Akátá vs. Afrikàná: The Truth about our ‘Differences’

by Ololade Siyonbola

Don’t be offended…

One of the primary tactics European imperialism has used to seize and maintain it’s grip on the wealth of the world is also one of the oldest, easiest and most effective means of victory in any form of warfare. Divide and conquer. It is the reason you, an African, are not in Africa. The reason you, an “African American”, are not in Africa. It was used in 1450 in the Bight of Benin, it was used during the Cold War, it is used today, every day, by the very people who perfected it.

“Akátá” is a term used primarily by African people to refer to “African Americans”. Its origin is with the Yoruba people of West Africa. The word, however, is now used by people all over the Diaspora to refer to African Americans. If I tell you what the word actually means, you, the African American, will probably stop reading this piece. An Afrikáná is usually a very proud African.

Tensions between “Akatas” and Africans in this country have worsened since the upsurge of African immigration here in the ‘80s, but were always there. And they remain tense, in some circles. Why? Everybody knows the answer to this one. All the Africans shout, “because Akatas are lazy!” All the African Americans shout, “Because Africans think they’re better than us!” So who’s right? Remember that this division is a tactic used by someone not party to either of these groups. This outside party is greatly benefiting from the use of this tactic. It allows them to dominate the natural resources and minds of both peoples. Remember that the reason so many Americans have a false impression of Africa, as being this place where wild Black savages run with the animals, have no food, and live in huts; is because someone told them that. Most Americans have never been to Africa. Most Americans have an opinion on Africa. Where did this opinion originate? If you turn on your television right this moment and watch it for the next 24 hours, most of it will appear to have nothing to do with Africa. Most of that which is obvious footage of Africa is highly unlikely to make you want to go there. If you know better, it may not affect you. If you don’t, nko?

You may be asking what it benefits European imperialism to set Africans and African Americans against each other. The fear that if we all one day woke up and realized that we were of the same history—before them—and started mobilizing against them, that the state of the world would be transformed completely, would be reason enough. The day of a world in which all Black peoples are united as one is not the day that the world is controlled by Europeans. It is not the day that you have to leave your country to find “better opportunities” and a “better life” abroad. It is not a day in which millions of Africans are dying in tribal wars. Take that to the bank.

Kunta Kinte is an African who was taken from the “Slave Coast” in 17621. He was captured in the woods where he went to chop wood for the drum he was making. He was taken across the Atlantic Ocean in a death ship to a stolen land, America. His brothers remained behind. On arrival in this stolen land, he was made to work on a plantation as a slave, which he did for many years. He bore children, and they bore children, and they bore children and so on. His descendants, who continued in the slave tradition and built the American nation. So here, in 2007, the descendants of Kunta Kinte, would be known as Akatas—by Afrikanas.

Is anyone asking how those white men who captured Kunta Kinte were able to reach the woods where he was? Is it safe to say that he probably was not the first African that these white men encountered? If so, we can conclude that someone allowed them to get inland. Obviously, these slave catchers did not live in Africa, so they must have reached the continent by water, which would mean that they arrived at the coast, where it would be safe to say that they would be met with some degree of “border security”. Probably African men. So how did they get inland? Someone allowed them. How were they able to capture slaves? Someone allowed them. Someone just as African as the slaves that they were to capture. Now how did they manage to fill that huge ship with slaves and get all the way across the Atlantic with them? Someone allowed them. Divide and conquer.

We don’t know exactly what happened to Kunta’s brothers. Possibly they remained behind in Africa and bore children, who bore children, who bore children and so on. Possibly, their descendants went on to build the nations in which they now live. Was Kunta any different from his brothers? No, not much. Were Kunta’s children any different from his brother’s children? Quite possibly, considering that they were born into different worlds on separate continents. If they had met—by some magical blessing that returned the slaves and thereby Kunta’s family to Africa or brought Lamin’s family here as slaves—they probably would have failed to understand each other in some ways. But their common ancestry, knowing and feeling that their fathers were brothers, would probably erase any grave difficulty and cement their bonds. What of Kunta’s and Lamin’s children’s children? The differences would be greater, more pronounced. But they too would remember their common ancestry. Over the generations though, we have forgotten that our forefathers were brothers.

A young Black man living in The Gambia, or Mandinique, today is likely very different from a young Black man living in Atlanta and from one living in Jamaica. But it is quite possible that the three of them share the same admiration of the “rich” young Black man, if they have access to media. All three aspire to some form of greatness, whether or not this greatness is acceptable to the rest of us. Excepting the avid scholar, it is safe to say that many young Black men around the world have some amount of awe for the Black men they see on television, who appear to be powerful. All three share some affinity with him. Assuming that we are referring to young men in the Diaspora as a result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the lineages of all three could definitely be traced back to some point in time where there was no European interaction to reveal a common ancestor, or if not, very close by ones. If one of them finds his roots in Gambia, another in what is known as Ghana, another in what is known as Sierra Leone, is that not close enough to a similar heritage? Because if you took them back another 1000 years, it is quite possible that their common ancestor lived somewhere further inland. Common Blood ancestor.

So if you are my sister, and I move away from you, start a family in a new land, are we any less sisters? Are our children any less family? Are their children any less both of our grand children? Five hundred years from now, no matter where our children are, no matter what they look like or what they do, we are no less sisters. They are no less family, by virtue of the blood running through our veins. So why should they be divided? True, they may not know each other, but keeping in mind that they share this common history would keep them mentally bonded with each other. As, if you today met someone on the street with whom you become friends, and then down the line find out that your she is the niece of your Great Great Uncle’s first born’s grandchild. This fact alone would not turn you into best friends, but it would underline your bond. If you are from a polygamous home, you know that your half-siblings may not be the closest to you, but they are still family.

If two people apply for a job today—in the U.S.—one of them African, one African American, we all know who the employer is usually likely to prefer, depending upon the position. If he needs someone who will work hard, go above and beyond, kiss his behind a little, he is likely to go with the African. However, if the job is not that hard, he doesn’t understand people with accents, or he is a serious “Americanist”, he may go with the African American. Most times, he will go with the African. Be honest. This alone should be enough to stir up some tension.

If you are an African American and you are graduating anything, your entire family, all three generations, are likely to show up to cheer you on. If you are an African, you’re lucky if your parents show up. They are probably not in the country. You’re probably at the top of your class, too. Too bad. To the African American parent, this is an achievement. To the African parent, this is an expectation. In the classroom, the African students have the reputation of being “smart”, nerdy, maybe even brown-nosers. The African American students are thought to be the loud underachievers. Be honest.

Many African parents who raise their children in the Diaspora would prefer that—if not someone from their nation—their children marry off to a white husband or wife rather than an African American. Why is this?

It is necessary that if we are to progress as a people, rather than denying, ignoring or upholding the differences between us, resulting from five hundred years of violent separation and infinite division, that we address them. What is the number one issue that Africans have with African Americans? Simple. By [fresh-off-the-boat] African standards, they are disrespectful. Very close seconds are that by fresh-off-the-boat African standards, they lack identity and, by fresh-off-the-boat African standards, they are lazy. What is the number one issue that African Americans hold against Africans? We are stuck up. Very stuck up. We think we are better than African Americans and are not afraid to show it. Are we? Does it matter? Granted, Africans here hold onto some form of identity because we still have close ties with home. We may speak the language, wear the dress, practice the customs. The intactness of our identity gives us a power, confidence, conviction that African Americans—and other Diasporic Africans—lack in that aspect.

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romelo February 11, 2010 - 10:44 am

good observation

Violet July 27, 2009 - 12:27 am

Sister, I loved your Article!! I too believe that all people of African descent need to put our differences aside! We did not have a choice to come here so it is very ignorant for some Africans to see us as “lazy”-this is a condition caused from being snatched from OUR culture. We know nothing of OUR background or heritage besides that OUR ancestors were from Africa but YOU do! I wish I Knew where I came from! You also know that the reason why us (African Americans) are here is because the Americans were Allowed to take us by our Own people.

I love African people but it hurts me to know that some of them have this type of view about me because my ancestors were Allowed to be kidnapped from their homes. Although I want to visit Africa I am a bit leery..personally because I feel my presence would not be wanted there.

But it puzzles me….If Africans were taught to be soo respectful

why do they start speaking another language when African Americans

come around, when they speak very good English..Is that not disrespectful?!

Jamara Newell November 21, 2008 - 3:47 pm

Reasonably written, sort of hard to gather the thesis, though I think I grasped and understand it. The tension were rather understated and while accurate from the African perspective inaccurate from the African American perspective. In any a good one I find uplifting in a sense, as Black man who sees himself as Black first I hope Africans wherever they lie contribute to each other prosperity in anyway they can.

abboss November 2, 2007 - 6:49 pm

Execellent but most Nigerians do not set out to disrespect anyone including African American until you get to port of entry and you are unlucky to be attended to by African American Immigration Officer or Custom operative. Or still when you eventually report at your workplace. A helpless immigrant will relate to whoever offer him or her reliefs therefore it is not a matter of 'kiss white behind' but simply reacting to the hostility from members of your own color. Africans were brutalized by the lost of their kins over 400 years only to have a chance to reunite with them but met with hostilities and insults. You will gavitate towards those who assist you to survive rather than to those who blame you for everything wrong in the world. I am as clueless as any African American as to what exactly happened over 400 years ago but I will hold you responsible to what you do or say to me today.

Oloruntoba September 1, 2007 - 2:41 am

What do they teach black students in high schools about black history? slavery.. white folks have made african-americans believe that they were sold by their african brothers into slavery in exchange for wealth.

caucasians are doing everything possible to make africa and africans look bad ..ever watch africa on cable news? Flights, communications, banking and resource management relations to africa is deliberately made expensive.

I have taken blacks back to africa to see what africa is really like (not the CNN VERSION)…. SOME cried.

African-americans have been blinded. The key to their success is africa but they dont realize it.

African media companies are even making matters worse. Why not project the image of africa from africa? God dam it ! any station like CNN in africa.. we need CNN like media in africa that will counter all the nonsence whites folks put on the screen for the world to see…..

abm1900@mail.ru August 27, 2007 - 9:48 pm

Rukiyat, I think that you can develop this article into a book. Please make it a point of duty to do it. I have no doubts in my mind that it's going to make a big impact on African-Americans especially. And that could be the beginning of Africa's Renaissance.

Ejiro August 25, 2007 - 1:15 pm

I have to say that this is an excellently written piece. I disagree though that the differences btw Afican Aericans and Africans in America is due to to any kind of manipulation by outside people. Sure the media plays a HUGE part, but mostly, I think it is due to a massive cultural differences. same thing that White American's have with Europe and the UK. It is romantic to think we are all the same fundamentally becase we are black, but that is puttin too much substance behind the race issue. culture, upbringing and tradition play a bigger part than that and the truth is.. 4oo hundred years after the fact, being black, is almost the only thing we have in common any more. As for slavery, the slave hunters were not simply"allowed" to hunt for their human treasure. They were fought ..EVERY SINGLE STEP.. of the way, with battle and wars that are now legendary in Benin, yoruba, dahomian history among others. think exciled kings, manslughter and mass graves. Of course their was the occassional slime bags who sold aslaves to the strangers, but that is the exception, not the rule.

mumu August 24, 2007 - 6:24 pm

when will rukus akinola stop hating? write ur own!

JP August 24, 2007 - 4:54 pm

You know what, there are similar issue here in the UK between Africans vs Afro Caribbeans. There is tension amongst us here, however from what I see its mainly amongst the older generation. The younger generation generally get on fine.

A majority of what you said though does apply here in the UK

Farahly August 24, 2007 - 2:08 pm

As usual Ruka your woeds are captivating. you have a way with words that a lot of people should envy. It's good you are telling people where the problem came from. Being that the African Diaspora is under Capitalist constraints ou need to let them know how to own there own businesses and most importantly those who do not own to patronize the worldwide African businesses. read "Capitalist Nigger" we'll talk muah luv your work. <3

Joan Lyons August 23, 2007 - 8:36 pm

A very interesting article,well written.

Paul I. Adujie August 23, 2007 - 11:24 am

The point about unity between continental Africans and all peoples of African descent is an excellent one.

Africans UNITE!

Thank you madam!

Most sincerely,

Paul Adujie

Julius August 22, 2007 - 10:14 am

Nice piece, but how long are we going to blame the whites for our situations. I see this as a defeatist concepts that will lead to no good. Yes the Israelites were brutalized by the Egyptians guess what today Egypt can't stand the Israel, so also was Germany determined to eradicate Israel, guess what instead of keeping their ends crossed and blaming Egypt and Gemany for the condition they took their destiny in their hands. Enough of whites did this and that, we can make a difference, and we can start by stop blaming others. Enough of self pity.

Anonymous August 22, 2007 - 8:59 am

Abenyo, if you still haven't gotten it, then you never will.

Akinola aka "house n*gger". If all you can harp about is the fact that one of the facts she made involved your massers then it shows how small minded you are.

Rukayat, your writeup was excellent and struck home. Thank you.

Abenyo August 21, 2007 - 8:12 pm

And what exactly was that point?

abm1900@mail.ru August 21, 2007 - 5:22 pm


What an excellent piece. As a matter of fact, all your articles are excellent pieces and thought-provoking. You are a good and talented writer. I have no doubts about it that you will go places as a writer. You have a promising writing career awaiting you.

I am also a telecoms. engineer like you. I visited your site and was really impressed with what you are doing. To be honest, without any exaggeration, I am overwhelmed that you are able to do so much at such a young age. Personally, I am very proud of you. More grease to your elbow. I am very much interested in your project(s). Perhaps, I can contribute one way or the other. If you don't mind, could you please contact me through my mail: abm1900@mail.ru. I look forward to hearing from you.

Akinola August 21, 2007 - 3:32 pm

When I thought the writer couldn't write anything worse than the piece she wrote prior, she surprised me!

This latest piece reeks of ignorance and racism (which in itself is a product of ignorance). And it shows that stupidity does come in all skin colors.

But then again, this cast-aside writer is an "Activist" by profession!

I wonder how many degrees from "WHITE EUROPEAN"'s educational institutions are required for a "BLACK AFRICAN" to suddenly realize that "WHITE EUROPEANS" are the enemies to be fought under the banner of ACTIVISM!!!

Omowale August 21, 2007 - 1:52 pm

I loved the article sister. Very powerful! If you read this, please contact me by email as I live in NYC & work with brothers and sisters throughout Africa.

Rosie August 21, 2007 - 12:29 pm

I loved this piece. An excellent review of our differences. To Abenyo, Rukayat was trying to make a point by using those terms.

Abenyo August 20, 2007 - 9:30 pm

You address black American's as akatas in one breath and then advise other Africans not to do the same in another…I don't get it.

Anonymous August 20, 2007 - 9:17 pm

Rukayat, I thank you very much for this wonderful piece. As our elders would say, s/he who hath ears, let him/her listen to the words of wisdom. God bless you!


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