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Blue_Tires Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-14-11 10:42 AM
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African in America or African American?
The riddle of identity means I can live in the US for 20 years yet still be treated differently by both black people and white.

"You do not know what it means to be black in this country," an American-born son told his African father. He was right. White America differentiates between Africans and African Americans, and Africans in the United States have generally accepted this differentiation. This differentiation, in turn, creates a divide between Africans and African Americans, with Africans acting as a buffer between black and white America.

It is with relief that some whites meet an African. And it is with equal relief that some Africans shake the hand proffered in a patronising friendship. Kofi Annan, the Ghanaian former UN secretary general, while a student in the United States, visited the South at the height of the civil rights movement. He was in need of a haircut, but this being the Jim Crow era, a white barber told him "I do not cut nigger hair." To which Kofi Annan promptly replied "I am not a nigger, I am an African." The anecdote, as narrated in Stanley Meisler's Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War, ends with him getting his hair cut.

There are several interesting questions here. Why would Kofi Annan accept a haircut from a racist? Why did he not stand in solidarity with African Americans who, at that time, were facing lynching, imprisonment and other forms of violence simply for agitating for their rights? And equally intriguing, on what basis did the racist barber differentiate between African black skin and African American black skin? Is an African not racially black? At a time of racial polarisation in the US, what made the haircut possible?

Being black and African, these are the types of questions with which I constantly wrestle as I navigate through myriads of confusing, illogical, but always hurtful and destructive racial mores. I was born in Evanston, Illinois to Kenyan parents. We returned to Kenya when I was a few months old. I grew up in a small rural town outside of Nairobi, and attended primary and secondary school in Kenya before returning to the United States in 1990 for college. I have now lived in the United States half my life. What I have come learn is that in the United States, being African can get you into places being black and African American will not.

For instance, take the "African foreigner privilege". In Ohio, thirsting for a beer I walk into the closest bar. Silence. I order a beer and the white guy next to me says, "Where are you from? Where is your accent from?" I say, "Kenya." Relief, followed by the words "Welcome to America. I thought you were one of them." The thirsty writer in me is intrigued. Now that I am on the inside, I can ask "What do you mean?" "Well, you know how they are," followed by a litany of stereotypes. Eventually, I say my piece but the guy looks at me with pity: "You will see what I mean." Never mind that to his "Welcome to America," I said I had been in the US for 20 years.
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Number23 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-14-11 06:14 PM
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1. wow... I'm speechless
"I am not a nigger, I am an African."

:wow: :wow: :wow: Damn, Kofi. Just, damn.

"Africans experience race differently from African Americans. Africans experience a patronising but helpful racism, as opposed to the hostile, threatened and defensive kind that African Americans grow up with. Racism wears a smile when meeting an African; it glares with hostility when meeting an African American."

...Indeed, Nelson Mandela once said that without African American support, ending apartheid would have taken much longer. But one will not find organisations in African countries that reciprocate for example, seeking to end a racialised judicial system in the US that sees more black men in prison than in college.

This is an interesting piece. As someone who has had African friends (and dang near an African step-daddy TWICE) my entire life, I can't personally relate to the stereotype that Africans don't like African Americans (sounds very similar to the blacks don't like Hispanics story that I don't buy either) but this is a great read.
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kwassa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-14-11 10:16 PM
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2. African foreigner privilege!
This is probably true. I think that is a great expression.

Here in the DC suburbs it is common to have school children that are immigrants from 90 or so different nations around the world. I taught in a school where African-Americans were a minority of the black kids in the school, as there were many more black immigrant children from Africa or the Caribbean. In my current school, we have been getting a half dozen new kids every year from the Francophone countries, and speak only French when they get here.

To make it even more bizarre, I took teacher course at night school at J.E.B Stuart High School in Falls Church, VA, that is so diverse it was featured in a National Geographic article about diversity in schools. Here it is, a school named after a Confederate "hero", overwhelmed with children of all colors and origins. Fitting, and ironic.

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Karenina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-27-11 05:11 PM
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3. This is why Obama was "electable."
BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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