African American Experience and Lessons for Africans Caribbean Immigrants


Against all odds, African Americans have reinvented themselves and remolded the world through perseverance, creativity and superb intellect. It is almost taken for granted these days that life is good for African Americans in the United States. This is assumed, even though life is still full of racial impediments and obstacles for a majority of African Americans. But so much have been achieved through persistent dodged efforts and tenacities of African Americans. African Americans exemplify prodigious endurances.

It is crucially important that the world does not forget or gloss over the Herculean tasks it have been on the part of African Americans, who through sweat, tears and blood, have remade, reengineered and reconfigured America for America, for the world, for immigrants of all races, but in particular, for all minorities, then continental African immigrants and other immigrants of African descent. All those who come to America ought feel and see this.

This, put in proper contexts and perspectives, requires a continental African immigrant or an immigrant from the Caribbean to US who may think as tough, the effects of race as a factor in how life is live or the vicissitudes and complications which could have been much worse, were it not the case, that African Americans have for hundreds of years fought our battles, cried our tears, sweat our sweat and bled our bloods.

Having lived in America for more than twenty years, I have learned firsthand, what I had read in books in Nigeria. The consequences of slavery, segregation, discrimination, and racism are there for all to see. The majority of African Americans are frequently in the lower echelon of society. This is so in employment, education, political offices and other endeavors of life in America. This is not a choice which they made. It was imposed upon African Americans. Lest we forget, it used to be illegal for African Americans to read or be taught to read. It is also the case that African Americans were not offered money or resources to enable them integrate into the American society after slavery was abolished.
Tepid attempts were made during the so-called Reconstruction Era, post-slavery; promises were made to African Americans, promises which were never kept. Hence therefore, we have the now familiar legend of “40 Acres and a Mule” representative of hollow promises made to African Americans which never came to fruition.

African Americans get labeled with all manners of falsehoods. There are those who would call them lazy, and the others who would African Americans for wanting a piece of the “American Pie” through legitimate employment or through education. Arguments by racists in America against African Americans can be so foolish and stupidly illogical. Imagine for instance, the illogic of it all, which is so comical, except that I refuse to laugh at these most perverse comedies which are at my peoples’ expense. A group of people that are without ambitions just so happens to be the same group that a speedily snatching every employment opportunities, every college admissions opportunities through the much maligned Affirmative Action Programs? How can people get away with such contradictions or speaking from both sides of their mouths? There is no logic or rationality to racism and the above is just more proof of that.

It is now fashionable for folks to mouth the nonsense also known as post racial America, subsequent to the election of Obama as president of the United States as first of African descent. But, no one concerned with equal rights for all Americans should go fishing just yet! First because we do not know if Obama has the audacity and backbone to be of value to African Americans and continental Africans, be of value, beyond the symbolism of his election. Secondly, race remains a major factor of tremendous impact on how life is live in America. It has huge impact on housing, employment, admissions, and whether you get killed, beat and brutalized, by the police, even if you are a professor at Harvard University!

There are racists in every sphere of life, and racists in the police and law enforcement agencies who are quick to see continental Africans and peoples of African descent the same negative stereotypical way, any Nigerian or African who thinks he is in a bubble, and removed or different and insulated and immune from these attitudes towards African Americans or Jamaicans… must have his head examined! For instance, in New York City alone, since my sojourn here, there have been series of cases of police brutalities involving many Africans and peoples of African descent such as Ahmadu Diallo, Abner Louimer, Patrick Dorismond and many others. And worse, African American police officers get shot by White officers who presume them as perpetrators! And thanks to the Reverend Al Sharpton an African American, the omniscient Ombudsman, and other African Americans, rallied ceaselessly and made sure the brutalities or murders of these Africans and Caribbean immigrants went unnoticed. Al Sharpton received no personal benefits in all these. Thank Goodness for the African Americans! How can we forget Reverend Al Sharpton, the undisputed ombudsman of the Action Network in New York City, who made No Justice, No Peace a famous mantra?

How dare we forget so soon Randall Robinson and other African Americans who stared down stridently law and most vociferously at Ronald Reagan and multinational corporations and racists, in Africa’s fight against apartheid and minority whites rule in Southern Africa?

It is the case that continental Africans and Caribbean immigrants in America do not have the cohesion or clout and structure, whether to assist themselves, or anyone else for that matter. It goes without saying therefore, that African American formed the bulwark of the coalitions which ensured justice in the police brutalities and egregious misconduct referenced above. So in contexts, it is easy to see why some African and Caribbean immigrants sometimes come across as union bursting scabs. Scabs which benefit from historical struggles of unions, for improvements, improvements which we now benefit from without any desire to belong to the union or contribute to union coffers by way of union dues, literal and metaphorical!

Some ignorant Nigerians, nay Africans and Caribbean immigrants sometimes tell you, how they are only in America to work, because life in home country is worse, and so, they are not here to fight Civil Rights battles, but the thing to be said or knocked into these sorts of heads is, simply that, without Civil Rights battles and wars fought mainly by these same African Americans, I, you, and these Nigerians, other continental Africans, and Caribbean immigrants would NOT have had a chance here! I am of course also familiar with the counter arguments, and I know there is ignorance on both sides, i.e. ignorant immigrants and equally ignorant natives)! But what should be emphasized is the truth, which is that our fate, our destiny are united. Informed by our common origins and checkered past, our history and our current conditions. Our struggles, economic, political and cultural are identical, whether we are on the continent, or in the larger Diaspora.

We would be the wiser when we coalesces efforts for our common good. We ought to, and should stop pretending untouched or remaining aloof when our peoples are brutalized or visited with indignity, as Professor Gates was. Obama was right when condemned the action of those stupid and perhaps bigoted police officers. What happens to African Americans should be our pain too. Sooner than later, if you live here long enough, you, your family, or children etc will have to contend with these injustices and stereotypes. It is smarter and better to join African Americans in their joys and sorrows as we navigate our lives here.

Obama is at his inspiring and motivating best when he speaks of issues plainly and forthrightly, not any attempt to mock or disparage. This is why I insist that public scolding, sh

aming or ridiculing is no substitute for a reasoned policy, foreign or domestic, regarding our peoples. Engagement, empowerment and coalescing is more productive and sustainable.

There is just too much infighting within us. I would be richer than all billionaires if I got a dollar every time I have heard pejoratives used by persons of African descent against other groups of African descent. In New York, I have heard enough. Such as Haitians live 20 a room, or what Haitians say of themselves, they are more sophisticated than all others. Some forget that Haitians gained political independence in 1804 from a coalition and combination of White usurpers from America to France. Haitians in America are disadvantaged by language, but on the whole the do well regardless.

How about statements such as Africans don’t shower, don’t speak English and have no finesse etc? And that Jamaicans are English speaking and better than Haitians, except that Jamaicans are rough and impolite and Trinidadians are richer than all persons from the Caribbean because they have had petroleum, except that they dance too much? Those damn medieval Africans, come here to and want to tell us what to do, you will hear. These are falsehoods and asinine generalizations which I even hate to repeat here, except to drive my point home. The more maturity that attain biologically and more intellectually aware that I become, I the more that I see the direction connection through blood, experience and history. Therefore, I have awful regret for anything, which I might have said or written in the past, which in effect besmirch our peoples even in my unguarded dullest lowest moments.

Our peoples ought to listen to the positive messages in music by such notables as the late James Brown in his “Say it Loud, I am Black and Proud” and the late Peter Tosh’s “You Are An African” and Eddy Grant’s “Hello, Hello Africa these sons of ours, serve as good examples of what should be our mindsets.

No one should come away thinking that I advocate any group over the other. Or that I wish one group to rollover and allow others to walk all over them, no!

I am by no means advocating that anyone of our general groups, let others of our groups, rollover and allow others to walk all over them. NO. But we must all learn to be sensitive, be alert, don’t always harried and hurried while ignoring the elephant in the room, so to speak. Never be oblivious of the conditions on the ground, and the history of it all, wherever you live on earth. Take steps to ensure, that you are not perceived as a snub, a rough and gruff person who in ill-attuned the persisting injustices. Again, remember the reasons why a caged bird sings.

Instead, I make bold to assert that no Jew comes from Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Argentina and all the other places in between in the world from where Jews come to America, and then, practice as first order of business, disrespect for American Jews! I doubt that there is any Jew, who emigrates from some place to America, and proceed to look down on American Jews! Quite to the contrary, they forge partnerships. No usurper no usurped.
They actively cultivate each other. They form symbiotic relationships which have been mutually beneficial. So much so that American Jews might have facilitated the emigration of a Jew from Russia.

Then they ensure the quick adjustment of status and both economic and political assimilation of the new Jewish immigrant, as such, she accelerate into the increase of American Jew’s economic and political power base. This adds to empower the Jews, it strengthens them against the odds and vagaries of life in America, and they in turn, enable excellent America pro-Israel policy through AIPAC and others. And same can be said for the Irish American, or pretty much most other ethnic group of America’s so-called melting-pot.

Continental Africans, African Americans and other peoples of African descent are broadly speaking, completely disengaged. There is a seething, if unstated antagonism. There is this mutual suspicion of intents and motives. There are these misconceptions and misperceptions between and within all our peoples. So, they reinvent integration and acceleration into America individually, painfully and slowly.

In both private and public conversations and debates or interactions, you would come across utterances by some immigrants who sound disdainfully contemptuous of all African Americans. In recent internet example, of such encounters that I have had, some African immigrants came across as if they were scrambling to justify the humiliations and indignities Professor Gates received in the hands of certain police officers in Cambridge Massachusetts! And their fetid defense of the police behavior met with vehement rejection by some other African immigrants as well.

On the matter of showing some respect and being sensitive to the sons and daughters of the soil, think and imagine for instance, that you are in your country, where historically, you have battled your own government for your rights, battled banks, all manner of institutions, entities even nonentities! And now comes, these clueless or undiscerning recent immigrants with condescension and superiority complexes!

I can only imagine how African Americans must feel about their life in America, and I example a snippet, to wit, I am in Nigeria struggling, and here comes a snotty clueless immigrant to Nigeria. I do probably wish to wring his neck!

African Americans’ human spirit is indefatigable and tireless, and this, despite seemingly insurmountable odds which they have faced since arriving on the shores of America, upon being snatched, brutalized, bundled in human cargoes to a strange land. Stripped and deprived of all things. Became bereft of own language, religion, culture, cohesion, family ties and even still, African Americans somehow were able to survive and thrive in a society which deprived them of materials both tangible and intangible. African Americans have triumphed in the face of stark impossibilities. African Americans have managed to become triumphal, in a country which stripped them of respect, pride, dignity and basic humanity.

It is enthrallingly exciting to be witness to profound contributions which African Americans have made to America and the world. Thinking of the checkered history of African Americans has a calming effect on me especially when I face difficulties. I often tell myself to learn to be creative in confronting the challenges which I face in American daily life. As I often ask myself what would have been my plight or predicament in America say, 50 years ago? Given my arrogance, naïve and stubborn outlook, I would have been quickly roasted on a stake like barbecued pork! Lynched to the spectacle and applause of racists!

What would have been my life and plight I often wonder? And what would have been the lives and plights of minorities and all these immigrants? Especially in particular reference to continental Africans and peoples of African descent?

As a general statement African Americans are the unsung heroes of America and in fact, the unsung heroes of the world, think of their peculiarly checkered slave history and then their triumph in the face of insurmountable odds

Imagine the rejected and despised denigrated stone becomes the cornerstone of the American super structure! Think of remarkable creations by African Americans which have enriched America and the world, even as I imagine you the reader is read my thought here while you quite likely listening to your favorite Jazz or Hip-Hop tunes

African Americans in effect have been put through the fire and driven to the wall. Slaves were beaten and brutalized terrorized for doing poorly what they have never been thought to do in the first place. The Fugitive Slave Act meant that escapee slave could be recaptured into slavery and servitude Hence the rise of Harriet Taubman’s Underground Railroad. African Americans have for hundreds of years endured haunting and exc

ruciating torments, which were physical and nowadays, institutional and visceral. What African Americans have endured and continue to endure and bear, in slavery and now in freedom should be required lessons in survival and triumph and the best of human spirit

One has to constantly wonder how it must feel for African Americans who constantly barrages of accusations from a wide spectrum of peoples who are quick to blame African Americans for being lazy and happily on welfare and public assistance seeking, a la Reagan’s Welfare Queens and all. While at the same African Americans are blamed for “using” Affirmative Action Programs to garner every educational opportunities as well as employment opportunities

Clearly, both charges cannot be true! It is either that the African Americans are lazy and shiftless bums and excited public assistance dependent hounds or they are always out, like everybody else, seeking the limited or few and available educational and employment opportunities. I think the two accusations are mutually exclusive. The lazy bum could not in all probabilities be the same guy who is inflicting unemployment and reverse discriminations on the other race by grabbing every educational and employment chances! It is simply disingenuous and even fraudulent to accuse a guy of gluttony and self-inflicted starvation all in the same breath or rather simultaneously!

Such is the illogicalities and perversities of those who seem to excoriate African Americans, as if just for the fun of it and the perverse fun, at the expense of the African Americans of course! It should be clear to even a casual observer, how vile, the treatments of African Americans, all through history, has been; it has had the quality of being extraordinarily repugnant and reprehensible

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2 comments July 27, 2009 - 3:00 pm

I am one of your “snatched cousins”, and I thank you for being objective in writing this article. It is imperative that we work together for our collective liberation and also restoring a positive image of our race. The key word you used was respect, which is lacking greatly in the Black diaspora. I appreciate your global perspective and it is refreshing to hear such words as it pertains to understanding one another. Thank you

Bamako July 24, 2009 - 4:55 pm

Good, always nourishing to read your pieces. But now they are becoming long. Anyway I take your point that we should wear our hated black skin with integrity …


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