African vs. African American, what is the difference and is the force to identify holding us back from unity?
Now that I am living in a much more diverse city, in comparison to my home town, I see the richness and diversity of our people of color.
In the August issue of Essence magazine, they highlight the large divide that exists but is often never spoken of in “mixed company”, the cultural divide in the Black Diaspora. The women interviewed for this article were from all over the world; the West Indies, Caribbean and several countries in Africa. The women discussed their upbringing and what they see as the cultural differences between their native culture and mainstream African American culture.
In my own personal life, I see the gross stereotypes about African Americans that are promoted in popular culture. The promotion of these stereotypes in society, I believe are the reason that many other ethnic cultures often feel the need to disassociate themselves from African American culture.
In my years attending a predominately white university, we had many student groups that embraced a variety of cultures: Black Student Alliance, African Student Union and Caribbean Student Group. We all worked, learned and attended social groups in our own silos. As a result, we learned very little about each other and often we were unwilling to collaborate with one another for events. Even though we were the minority at a school with over 50,000 students, we could not find a way to breakdown stereotypes to become unified.
At the end of the day, as much as we want to separate ourselves from the negative Black stereotypes, we all have faced judgement by persons of the predominate race, in our very segregated society because of how we looked. Outsiders may not understand our cultural differences and see us as “one in the same”.
This divide still exists because we often don’t understand each others cultural history. For persons who did not grow up in America, their first experience in the country is when they attend college, they will not understand the African American culture or struggle or have awareness of the on-going fight for civil rights in America. As an African American woman from Detroit, Michigan, how I learned about other cultures was extremely limited before I got to college. I was not taught “African history” beyond the slave trade. It was from my own efforts that I learned about the genocide in Sudan and apartheid in South Africa.
What we must take away from this is, knowledge is truly power and is the only way we can stop the ridiculous stereotypes from taking over the minds of our young people about what it means to be Black. We need to teach ourselves and others that no one group or culture has a single story, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie eloquently discusses the drawbacks of this in a TEDX talk.
It is the single story that is killing our cultures and preventing us from uniting. We should be united to promote positivity in our communities. As we all aspire to be successful and strive for the American Dream that has been the beacon of light in for many persons of color; immigrants and those born on American soil alike.
Take some time out this week to learn something about a culture other than your own! #dosomethingdifferent #learnsometingNEW