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The Diaspora

Do Africans dislike African-Americans?

No, contrary to what seems to be the consensus, Africans do not dislike African-Americans; this is unthinkable. I must observe here that earlier writers had made such suggestions in the past, and this, no doubt about it, strained the feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood that did exist, still exists, and ought to exist between Africans and African-Americans since both groups were (miss)educated to think they disliked each other. Victor C. Ferkiss is one such writer, and one cannot help wondering the source of such views when he claims in response to the question ".whether Africans really liked and respected American Negroes [,]" (313) that "Negroes tend to insist that they have a special rapport with Africans based on a common racial background, while many Africans are privately highly critical of American Negroes whom they regard as lacking in ability and in pride" (313).

For Ferkiss to have stated this is unfortunate. Why would Africans have aired these views privately as if, like kids, they were afraid of somebody giving them a good spanking, such that it was Ferkiss who had to leak it out for them? By the 1960s when Ferkiss was spreading such damaging views, Africans were themselves in no better position than the African-American, as the former were still fighting to free themselves from the yoke of Western colonialism (they are yet to succeed). Where then did they get the time from, or the feeling of superiority to be able to grant such a perspective to Ferkiss, of African-Americans as "lacking in ability and in pride?" Ferkiss must have forgotten that Africans are still aware of the fact that it was their very best who were captured and who could make it across the great waters, mindful of how they were treated like animals. In fact, at the point in time when Ferkiss wrote this, African-Americans had a lot to pride themselves for: they had been snatched away from their homeland and enslaved for generations by the Westerner, but they were far ahead in the struggles to free themselves, whereas Africans who were at home were barely beginning similar struggles towards freedom, otherwise termed independence.

The results of a study by Francis T. McAndrew and Adebowale Akande confirm my claims. The duo observes that their study attempted to further the understanding of the basis of American stereotypes held by non-Americans by asking a large number of Africans for their perceptions of African and European Americans. Because of previous studies which had indicated that African-Americans were usually stereotyped negatively by others, they wanted to determine the extent to which this was true of people with whom they share a common ancestry. According to the twosome: "The results indicated that the Africans surveyed did not hold negative stereotypes of African Americans. Indeed, with the exception of being seen as more superstitious, African American stereotypes were more positive than those of European Americans, with African Americans perceived as more friendly, polite, religious, and generous." (654)

Many Western scholars on Africa have been more damaging in their effort to portray Africa in a certain manner while others have been more subtle, and to worsen the situation, their books, except recently, never made it to Africa where they could be more effectively reviewed through African eyes, since it is about them that the books are written. One can only imagine the damaging consequences of such views to the already existing bond between African-Americans and Africans.

No, Africans harbor no feelings of disrespect for the African-American. Even as children, Africans are trained to understand we are one, and but for a stroke of luck, it could have been Mbeki in America today, instead of Tyrone. Even when children call those African-Americans revisiting slave sites in Africa "white people," it is not intended to disrespect them as these children are only struck by that fact that their accents remind them of white people. Africans who, having spent much time as residents in the West, return to Africa for a visit and sound European are also referred to as white people and often ridiculed even for sounding White.

Ferkiss' view could only have been accepted by someone without an understanding of African ethics. Africans rarely support an oppressor and more so when the victim is their own; to have said anything against the African-American would have been doing just that. It is this spirit that Chinua Achebe is exposing in his novel Arrow of God, when a child, Obielue, is beaten up by his parents, for directing Captain Winterbottom's emissaries to the house of Ezeulu, the Chief priest of Ulu. A man, out of duress, had told the emissaries after escorting them to the approaches of Ezeulu's compound: "It is not our custom... to show our neighbour's creditors the way to his hut. So I cannot enter with you." This is exactly what the boy Obielue found out the hard way:

Fortunately a little boy came in at that moment with a small piece of potsherd to take burning coals to his mother for making a fire. It was the boy who took the men around the bend of the footpath to Ezeulu's compound. As soon as he went out with them, the old woman picked up her stick and hobbled over at an amazing speed to his mother's hut to report his behavior. Then she returned to her hut — much more slowly, curved behind her straight stick. Soon after she got back she heard the boy, Obielue, crying. (171-172)

Africans have forever been sympathetic towards the predicament of the African-American, and not in a patronizing manner as Ferkiss' words suggest; to state otherwise is unfortunate.

Little disagreements that do occur between both groups must not be misunderstood and taken for "hate" or lack of respect; nothing could be further from the truth, as even siblings from the same mother do disagree from time to time. The point in the relationship between the African and the African-American is that there is some frustration that occurs when both groups meet, especially for the first time. When they meet, at once both parties assume that because the color of their skin is the same, they are supposed to immediately bond, and without any difficulties. When things turn out differently at first, it is misconstrued and presented as "dislike" or as Africans being arrogant.

It must be understood that because of their skin color, both Africans and African-Americans can immediately identify especially before they begin talking. Then there is a little surprise when they begin talking and the one realizes that the other sounds differently— the African speaking through his/her mouth in the main, while the African-American is coming across with a nasal twang added to taste. This is no problem at all, as both parties are glad to be able to reunite after all these centuries. The unfortunate thing here is that because their skin color blends at once they also expect the same with their values. But this is not always the case, and this expectation, everything taken into consideration, is certainly unrealistic given that members of both groups were brought up under different circumstances. When the superficial differences in values and mannerisms are first experienced, there is no doubt a certain degree of frustration, and in some cases bitterness, which are usually easily corrected once both parties remind themselves of the vast differences of the conditions surrounding their existence on earth. No, it is not a question of "hate." It is simply that no two people living together with different values can live without some misunderstanding even if only for a brief while. Africans' respect and acceptance of their kin in the diaspora is always seen when they visit the mother continent as it happened of recent with President Obama's visit to Africa, and this has very little to do with the African-American's status in society. They are always happily received and more often than not, emerge with respected traditional titles indicative of the joy shared by the natives upon their returning "home," albeit for a brief visit.

Where from Africa did the slaves come?

Those men and women who were turned into slaves by "civilized" practices of the West were captured from all over the continent of Africa virtually, but especially south of the Sahara, and gathered around coastal areas in readiness for the journey across the oceans. Some African countries, Ghana and Senegal, for example, still have the scars of slave trade activities, but one cannot simply and categorically state that this is where the slaves came from, as the entire region south of the Sahara was continually raided by slave hunters and their agents. Basil Davidson, in keeping with this perspective, has pointed out that

Most of the slaves were undoubtedly from Western Africa. They were taken from about a score of principal markets, and from many smaller ones, on a 3,000 mile coastline between Senegal in the north and Angola in the south. A few were taken from East Africa even in the sixteenth century. (Black Mother 104)

Do Africans hate Americans?

Only in those African countries where America's foreign policy has left painful memories will you find a certain degree of hostility towards America. Otherwise, most countries cherish and look up to America since she has been presented as the nation that protects the weak and misgoverned, although those countries have of recent been ridiculed for hoping in America. If only they had known the truth about the exact goals driving Western foreign policies, these African nations would do things otherwise. No, one cannot exactly claim that Africans hate Americans; it has to do with individual African nations, and America's policies towards those countries

 
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