The Politics of ‘White Africans'

Published on 19th July 2010

The new trend emerging is to classify Europeans living/settling in Africa as "White Africans." All those that deny their claim to African identity are now labeled as racist. However, the definition of racism does not accommodate in-group exclusion as a characteristic of being racist. And the power of definition like "who is a Jew", "who is Chinese" belongs with the majority, not the minority. Africans cannot over night just say they are Chinese and then call Chinese racist if they do not accept them.


In the scrabble for linguistic real estate, why would these descendants of European colonialist who devastated and exploited the continent want to be called African? And in terms of self-determination who introduced these concepts? It would be very strange if a European, after 200 years in China or India, could be so powerful to alter the definition of Chinese just to be accommodated. 


The fact that Europeans are sensitive to the politics of things suggests that they do not do anything for romantic reasons. It is very disappointing when senior African academics, so desperate to embrace the rainbow theory and share the "African burden" rush with open arms to embrace these pseudo concepts without any political or economic consideration. What is the objective of these claims? It is interesting to note Europeans (including Caucasoid Arabs) constitute around 10 million people verses the 800 million Africans.


Now, this negligible minority, by way of social influence, has caused the majority to need to refer to themselves with the adjective of "black" to separate themselves from a serious minority group who want to be "Indian Africans" or "white Africans." Minorities of Europeans live in China, in India and in Arabia yet only in Africa has linguistic accommodation been given to these European minorities. Africans now must make room for those settlers who want to identify with the continent for capitalist reasons. Because once you identify with a continent then you have a legitimate claim to its resources. Thus, the saying and the philosophy of Garvey "Africa for the Africans" becomes usurped. In South Africa, the new trend of "Black Economic Empowerment" has seen the broadening, opening up of the borders of blackness so to speak. Indians are economically classified as 'black', and recently Chinese have been included in this definition. So again, we see the relationship between linguistics and economic profit.


What about people who are European who speak African languages, wear African clothing, eat African food, etc? With all due respect, the mistake made by Dr. Ali Mazrui in his accommodation was to confuse the empirical reality of being African with the cultural phenomenon of being Africanized. Just as most Africans in the west are to a large degree Europeanized Africans, it does not make them in anyway shape or form European. Studying everything about Chimpanzees and bonding into their social structure as Jane Goodal did, did not make her anymore Chimpanzee. It is clear the Chimpanzees were warmed by her attempts, but when it came time for mating there was no confusion.




According to Dr. Kimani Nehusi, identity should be a foremost consideration, for if it is not then subsequent work would not be grounded. Now we can see how the question of reparations, land ownership, citizenship, free-movement, African Continental union, African People unity, all hinge on a clear definition of African identity. We see all other groups, such as Jews in Israel, clarifying a definition of who is a Jew and denying "right of return" to those who do not fall into that definition. Open definitions allow those who have traditionally exploited Africans to continue to do so. It must be realized that our cultural immunity and cultural defense systems have been the most destroyed. As a group interested in self-preservation and self-determination, the question of who belongs to our group, who has that group's interest, will be paramount. 


By Owen 'Alik Shahadah
Scholar, Film maker and Pan - Africanist

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