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Should ‘Black Lives Matter’ to Africans?

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By Clarissa Bannor

African-Americans have been on the pulse of injustice and discrimination for decades, and this generation is no different. We chant “Black lives matter” because it seems as though they often don’t. “Black lives matter” is a rallying cry, for every Black person to wake up and come together. A cry for everyone to persist for justice. But is every Black person heeding the call? Have Africans in America fallen for the storyline that we are different from Blacks in America because we have a homeland and we view America as our adopted home? Or do we see the struggle of African-Americans as our struggle too?

For Africans, life back home is pretty homogenous. Everyone looks like you, talks like you, and there is little concept of race. Race, and racial discrimination is learned in America. By being Black first, we experience the same subtle biases darker-skinned people are subjected to around the world. However American society treats African immigrants differently and we feed into it. By stressing that we, or our parents, emigrated to America from Africa, people perceive us as different, and are willing to give us that job, that benefit of the doubt, or that chance at friendship. Americans become disarmed and are more open to learning about who we are, without extending that same curiosity for that southern-born African-American, wise-crackin’ sista. Our smartness, intelligence, industriousness, are often attributed to our Africaness. This trivial favor gives us a false sense of superiority—and security.

Our transient, hard-working, immigrant parents convince themselves they are only here to work, make money, take advantage of economic opportunities and return home. Our immigrant parents default to a “sit and watch” approach because they don’t understand the great, far-reaching history of the struggle. But we, the younger generation of African immigrants, understand the stakes. Not only do we Black people share the repercussions of breathing while Black, we also share a collective history. There are parallels in our stories that our forbearers tend to forget. Our parents are quick to wax nostalgic about Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his accomplishments in liberating Ghana. They forget that Kwame Nkrumah also had sights on our cousins in America. In his book, The Struggle Continues, Kwame Nkrumah’s words written over 50 years ago still speaks to the struggle we are having in 2015.

“In spite of the long and untiring work in education and organization of the pioneers of ‘Civil Rights’; in spite of the painstaking efforts made by African-American citizens of the United States to educate their children, and by hard work to achieve ‘acceptance’ in American society, African-Americans have remained only barely tolerated aliens in the land of their birth, the vast mass of them outside consideration of basic human justice.”

The Black Power movement in the 1960s paralleled the struggle for African independence, but how many African parents educated us of our connection to Marcus Garvey, through preceding revolutionaries who stood for freedom and independence for Black people everywhere? In fact, many civil rights heroes like Malcolm X, Kwame Toure (Stokley Carmichael), Nina Simone, Richard Wright, Muhammad Ali, all went to the African continent in support of the struggle for African independence from colonial powers.

Angela Davis, Mariam Makeba, Huey P. Newton, Kwame Nkrumah, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela were essentially fighting the same fight. The fight for physical and mental emancipation, decolonization, independence and liberty are ties that bind us together. From “we shall overcome” to “Amandla! Awethu!” Black people on the continent, and in the west, have been in this thing together. Our generation of Africans do well to draw these parallels from the past, and understand that “Black Lives Matter” is no different.

At this very time our voices should be strong and unified in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement that Opal Tometi, a Nigerian-American, and her African-American partners, Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors founded. The Black Lives Matter campaign gives me hope that we are heeding the lessons learned from past Pan-African leaders and civil rights leaders alike.

If there’s anything the #GrowingUpBlack hashtag taught us, it is that we are the same people—whether we eat fufu and soup, or not. We have a moral and self-preserving responsibility to fight injustice from inside the belly of the beast alongside our home-grown cousins. Africans in the middle should understand this and should not draw the line because we are children of immigrants. We should understand our cousins just arrived 200 years before us—but we are cut from the same cloth—and in a dark alley somewhere, the cops would know no difference.

Clarissa Bannor is a Ghanaian-American writer and digital storyteller who’s blog, ThisAfropolitanLife.com, weaves African identity, culture, history and style with everyday life. Follow her: @afropolitanLife on Twitter | ThisAfropolitanLife on Facebook | @ThisAfropolitanLife on Instagram

What people are saying

12 thoughts on “Should ‘Black Lives Matter’ to Africans?

  1. Great article Clarissa. We are all Africans, some have just lost our way, and found security in the European constructs. Black does not define our orgins, melanin dominance and African ancestry does.

  2. The last paragraph says it all….

  3. I'm a South African American….trust and believe that I didn't learn about racial discrimination in America…I experienced it while growing up in South Africa….

  4. Gibson Ampaw says:

    Do you shed any tears when black South Africans were attacking and killing black Africans recently in South Africa?

  5. Monna Lina says:

    make your life so precious.

  6. Terry Keith says:

    Someone told me that people who migrate to the US from some African countries are showm videos of life in America and are basically told not to associate with Black Americans. That the Black Americans are different than they are. A few years ago I ran into ans African woman (probably from Somalia) who called me a nigger and told me that she was better than me, because as she put it "You have the white man's blood in you"! Gasp! She was lighter skinned than me! I guess what I'm really trying to say is that the divide and conquer has a very long reach.

  7. BLACK LIVES MATTER is not a movement but another weak marching campaign. WE march they kill. We march again they kill again. AND plus It sound like we are calling out for existence. Like we need approval. I wish someone made me the black leader because yall need help and is getting no where. We need to organize ourselves. We need to show them black lives matter because no one is listening anymore. This tactic was good during the Martin Luther King era. Stop marching people. Yall are looking lost with no direction. And when yall ready to really go somewhere HIT ME UP! Im the last real leader standing. Right now yall heads are stuck up yall ass talking about BLACK LIVES MATTER. THEY LAUGHING AT YALL WITH THESE PROTEST. http://newafricanamericanrules.blogspot.com

  8. KILL THE BLACK LIVES MOVEMENT BECAUSE ITS A BLACK LIVES MATTER MARCHING CAMPAIGN. STOP YELLING, HOLDING UP SIGNS and ALL THAT FOOLISHNESS! LETS SHOW THEM!! LETS PROVE IT TO THEM. BECAUSNO ONE IS LOOKING OR LISTENING TO PROTESTORS ANYMORE.

  9. Leslie Rolfe says:

    again it is knowledge of the word, this one "race"
    there are 10 people calling themselves white
    5 called green, 4 called pink 3 called blue the white people meet separately with each of the "coloreds" telling them they are better than the others
    and the whites explain, each is a minority when seen through the eyes of the whites.
    so now 12 coloreds are divided and referred to as minority by the whites
    we are waking up

  10. Respect. I hate hearing the Black Vs. African. Tribe Up and organize!

  11. Tribe Up as opposed to using Frankenstein Labels..I'm Nigerian, Im Ivorian, Im Cameroonian, Im French Carribean, its pure madness.

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