Kaleidoscopes: Any Way You Angle Them Will Yield a Different View
Considering the current climate of the US, there is plenty of evidence to show that Blacks in America have been, are, and will continue to be the most marginalized group in the country we built. From mass incarceration and police brutality all the way to the adultification of young black kids in the classroom and the school-to-prison pipeline, there are countless things holding us back. We already know how white people feel about us, and plenty of think pieces have been created to address that issue. American Blacks won’t get much further in our journey, though, unless we acknowledge and understand the role that Continental Africans, Other POC, and even we play in the demise of our people.
It’s very simple to dismiss any critique of Continental Africans as “xenophobic”, but it’s simply not wise to ignore the role they play in Black American oppression, whether inadvertent or not. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the psychological effects of being called names as the only African in a school full of blacks, and the frustration of watching Black Americans misuse traditional cloths, waist beads, and headwraps. This animosity does go both ways, however, and the reason we don’t know how to properly use and respect African culture is because we were stripped from it so long ago. I wont even go as far as to say that Continental Africans are completely to blame for our intial separation from our people, but there are several factors contributing to the growing separation of American Blacks and Continental Africans.
According to the Freedom On My Mind textbook, when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was abolished, a wave of African Blacks came to America. This immediately created a class divide as Continental Africans are often able to receive better education. They get the titles of “hardworking, and smart” as immigrants, while Black Americans are again characterized as lazy. Such as wealth disparity can cause dangerous thoughts to surface in the minds of both groups. Speaking from a place of privilege, wealthier Africans do call us lazy, deny that we have a culture, and use the word “akátá” to demean us just the way that Black Americans play a little too far into nationalism and suggest that Africans return to their homes. While both mindsets are wrong, there is no denying that the boom in migration of foreign Blacks to America affects us. Just take a look at the major actors and actresses who are taking our film industry by storm: Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong’o, and David Oyelowo are just a few. Instead of a divide between our people, however, I propose we both take up arms to break up stereotypes about all of us, no matter what continent we’re from, because at the end of the day, systematic racism doesn’t always discriminate just by nationality.
In terms of the phrase “people of color”, I don’t even know if I subscribe to that rhetoric anymore. Latin Americans and Asians might love our fashion and our hard-earned coin when they want our hard-earned coin, but when we go into the stores that they opened in our neighborhoods, we are met with disrespect and, sometimes, even violence. I firmly believe that Black Americans are the only “POC” who subscribe to the idea of comraderie between us all. A couple months ago, many Black American actors and actresses started urging us to go see the movie Crazy Rich Asians to support a movement of diversity in the film industry. The movie itself even featured a character in blatant verbal blackface for comedic purposes. My solution for this problem is simple. Let’s really start supporting our own stores, and stop injecting our wealth into the pockets of those who will just use the money to increase the wealth disparity between minorities and never look back at us.
Speaking of respect, we also need to respect ourselves and know our worth. Don’t worry, I won’t go off into a long rant about how we should “pull up our pants and act like we have some sense” to gain the respect from others. At the end of the day, no matter how dressed up you are and how well you can articulate your words, we will still always have problems because of the system that our country was built on.
As a result I would say there are a few things we can do to better ourselves. First, we need to stop “inviting everyone to the cookout” for being a decent person and handing out passes to say the n-word. Then I would continue to encourage us to “buy black” as much as we can and replenish the wealth of our community. We shouldn’t allow outsiders to come into our neighborhoods and sell their products, especially when it’s obvious they don’t respect us. Finally, we should embrace our role in the diaspora as descendants of American Chattel Slavery. Our identity as Blacks in an anti-black world is what connects us to our “foreign” Black brothers and sisters. The sooner we both acknowledge the privileges we both hold, the better off we’ll all be. We can’t expect anyone else to hold their figurative kaleidoscope at a different angle in order to correctly characterize us if we don’t do so first.