Reviews | The generalization of “African” can harm various populations in Africa


American rhetoric and structural systems about Africa often equate blackness and African culture exclusively and synonymously.

April is National Arab-American History Month. A large portion of the Arabs reside in the North African regions alongside native North African tribes, primarily the Amazighs.

This false equivalence has encouraged the colonization and appropriation of African nations by black people living in the United States who have no ancestral or cultural claim to the continent as it exists today.

The US Census currently defines “African American” as referring only to “a person with origins in one of the black racial groups of Africa”.

In the United States, “African” is used in a universal sense, as if all of Africa was one culture, one nation, devoid of diversity. It is also used to describe only countries and peoples living in sub-Saharan regions, excluding at least five countries – more than 250 million people – that exist on the continent’s landmass.

Why is one of these regions considered African and the other not? Complexion.

Contrary to common American belief, the 54 African nations recognized today are divided into their dominant Christian and Islamic belief systems, speak a variety of native and world languages ​​totaling over 2,000, and are home to whites, browns, and blacks. .

The following must be said: it is not the fault of his ancestors that slavery or colonization efforts took them away from their cultures, languages, beliefs and other ways of life.

It is the sad reality for many black people living in the United States, ancestral culture is not inherently that of descendants to claim.

Culture is not stagnant, but constantly changing. This can mean that a culture or practice may have changed since a person’s ancestors were forcibly moved.

This made itself felt in the 1920s with the rise of black nationalist action under Garveyism.

Although Marcus Garvey – the namesake of Garveyism – was a descendant of Jamaicans, he convinced many black people living in the United States at the time to develop a “Black Star Line” and establish a black state on the coast. west of Africa.

When the Black Star Line’s first voyage landed on the Liberian coast, many chose to return to the United States because the descendants and previously enslaved blacks did not speak the languages, understand the customs, or have no connection to 1900s Africa. they landed at.

While it is important to recognize that many black leaders in the United States, including WEB DuBois, disagreed with Garvey’s idea of ​​a black state in Africa, practices that reinforce the idea that blacks are the only ones to claim African or Afro culture continues today.

Haiti, the Caribbean, and Jamaica are all non-African places where black immigrants of the 20th and 21st centuries originated.

The 2020 census included a place for “Blacks or African Americans” to write their place of origin.

During a conversation with NPR in 2018, Fordham University professor Christina Greer shared that she planned to write “Black American” for her origin because writing only “Black” wasn’t an option. .

Greer shared that his identity as “JB” or “Just Black” stems from recognizing his ancestors’ forced removal from their culture through the slave trade in the 17th and 19th centuries.

Greer’s explanation and decision, while discouraging, is the only way for those without a direct cultural connection to Africa to avoid appropriation.

The distinctions between blacks born and raised in the United States versus immigrants from African countries go beyond nation of origin.

Likewise, studies based outside the United States note a problem with the country’s demographic categorization that is often overlooked by American researchers.

For example, recent studies in the UK note that 20th and 21st century immigrants from African regions and black people who have lived in the United States for centuries have different lifestyles, genetic health risks and native languages very different.

Another common distinction between recent African immigrants and those possibly from an African culture who are unsure of their heritage is the terminology used to describe their origin.

Although not a studied topic due to the labeling of African American as common practice for American demographic forms, many people in the United States will consider “African” as an identity. This is largely imprecise when compared to how more recent immigrants to an African region discuss their heritage.

Colonizing nations did not base their actions on the idea that both sides of Africa exist. Enslaved, raped, plundered and essentially destroyed nations exist in every region of the continent. My home country, Morocco, was colonized by the French and Spanish until 1956, and our other North African neighbors suffered similar damage from Italian and British troops.

Nor have nomadic behaviors paid heed to the political boundaries imposed by the West. Although my immediate family members were born and raised in Morocco, my genetic reports indicated Sierra Leoneans, Ghanaians, Egyptians and Amazighs or a tribe originally called “Berber”.

Indigenous North Africans – traditionally lighter-skinned peoples – were given the colonized name Berber by the Spanish to relate them to the barbarians. Much like sub-Saharan countries, the indigenous peoples of North Africa braid their hair, hold tribal ceremonies and dances, and speak languages ​​unique to other peoples living in the areas they originally called.

I have no answers, and in researching this article, those with more expertise than I also seemed to be lost.

The question that remains for me is: is it right to justify actions of appropriation and colonization as a response to one’s own oppression?

If the answer is no, then steps must be taken to end the appropriation of African cultures by those who have no cultural awareness, language or religious ties to the continent as it stands today. today.


The columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations with which the author may be involved.


About Wesley V. Finley

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