We work hard because we have someone to answer to. Not only do we need to send money home; our siblings, our mother’s mother, sisters and brothers and their children are all talking about us to their friends. Accountabilty. Family. That is part of the difference. This family not only provides accountability, but also support, wisdom, strength. African Americans are individualistic compared to fresh-off-the-boat Africans, not compared to Europeans. They live in an individualistic society. Not always, but oftentimes, an African American has the option to do with his or her life whatever he or she pleases and tell Mama to “let me live my own life!” It is very rare that an African has this option. Even though Africans kiss whitey’s behind on the job, we detest his individualism. The real Africans do. The lost ones…they try as hard as possible to emulate even his worst traits. An African American is likely to get away with a lesser level of “achievement” than an African is. Who is going to challenge the African American to do beyond his best? Maybe his mother, maybe a community leader if he has one. Who will challenge the African? Every other African.
A tremendous part of this identity is the respect that is crucial to the functioning of the African family machine. Respect for elders is holy territory. Respect for others is also important. In a well oiled African American family, this is the case also. However the African’s definition of respect is much tighter than that of the African American. For Africans, this factor is built into the language, and therefore the culture. For African Americans it is second to a European language of violence and disrespect, so it suffers greatly. African languages have, built in, one way for speaking to elders, parents, etc and one way for speaking to your peers. Our languages have, built in, customs and behaviors for interacting with each other in a respectful manner, how to reverence and honor our parents and elders and each other. This may seem like a minute piece to a larger puzzle, but it is very crucial to the differences between Africans and African Americans because it dictates so much of our behavior. If there is no room in your language or customs for you to curse your mother, you will probably never do it. If there is, you just might. In a language where there is only one word for God, He is likely to be less influential than in a language with ten different words for God.
African Americans might also say that we smell when we first come here. Do we? Be honest. Most newcomers are adjusting to an entirely new environment. New food, new air, new water. All things that affect our bodies tremendously. So don’t forget your deodorant, and chew some gum! You could also eat a pure diet…
Though they do make fun of our accents, it is not really out of malice. The African American soul has been brutalized so violently by it’s oppressors, that it is seeking help—often manifested in negative behavior. We, Africans, are the ones to help heal them as they heal themselves. The African soul has of course also been brutalized. But to a different degree. We had more means to survive this brutality. Language, culture, family. But instead of reaching out, we separate ourselves and cleave to the behinds of the very ones killing us both.
Akatas, if you want peace with Afrikanas, stop trying to get us to do your work for you. Instead work closely with us, so that we can learn from one another. We know that this society is constantly telling you that you will never amount to anything. We don’t agree. Neither would Kunta. Dwell within loyalty. Look at the African sitting next to you as your brother. Decide right this moment that there is nothing you will not do to help him if he needs it. Decide that he is your brother and that you are part of his family. Next time he asks you for something that you are able to provide, don’t assume that he can get it somewhere else. Give it to him. Practice generosity in everything you do. Always try to see how you can give to the next one, be it your time, resources, energy. Next time you go to an African’s house, do not overstay your welcome. Africans believe that charity begins at home. And so does pride. We expect that you should be so proud of the home you come from, that you would rather be there, with your people, than anywhere else. So as much as you will enjoy visiting with us and us with you, please pick up your children to go home eventually. Meditate on RESPECT. How you can honor and reverence every other Black person with whom you come in contact.
Africans, oh Africans! Get your noses out of the air so that you can see your brother standing next to you! African pride is a beautiful thing, and we should never lose it. But it should not be so grave as to keep us from loving one another. Instead of separating ourselves, let us reach out to our distant brothers, so that we may bring them back home. Stop calling African Americans akatas! They are people too. Reach out, reach out, reach out.
This division that has conquered us certainly does not apply only to the Afrikana v. Akata relationship, but also the Afrikana v. Afrikana. In 1884, the European countries went to
I use the term African American because, as much as I love the word Black and everything surrounding being Black, and acknowledge that Africans and African Americans are both Black, I appreciate that this term—African American—does something to remind those listening of the connection. The connection is Kunta and Lamin Kinte. The connection is in the power of melanin. The connection is Black youths gunned down by NYPD, Black youths gunned down by child soldiers and Black youths tortured by “African” governments. The connection is the slave ship. The connection is being captured in the woods while chopping wood for your drum and being thrown onto a slave ship and being captured in the woods while chopping wood for your fire and being hung from a tree. We are Black. We are African. And of the same bloodline, like it or not. So please, acknowledge the next Afrikan3 you see walking down the street. And when that brother acknowledges you, please respond in kind.□
1) Considering the controversy surrounding the truth of his story as depicted in the book Roots, the date presented is the alleged date surmised by genealogists. The fictional story of Roots is a crucial story regardless.
2) Please see The Scramble for Africa, Chamberlain, M.E.,
3) Any person of African Descent.