Being Black is Not a Culture

Why it’s wrong to think that being black is an origin or a culture.

African American and German/multiracial — source:


Most black people share the same skin, but not the same culture

Imagine someone saying “The White Culture” for a moment. What does that even mean? You never hear people answering “He’s white” to the question “What is his background?” but I’ve often heard “He’s black” to that question in the U.S.

Being black is not a culture, but being American, Cameroonian, or Kenyan or Nigerian or from Ethiopia is. The color of your skin or your race has nothing to do with your culture. Culture is a trait of traditions, manners, food, architecture and so on… but race is not one of them.

It’s wrong to assume that every black person is African-American. The color of your skin can be a part of what you share with people from a cultural group but it doesn’t necessarily define your Culture. Just African-American should refer to themselves as African-American. Someone who’s black and from the U.K or someone who’s black and from France doesn’t necessarily fit in that regional group. You can call them African-European if you want but you should also keep in mind that every person with black skin doesn’t necessarily have African origins (e.g: Australia’s indigenous people ).

The Science of Skin Color
Blue Eyed African Boy From Sierra Leone — source:

The “African” Culture

In Africa there are as many differences between one country to another, than there is between a German and a Greek, or a French and a Korean. Just in Cameroon, people speak about 200 dialects. In comparison, Africa is like Europe.

While most of Europe is now a union, most of Africa is still very divided and there are not at lot of agreements between countries that would allow you to travel from one country to another easily. It’s understandable when people say “I want to visit Europe” because they can easily travel from one country to another since countries in the European unions share the same currency and the same frontiers. However, the reality is that most countries in Africa do not share the same currency, or the same frontiers and definitely not the same culture. The currency are divided by regions and most countries have their own currencies like Ethiopia or Zimbabwe. Funny enough, someone from Senegal would probably need a visa to go to Cameroon, Kenya, Ethiopia or south Africa while someone from France or the United State won’t probably need any of that to visit those countries.

Africa is divided into a great number of ethnic cultures. There is an African Culture but there are even more diverse cultures within it. Although they are from the same continent; a Nigerian and an Ethiopian have less thing in common than a French and a Belgian.

The Myth of a French speaking Africa

Most people tend to assume that every black person with an accent speak french and is from Africa. Here something that will shed some light on these assumptions.

General division of Africa under colonialism — Note: This picture doesn’t belong to me. Spainish is Spanish & Belgiam is Belgian.

“There are literally thousands of indigenous languages spoken in Africa and many more dialects.” There is a difference between official and spoken language in each countries of Africa. Often it is said that an official language is French or English but then when you visit those countries most of the local talk their local dialect and can just communicate with the official language but this is more rare than current in every countries.

Colonial Empire Map — source:

When I hear that someone is from an African country, I also tend to think that they either speak French or English but this is wrong. I’ve met people from Angola or Cabo Verde who only speak Portuguese or people from Kenya who know more Swahili than English. If you ever visit Equatorial Guinea you’ll be surprised to see that people there speak either Spanish, Portuguese or French and all of those are their official languages.

Being Black VS Being African-American

If you are black and live in America, that doesn’t mean that you are African-American. I’m not sure how this thing came to be…. There is no “-American” to your origin unless you became an American, or Canadian citizen. “African-American” is not a race it’s an ethnic group. Caucasian is a race, and Latino, or Asian, or most people from Morocco or Mauritania are all part of the same race group called Caucasoid. You’re only African-American if you’re from North America with African-American heritage.

The Sentinelese (also Sentineli, Senteneli, Sentenelese, North Sentinel Islanders) are an indigenous people of the Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal.

The Andamanese who are the aboriginal people of Southern Asia are also technically black; not African-American. To set thing straight; African-American are Black, but every black person is not necessarily African-American or African. My Cameroonian ancestors went through the colonial period or the German guardianship of Cameroon before the World War 2. Thus, a lot of my family lives or continued their studies in Germany . After Germany was defeated after World War 1, the Treaty of Versailles divided the territory in 1918 into two League of Nations mandates under the administration of Great Britain and France. Cameroonian pro-German sentiment helped to counter later colonial regime, especially that of France. So technically Cameroon was never colonized. The story of my ancestors is very different from the story of an African-American So again someone from Cameroon doesn’t share the same history as other person from the Ex-African colonies or as someone who’s African-American. Being African-American is a culture, being African is a culture but I want to insist on the point that being black isn’t.

Andaman Island in South East Asia — source:
If you’re black in America, that doesn’t mean that you are African-American.

Don’t put all the diverse cultures of a continent on the same boat.

We don’t say European-American when talking about white American with French or Spanish or Greeks origins. I’m not sure why saying “black” is such a controversy in the U.S. I think that putting every black individual in the ‘African-American’ group is a greater one.

Map of skin colors distribution — source:

Yes I am black, but just being black doesn’t define my culture of origin, just like being “white” or asian doesn’t necessarily say from what country you’re originally from.

If you like this post it would mean a lot to me if you hit the “recommend” button below. I want this article to reach as many people as possible so people understand the various differences of being black around the world.
Feel free to send me a tweet: @Richardsondx

Subscribe to my blog