Law School Discussion

African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America

Stencilasnusky

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2006, 11:13:08 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. 

At first I was a little confused by your comment, but I do agree it can be frustrating but that in itself should not be the main hurdle. The missing link in my view isn't strong enough an issue to warrant dissassoction by Africans. Isn't it weird that no matter how "mixed" African-Americans are (I think the last I heard was 35% European, 25% Native American and 10% Asian) they would always be considered "black". But a Scotsman, Pole, Serb-Croat, Italian moves over here and is instantly considered "white" and fits right into the prevailing socio-economic categorization. Maybe its solidarity or just a desire for understanding of what it means/feels like to be black/white in America. In Africa, everyone white/black from the US or Europe is considered "white: i.e. foreign" and ergo, different.



Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2006, 11:40:31 AM »
I think what puts some African-Americans off is the tone and treatment given to them by Africans and to a lesser extent some Carribeans. And to tell the truth, you'll see the same sort of miscommunication between American-born Mexicans and their newly-arrived counterparts, second-gen Koreans and their newly arrived counterparts, etc. It's much more complicated for African-Americans and Africans because of all the history, but the end result is the same: America is different from the rest of the world, more liberal, it's not just the black kids who are laid back about education, the white kids by and large are the same way (or have you not noticed the guy who runs the country lately?).

Stencilasnusky I can say with a good deal of confidence that your kids, if you have them, will be just as liberated as their African-American counterparts and it will drive you crazy. I've seen it 100 times, lol. I grew up in a hood that was black and West Indian (and within the West Indians there was a real divide between the Jamaicans and the Haitians) and they all thought the American blacks were just a little bit crazy and just a little bit lazy. It's complicated and I think it's easier to navigate if you don't look at American blacks as a generalization, but as really people with a different set of experiences as you. They will never act in a way that you will find acceptable and in fact in American most Americans would be offended if they are told what to do (again, witness our president for evidence of this sadly).

redemption

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2006, 11:52:00 AM »

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.

Here's the thing: a Yoruba and an Ibo know what their differences are and do not expect those differences to be elided except under exceptional circumstances (the Eagles playing in the World Cup, for example). And yet, there is not the same kind of friction between Ibo and Youba as there is between African American and African: whereas in the former case the differences are known and sameness is not assumed, in the latter case sameness is very much assumed, even though the differences are in fact greater.

Africans in the US, I think, forget that African-Americans are fundamentally American; and African- Americans forget that Africans are, well, quite African after all. That is an important difference, and it does no good to speak of genetics and of the similarities between colonialism and slavery (they are very very different by the way) and thereby expecting that the two groups should view the world in the same way, or to view each  other as brothers or sisters. Cousins, it seems to me, is more like it.

As I say, there seems to me no reason to expect any more sameness between Africans and African-Americans than there is between Europeans and White Americans. A Frenchman would be amused at the suggestion that he had broad similarities with a Louisianian, and the reverse, I think, would also be true. It is also my sense that there exists the very same kind of tension between Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, at least in California.

My suggestion is that we drop the concept as color altogether as a marker for identity. Culture is a more reliable indicator of who is alike and who is not. Working backwards from similarities in coloring will lead us to a dead end. Working forwards from differences in culture looks more promising, at least to me.

Stencilasnusky

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2006, 11:59:44 AM »
Scoop to some extent I agree. Indeed the less economically and educationally advanced a country, the more conservative it is. I'm not a conservative in the classic sense of the word and I already admitted some of my comments were somewhat generalizing. I was only speaking as an observer in a new country and what I'm trying to do is elicit comments from other observers..natives as well as visitors, but with an eye towards the residual effects of segregation and slavery. Personally, I think African Americans, though they've been here longer than most Americans (except of course Native Americans), are still by and large different from the American polity because every other "American" before and after them has alwasy looked at them differently, treated them differently and pretty much cognitively segregated them. Obviously, having been subjected to such mental harrasment causes one to act differently (I'm saying this based on the fact that nearly all African Americans in this country at one time or the other pretty much started out living somewhere south of the Mason-Dixie line).

jnc18

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Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2006, 11:59:57 AM »
I would say when comparing Africans and African-Americans in this way, it's important not to discount the impact of the immigrant mentality in general (in addition to the cultural differences). 

Isn't it weird that no matter how "mixed" African-Americans are (I think the last I heard was 35% European, 25% Native American and 10% Asian)

If you're saying what I think you're saying, I don't think this is correct.  From what I understand the average African American is something like 75% African, 20% European, 5% other.

Also can't agree with your generalization of black Americans.  I don't think I know any who had their own car and could live by themselves at 15.  And I'd say the southern black culture has been traditionally conservative, even religious in nature.  The liberalization and breakdown of the traditional family is more of a trend of the past couple of decades.  By the way, much of what you mention is more about the differences between Africans and Americans than just black Americans.

Most importantly, I'd like to posit that the connection between Africans and African Americans is deeper than color

_BP_

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Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2006, 12:01:00 PM »
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?
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.

I think it's color AND experience rather than color vs experience that leads to the expectations of sameness.  This works for the Caribbean blacks/American blacks comparison.  Slaves in the Caribbean and slaves in America largely had the same experience and many of them came over sitting next to each other on the same slave ships.  It's just by the luck of the draw that some slaves were sold in ports in the islands while other slaves were sold in the Carolinas and in other ports on the Eastern Seabord. American slaves picked cotton, while Caribbean slaves harvested sugar cane.

Using your Swedes/Minnesotan example,  If Minnesota were largely populated by people who were brought from Sweden just a few generations ago, why would anyone not expect there to be similarities?  Most white people in Minnesota did not arrive here from Sweden, but every descendant of a slave here in America can trace his/her roots back to Africa.  With the strong African cultures it is not surprising that people would expect to see similarities in culture, religion, language, hairstyles, music etc. that survive to this day in Western Blacks.  I mean there are some things that cannot be taught/brainwashed or assimilated away.

Quick story: I was watching a documentary on the child soldiers in Sierre Leone.  This child soldier was speaking in a regional dialect (the documentary was subtitled).  After a while listening to this child speak, I started to understand a lot of what he was saying before I read the subtitle!  It started to sound like just a more hardcore version of Barbadian dialect. That freaked me out for a while, but then I was like, "why should I be suprised, that's where my people are from". Anyhow, this is my take on your question.




Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2006, 12:04:18 PM »
I was just about to post and saw redemptions post.  You can not correlate the differences between Europeans and White Americans with that of Africans and African Americans for the simple fact that COLOR IS A HUGE ISSUE! 

While it would be nice for us all to"drop the concept as color altogether as a marker for identity."  This is impossible becuase to use culture as a signifier means to not make any assumptions about a person without getting to know them, and that goes against the way the majority of the world looks at things.  People draw initial conclusions about others on the basis of race all the time, it is not right and I do not agree with it, but it is reality.

What I had typed before in reference to Stencil:

I think this phenomenon, goes back to the one drop rule and its contibution to definitions on race and ethnicity in the United States.  There is also the way that people are treated, because people with a high melanin concentration are subject to a lot of similar stereotypes, and face similar treatment (whether racist or not) based solely on the color of their skin.  This becomes a unifying front, but this unity is not necessarily played out in terms of interactions between these various groups.

On your last point that "In Africa, everyone white/black from the US or Europe is considered "white" and ergo, different."  I partially do not agree.  There is a lot of mixing that has been going on in various African nations for hundreds of years as well.  My father is from Ghana, and many of the people are decendants of Dutch, Portuguese, British, and Scottish who each controlled Ghana at one point or were active in the Trans-atlantic slave trade based out of one of the many castles in the Cape Coast region, particularly Elmina castle.  This is evident through skin tone as well as names, there are Ghanaians who are Hoyte-Williams, or Degraft Johnson, among others. Yet these people are not considered any less Ghanaian. 

Ghanaians, mostly little kids, will call visiting black Americans obruni, which means white person, but that is more a testament to their foreign status. 

I think that what is more interesting is those of us of African parentage who were raised outside of that African country, but still have very strong ties to it.  I am a little different in that my mother is black American, and I was not raised in Ghana or America but a third culture and continent entirely.  But the running family joke is that my father claims certain aspects of my personality as being Ghanaian, my intelligence etc., and attributes my stubborness and liberal attitude to my American side.  It is a matter of balance.  I haven't really experienced the negativity between Africans and African Americans, but that would be like my left hand hating on my right.   

My father has mellowed out some becuase of marrying an American, and having American kids, for example I live with my boyfriend and he is fine with it.  But there are things that he won't falter on, like my boyfriend had to travel to Ghana to formally ask my family if he could date me. 

jnc18

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Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2006, 12:05:06 PM »
Quote
My suggestion is that we drop the concept as color altogether as a marker for identity. Culture is a more reliable indicator of who is alike and who is not. Working backwards from similarities in coloring will lead us to a dead end. Working forwards from differences in culture looks more promising, at least to me.

That would be great if the whole world didn't seem to believe that African genes are of an inferior composition.

crazy8

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2006, 12:07:39 PM »
Shoot, a lot of what you said applies to me too, and I'm from the Caribbean.

Cosign,

It's not necessarily an Afrian-American v. African thing, it's an African-American v. Blacks from other nationalities thing.  I think most black, non African-Americans would agree with most of what you said.

Re: African Americans and Africans in Majority-Minority America
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2006, 12:10:45 PM »
.........I think what puts some African-Americans off is the tone and treatment given to them by Africans and to a lesser extent some Carribeans.

I only need further clarification as to the statement above before I can indulge in the rest of the convos! What treatment is given to African Americans by Africans that puts African Americans off???