Black in the African Diaspora – Is that redundant?
It may seem like this title is a redundancy, but I want to signify the volatile nature of the term ‘black,’ which has many meanings and is situational. Mostly, I think about how the term ‘black’ signifies, in the United States, anyone with any African ancestor. But that’s not its only meaning. I might mean ‘black’ as in the name of an ethnic group ie “I am black,” or “I am “Black American” and not, for example, an African or Caribbean immigrant. But then, globally, there is the concept of ‘black people’ bringing us back again to the global signifier of African descent.
This is another term whose meaning expands and retracts. Right now, African Americans might be any ‘black’ people who are American citizens. It might be a term for ‘Black Americans’ (as above), who I think of as part of the ‘historical core black community.’ Meanwhile, the population of African Americans (as a global term for blacks in America) is expanding and diversifying. Some find this unacceptable, or resist the idea that new ‘black folk’ can come to America and benefit from all the hard work and suffering of the historic core black community. This blog will address some of the conflicts and serendipitous aspects of the encounter of historical black Americans with black “Others,” especially African immigrants. I’ll also be writing about black Americans in Africa.
Hey – this is real. What are the policy implications of a diverse black population? Is it good or bad? What are some unintentional negatives that are occurring with this population transformation? Do we/should we blame somebody for inequities resulting from this change, and if so, who? What I do know is that social change is constant and right now, fast. Whatever black Americans (historical) have been trying to tell the world about being black in America is now known (and finally, believed) everywhere, especially since this last summer and the deaths of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and others. The cat is definitely out of the bag.
Over time, many people have asked me about the unsteady relationship between Africans and African Americans, and this question has come from diverse perspectives and people. Those questions made me think about issues I might not have otherwise considered.
It was instructive to learn about being an “Other” when I went overseas. I have often been the stranger that West Africans have observed, talked with, or asked questions of. I have learned more about myself and ‘my people’ as I have explained and described my community to others. This in turn has caused me to understand that community better, and to ask myself questions that I might not have done, otherwise.
When Americans, Black or White, understand more about Africa, they will understand more about themselves. By this I mean when Americans come to terms with the existence of Africa, and its shared history with our part of the world, it will free us from some of our illusions. The women who were first raped on American plantations were not yet “black” women, they were African women. From records we can deduce that they were “Ibo” women; Calabari, Ibibio, Efik and other Niger Delta women. They were Wolof, Fula, and Diola women. They were “Congo” women; perhaps Baluba. They were Bamileke, and from minority groups in what is now northeastern Nigeria. They were Bamana, now known as Bambara, or from Mandinka related groups in Guinea. Some were from what is today Mozambique, some were shipped out from northeastern Madagascar. They were actual people from actual places, and for those who left, family was left behind. When black Americans talk of who sold us, do they think of their relatives who fled to other regions, or begged protection from a nearby potentate? For every great, great, great grandfather who arrived here, he left his brothers and his cousins, his father and his mother. Their descendants are still living somewhere in the continent that Europeans named Africa. They are third, fourth, and fifth cousins to people who became Black Americans. They are no less related than people of Italian, Danish, or German descent who left cousins in Europe, many of whom are known.