There is a cold war between African Americans and Africans in Africa. Unfortunately, stereotypes are the building blocks of most of their disagreements. As Adichie says, the problem is not that stereotypes are completely untrue; it is just that they are incomplete. African Americans and all other Negroes outside Africa show similar responses in their relationship with Africans from and in Africa and vice versa.
The African American is often seen by the African in Africa as a gangster, an egomaniac and a confused young man whose lifestyle revolves around cult groups like the Pirus and Crips and killing his kind in a drive by or shoot out is only second place to his love for drugs. The African from Africa is seen by the African American as a lesser man, a bushman, an uncultured entity, a local fowl, and associating with him is both a favour and eye service.
African Americans are seen as lazy and restive, with crime as the only route to their success while the African in Africa, Nigerians from example, are seen as criminals whose only purpose in any relation with the outside world is to steal and disappear. Africans are dumb and Africa is just a forest while African Americans only smoke weed and kill each other despite the ‘accommodating environment’ in which they find themselves.
The result is acute and chronic hatred on both sides. What these stereotypes often fail to consider is the word ‘some.’ Yes, there are African Americans who lead the thug life but there are also millions of others working daily and contributing to the growth of their country despite subtle and overt antagonism. There are Africans who steal and disappear but there are also millions of others who strive to do well at any given opportunity.
We got here through a controlled single-story campaign. If you know a person’s history, you will also know why they do what they do, why they behave the way they do and the missing link that created their current setting. Many Africans do not know the history of the civil rights struggle in America and when they use words like ‘lazy,’ ‘thug,’ and ‘useless’ to describe African Americans, it is evident that they are speaking from a place of dangerous ignorance.
There are also many African Americans who know nothing about Africa rather than the lies written in American books and in speaking of Africa, a place they have probably not been to, they speak of only zoos and mud houses and some are shocked when you speak of flush toilets. These are some of the finest works of the scramblers holding Bibles and Korans. Both the African Americans and those in Africa must understand that they were deliberately broken apart and their cold war is a great benefit to the sustenance of the structures that broke them.
Before the coming of the western powers into Africa, the continent was beaming with several cultures and original identities and even though wars and skirmishes did happen, the will and soul of the people were not supplanted or broken. Nations were small and peaceful and Kingdoms like the Edo, Oyo and the Kongo, by the standard of the time, were better organised than many nations in Asia, Europe and America.
The Ethiopians had created the Geez writing system, Nsibidi was in existence in the place known today as Eastern Nigeria, the Egyptians had the Hieroglyphics and many writing systems existed in many parts of Africa. Footprints of the Nok culture were littered all across Northern Nigeria and the art of the Yorubas wasn’t below what was standard practise and still is. But the day the western powers stepped in, all this changed.
Once they came in, original African systems, with help from few greedy insiders, were corrupted and African will and soul broken. Kings like Jaja of Opobo and King Kosoko of Lagos who rejected Greek gifts were dethroned, and with the continuous help of the gun and selfish resources, docile stooges were installed and gradually unoriginal countries were born.
As tribes and ethnic groups with heterogeneous cultures and ideologies were forced to become one, the first set of slaves taken abroad performed exceptional slave duties and the demand for such ‘goods’ increased. Nations paid money and even the leader of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Queen of England, had a stake in it. The real story of Africa, like other stories told by victors, was rewritten and great philosophers like the racist and influential John Locke helped to sell it. After breaking Africans in Africa, they broke Africans in America and other slave plantations. Jules Archer wrote of slaves who considered serving on the masters table, and betrayed other slaves who were planning to escape.
First, they broke Africans in Africa. Africans stole artefacts for them, stole and sold their brothers and sisters to them. Then they destroyed African history, created countries for Africans and zombies who believe the white man is always right and superior. They broke their spirit, poisoned their identity, gave them new mental gowns and either a house nigger or any peaceful slave will give you same result you will get with the zombies in Africa. The goal was to make the conquered believe they had nothing, were nothing and had capacity for nothing with wickedness as their only ability. They achieved it.
For some of you over there, get this! You don’t decide your race and as long as your skin has a trace of black in it, you are African. You don’t decide origin and as long as the slave trade took you to America, you are still African. Africans in Africa and the African Americans have been injured physically, but more strategically, mentally and the self-hating ones among us are just acting accordingly.
After colonization had happened in physical form, the mental form of slavery was left behind and great investments were put in place to make sure Africa became the Dark Continent and the Negro race became the weakest of all. Besides Martin Luther King Jr, there was Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey but the typical self-criticism doesn’t consider what the fight was all about. If it did, these Africans in Africa will know they have been through hell and everything they got today, they earned.
The African Americans were forced to dance with the devil and he took them to the point of no return. The Ku Klux Klan was unofficially tasked with making sure what was gained was never lost and not only did they burn and kill blacks who tried to recover, they broke them emotionally and made sure they had no intellectual growth by burning down their schools or place of meeting. Unfortunately, in Africa today, in Nigeria precisely, some cult group goes by the name Clansmen with inspiration from the KKK. Just like the Africans in America were broken, those in Africa were stripped of their language, religion and homogeneity. To tighten the grip books were written and are still being written to break the continent. As fine and harmless as the book Why Nations Fail appear, it erroneously, or better put, purposely, tries to sell the false narrative that Africa had nothing before the coming of the white man.
In the past, John Locke had described Africans as beasts without heads and modern economists like Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson were simply reinforcing another version of this narrative. No matter how bad it gets, what about the Pyramids in Egypt? Even if there is blindness, deafness and intellectual numbness on their part, can’t these two at least credit us with the symbols in Saqqara and Giza?
The problem behind the problem between African Americans and Africans in and from Africa is a problem of ignorance; the ignorance on the ways and histories of one another; ignorance of the struggle both put up each day to survive life; ignorance of how they got where they are. This ignorance is a by-product of Western imperialism and as long we don’t pull our heads out of their cracks, we will keep complaining of racism and underdevelopment.
By Rey Alaetuo,
A conscious Poet and health care professional living in Lagos, Nigeria.
Courtesy: Mortal Poet