Law School Discussion

African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America

Stencilasnusky

Hello folks, I wanted to start this thread partly in response to a question posed by an African American poster and partly as a way of discussing individual experiences and relationships African-Americans have had with non-American African descendants (particularly those from NigeriaAfrica) and vice versa.

Iíll go first:

Like most Africans in this country, Iím Nigerian (Yoruba tribe to be specific) and damn well proud of it. I came to this country in my teens for college and not surprisingly stayed behind, though I go back every now and then. Like anybody else in a different country, I had to make some cultural adjustments and try to understand others who were different from me and the most important group in this case were African-Americans. Initially my experience in college was mixed (college was in the mid-west). Many of them were city residents but I lived with my cousins in the suburbs. I didnít know what racism was but I knew what racial oppression terrorism meant since I grew up watching TV images of violence in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia)..the Mau Mau Insurgency in Kenya and the Algerian war of Independence was way before my time. Nevertheless, it seemed that my not being a first hand witness or direct descendant of the victims of US racism made it hard to relate to some. Initially I had difficulty understanding what they said (truly I did), for most of them we lived miles apart (physically and to some extent economically..but the latter part was fortune not choice)  and even the music at times was a problem (on that one I just didnít know enough rap or R&B)..oh and forget the frat thing..I thought it was elitist and kinda gangsta and I couldnít really point to what it had to do with getting As in school ...

The biggest thing I saw was our attitude towards education, to be honest, I couldnít understand why there were fewer blacks in class than in the lounge area or outside class. I could have sworn that as the years went by there were fewer and fewer African-Americans each year than the year before, yet the African count stayed about the same. It was pretty pronounced in engineering, health sciences and finance but less so in liberal arts and inter-disciplinary studies. Another thing was the family unit..African family units are VERY VERY conservative and top down authoritarian (especially on the paternal side). This is not always a good thing but somehow worked to keep discipline and control. I did not see this with many African Americans I knew. Not because they didnít have a 2 parent family, but somehow, they were just more liberal and tolerant. By the time an African-American was a teenager one had more freedom than even some newly wed Africans. You could own your own car at 15, live away from home and do just about anything without consulting your parents. This was kinda unheard of in my background..you pretty much donít move out of your parentsí house until you are married and even then they always know where you are and God help you if you are somewhere you shouldnít be. Any major life changing decisions almost always required parental consultation and sometimes parental consent. I thought in my mind the absence of this attribute was a net negative, even to the point where my older family members would use it to justify separation and disassociation (yep..prejudice cuts across all borders). Iíll even go as far to tell you that theyíd throw a major fit if you dated or wanted to marry an African-American (or Caucasian, Asian or Hispanic).
Later as I became more westernized (which is generally frowned upon back home), I began to relax a bit and even though my relationship with African Americans is not where Iíd like it to be today (I just donít meet that many of them at work or at play), Iíd love to have more black folk and just about anyone from anywhere in my circle of friends. Maybe this will happen in law school or afterwards but I figured since God created all of us in his own image, who the heck am I to build walls of separation or demarcation.
 
Besides, all the opportunities that Africans have today in the US are as a direct result of the blood and tears shed by their African-American cousins.


So Victor, you werenít being inquisitive with your question. Anyone else like to share??

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2006, 09:41:13 AM »
Nice piece.


petitschoque

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2006, 09:58:53 AM »
Stencilanusky, a lot of what you've said applies to me and I've already expressed myself on this topic before so I'll leave it at that. Good topic.

_BP_

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Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2006, 10:26:00 AM »
Shoot, a lot of what you said applies to me too, and I'm from the Caribbean.

redemption

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2006, 10:26:57 AM »
I have some quibbles with the OP's post - a bit too much generalizing and emphasis about Africans as a category (or even, for that matter, "Nigerians"); and patrilinearity, etc. Nevertheless, this could turn out to be a very interesting thread.

A puzzling question for me: why is there the initial assumption that Africans and African-Americans would share similar cultures? There does seem to be that assumption because otherwise there wouldn't be a surprise about the differences (broadly-speaking) in family structure, attitudes toward education, reggae vs rap & R&B etc... How are the differences among Africans and African-Americans any more surprising than the differences between Swedes and Minnesotans, Scotsmen and Kentuckians, or Poles and Chicagoans?

petitschoque

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2006, 10:31:55 AM »
-Americans would share similar cultures? There does seem to be that assumption because otherwise there wouldn't be a surprise about the differences (broadly-speaking) in family structure, attitudes toward education, reggae vs rap & R&B etc... How are the differences among Africans and African-Americans any more surprising than the differences between Swedes and Minnesotans, Scotsmen and Kentuckians, or Poles and Chicagoans?
Great question. Maybe the answer is that many blacks feel as if blackness is such a uniting feature that blacks from different backgrounds should have most things in common.

redemption

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2006, 10:36:13 AM »
-Americans would share similar cultures? There does seem to be that assumption because otherwise there wouldn't be a surprise about the differences (broadly-speaking) in family structure, attitudes toward education, reggae vs rap & R&B etc... How are the differences among Africans and African-Americans any more surprising than the differences between Swedes and Minnesotans, Scotsmen and Kentuckians, or Poles and Chicagoans?
Great question and it captures how I feel too. But I think many blacks feel as if blackness is such a uniting feature that blacks from different backgrounds should have most things in common.

That - essentializing color rather than experience - is what causes the friction between Af Ams and Africans (and, to a lesser extent, caribbean folk). It sets up expectations for sameness that neither side can meet. It leads to confusion, to frustration and, sometimes, to acrimony.

Mr. Pink

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Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2006, 10:44:24 AM »
I have some quibbles with the OP's post - a bit too much generalizing and emphasis about Africans as a category (or even, for that matter, "Nigerians"); and patrilinearity, etc. Nevertheless, this could turn out to be a very interesting thread.

A puzzling question for me: why is there the initial assumption that Africans and African-Americans would share similar cultures? There does seem to be that assumption because otherwise there wouldn't be a surprise about the differences (broadly-speaking) in family structure, attitudes toward education, reggae vs rap & R&B etc... How are the differences among Africans and African-Americans any more surprising than the differences between Swedes and Minnesotans, Scotsmen and Kentuckians, or Poles and Chicagoans?

180

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2006, 10:50:48 AM »
This has been said before, but you also have to look at the fact that Black Americans, and people from the Caribbean as well, have a unique place in history in that it is more than their skin color that ties them to Africa.  There is a definite genetic link there.  That can not be overlooked.

Therefore to some extenet there should be an expectation of sameness, but there is a missing link, in that many black Americans or those from the Caribbean do not know what specific place they are from in Africa.  That in itself is frustrating. 

Stencilasnusky

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2006, 11:05:07 AM »
-Americans would share similar cultures? There does seem to be that assumption because otherwise there wouldn't be a surprise about the differences (broadly-speaking) in family structure, attitudes toward education, reggae vs rap & R&B etc... How are the differences among Africans and African-Americans any more surprising than the differences between Swedes and Minnesotans, Scotsmen and Kentuckians, or Poles and Chicagoans?
Great question. Maybe the answer is that many blacks feel as if blackness is such a uniting feature that blacks from different backgrounds should have most things in common.

Em..OP here (as you can tell). Yes, some parts are a bit too general but I wanted to keep it brief and not hog up all the space. I'd very much like others (in addition to commenting) share their experiences and views (without turning this into a WAR ZONE I might add).
On the assumption you laid out, I think its fair for African-Americans within reason, to have that assumption because of their unique experience in the history of the US. Africans also by and large had over 90% of their land colonized by Europeans and I don't believe the resulting effects were pleasant. I'd say both groups were pretty much systematically exploited and harassed and by virtue of the obvious (skin color), the process of cross-cultural assimilation should correlate. Sure there are some one off exceptions but by and large, segregation and its lasting effects are primarily felt by African Americans and Africans, I would hope,should be especially conscious of this as they would have suffered the same fate had there not been an African-American inspired civil rights movement. I'm not trying to make it look like symbolic identification, but I think the expectation is quite reasonable..even if sometimes it can be hard to keep up with. But I'd very much like to hear about your experiences/relationships if you have any.