from African-Americans. But, to our own downfall, we often warmly welcome folks into the culture—even those who attempt to bar us from what they see as “their” culture. We share and we even allow others to come and profit off of the culture. No one had to give Wale permission to partake in rap-- he just decided one day that he wanted to rap and African-Americans supported that and considered him one of our own.
All this being said, “Africans” can get the fuck off their high horses with the whole “cultural appropriation” bullshit. Because, African-American people have just as much claim to the heritage as them. We can’t help that our ancestors were sold to some pale man with scurvy for some gunpowder and a handshake. So, I’m not sorry for trying to connect with my heritage later in life because that was my only option. We can keep this petty bickering going or y’all can teach us how to make a good batch of jollof while we try to dismantle institutionalized racism.
So, now that we have an understanding, let’s enter into Black History Month on one accord and enjoy what the month brings. Let’s enjoy the premiere of Black Panther and learn from each other and share love.
Afros and Ovaries
Don’t trust White people with dreads