Being Black and American in Africa
I don’t know if Black and American should separate. Being African American in Africa means you are in the majority. You quickly blend with the rest of the population. Being American sets you apart because of your mannerisms especially how you speak, and your expectations.
African Americans in Africa have had a myriad of experiences. Some couldn’t have a real African experience because they got the whopping culture shock, and retreated into what felt safe which is the snobbish expatriate community or very wealthy Africans who have lost touch with what it is to be African. Africans are very different from Americans in general. African Americans will not automatically click with Africans because we share a skin color. It’s seldom skin deep, and more often Africans come across as conservative. Don’t scold Africans at home or abroad about the abhorrent state of affairs in the continent just like US, the superpower. Africans are very protective of their country’s image, and are more patriotic than most.
We can explain the African experience by looking at the American experience for African immigrants. First, America isn’t what you see in the movies, it’s a whole lot different. Immigrants haven’t been sensitised on racism because many didn’t grow up in a racist environment, may be tribal but not racist. Therefore, immigrants from Africa may come across as aloof to the racial sensitivities in America though they walk in the same black skin as African Americans.
Older African immigrants understand racism in America because they are more aware of the experience of discrimination in colonial Africa. African Americans though have a history, that’s harder to shake off because they live side by side Caucasians who advance or live off white privilege. Racism and issues of slavery is still unfinished business. Africans on the other hand have had closure with the dawn of independence. They no longer have to fight the Europeans and their enemy is the fellow Africans who drive them to America as refugees or economic migrants for lack of opportunity back home. Africans in America have one goal, to make a dime in peace. African Americans want the same but want stability in America because they don’t have Africa to go back to unlike immigrants who legally identify with their African countries. African Americans demand more justice, equality, and rights as US citizens by birth. It’s not always the case, hence the fight for racial equality is valid just as the fight for independence or freedom from Apartheid in the African experience. African do not come to replace African Americans, but to live side by side as brothers, and should most of all be understanding, supportive, and respectful of the African American cause for racial equality.
Back to Africa, there is a whole lot of complaining about how Africans treat black people compared to white folk. The whole bootlicking thing of the white master is still prevalent thanks to PTSD from colonialism. Yes, in some parts of Africa, some white people will rub off white privilege to your face because Africans allow them to. Why, its an inferiority mindset and also the need to impress as the host and wanting something in return.
What’s the experience like for African Americans, first you will be mistaken for a regular black on the continent, and then you open your mouth, you become American, depending on who you interact with, you will either be black, or American in their eyes or both. This is where the rubber hits the road. Do you now get preferential treatment, or should you expect the same treatment as everyone else? Why then should your white American be eagerly attended to while you wait in line, like you’re just local. Or should African Americans feel at home in Africa so much so that they do not feel the need to be treated differently. But then there is the dollar difference, meaning you pay more as a tourist or for business. Therefore, you should expect differential preferential service. Kindly, don’t overtip to prove your worth, its never appreciated.
I get this a lot from African people in America. They say America treats them better than Africa. May be because money is the goal, and the quest from a better life. African Americans on the other hand expect Africa to treat them better than America. Its supposed to be that way, but it ain’t that way all the time. Maybe African Americans have a better appreciation for America when they find out Africa is not this ideal place, sometimes not as welcoming or easy as they would expect.
The African American and African immigrants relations in America would be a great litmus test. Ask yourself, would I go to the country of my African friend given our interaction and his personality. This could become a mirror image of what to expect in the continent. Most Americans don’t even ask which part of Africa you come from, until you get to Africa, and remember you should have asked to get the lay of the land, which country to go to, and credible contacts on the ground. You might even be boarding for free given hotel and Airbnb in Africa isn’t always cheap. Utilise your African contacts in America to have an honest view of Africa, and a real experience when you land.
Bottom line, African Americans can do great things in Africa as they have done in America. Black owned business can extend to Africa as white Americans have done, and have lasting partnerships. The process is complex and different from America, but will pay off in the long run. Its not always charity that Africa needs, it can be overwhelming. Africans have built Africa, complement or give a shot in the arm to what’s already being built-technology, education, tourism, manufacturing, and sports.
If you don’t feel the vibe, nobody should drag you to Africa. Stay in America, enjoy normal and predictable. There is a reason African immigrants never return despite being overly patriotic. Don’t go to Africa with rose colored glasses, Africa will teach you the hard way not to, its the realest of places in the world, no frays or gray areas.