We Are All Not Black the Same

Black History Month Rant: We Are Not All Black in the Same Way

Warning: This is a rant. AKA I’m pissed (enough to write about it), and don’t feel the need to explain myself further than this:

I’m Nigerian. I’m African. I’m Black. They don’t compete, they complement, which is why when I’m asked to silence one for the sake of the other, I don’t. This rant is a response to ignorant statements I’ve heard all month, like these: “It’s Black History Month, not Nigerian History Month,” “The reason one would cling to ethnicity is that they’re victims of internalized racism; self-hate for being black,” “Why do you feel the need to differentiate yourself by calling yourself Nigerian?” (wow).

So, I’m done with the placating diplomatic internet speak (for now). I think it’s healthy to reserve the right to throw a tantrum every once in a while. We’re all human. Especially when there’s this sanctioned idea that it’s okay to rant against white people but not ‘your own’ — which in itself is why I wrote the piece. Who decides who ‘my own’ should be? Who decides where I belong?

Dear American / Black Person / Over-Educated Academic, Who Seeks to Educate Me about Race,

Please don’t tell me I relate more to my ethnicity than my race because of internalized racism. I can’t tell you how infuriating this is. Displaying pride and passion about my cultural roots isn’t — and should not be taken as — an affront on anyone else’s. I’m proud to be Nigerian, period.

When you imply that the US framework for discussing race is the only framework that matters, you invalidate my experience as an African woman. I didn’t grow up here — by speaking as a Nigerian, Igbo-Rivers woman, I am merely staying true to myself and honoring where I came from, the same way I believe it’s important to never erase the history of slavery, colonization, apartheid, and other chapters of “black” history. It all matters, regardless of where or how my history has happened, and so I honor mine.

My mother’s people were killed for being Igbo, not for being black; I was bullied in high school for being African, and having an accent, not for being black; and while I won’t deny that I’ve experienced racism in this country for being a black woman, and would never downplay the solidarity I feel with women of color, racism is not my whole story.

I still get black people making derogatory comments about my “mandigo” African heritage. I still hear black people saying stupid things about immigration. I will not re-center my narrative to fit into your western framework about oppression from white people, because black people — and the idea of monolithic blackness that erases my cultural heritage — have been just as oppressive.

I am so very perplexed at your view that “north” american (since you keep forgetting that south america exists, and have appropriated “america” to mean just the US) discourse is and should remain the center of all conversations about race (a la “Let’s stay focused — it’s the US we’re talking about…”) especially since there are so many migrant groups in this “melting pot” such as (Black) Latinos, Haitians, African immigrants, other Caribbean folk etc who have also had to submit to the dogma of Blackness just to “fit in” to your imposed, binary conversations about race; one that perpetuates the unhealthy idea that the monolithic black american community has suffered the worst kind of oppression — that there’s an hierarchy of oppression in the first place; one that maintains that, if we are to engage in any discussions about racism, we will have to identify solely as “black” for the purposes of presenting a “unified front.” Forget being Nigerian, or African. Hell, forget being a woman. But f**k that.

I wasn’t viewed as black until the age of 18 when I arrived for school; I was Nigerian before then. Even still, I’ve only been Nigerian for as long as the history of colonization, but I’ve been an Igbo/Rivers matriarchal warrior way longer than that i.e before Africa’s colonizers draw squiggly lines on a map, designating me “Nigerian” for the purposes of dividing and conquering. And though you may not see it, being “culture-blind” is just another form of being “color-blind,” which we all know is just another way for oppressors to avoid talking about how they are actively or passively partaking in a racially oppressive system. It is no different for conversations about ethnicity. I won’t sit down and be black for the sake of fake solidarity.

Diaspora immigrants like me have our cultural reference points along the axes of nationality and culture — not just race — so please stop with the xenophobic, nationalist view of blackness, brownness, race etc, because we come in multiple shades, ethnicities, languages, and histories etc, and as a direct result, multiple and varied perspectives about oppression. It is burdensome to keep having to remind you about this, and I am so over it.

I’d rather teach race 101 to white people, than have to explain to one more person of color — the people who really should get it already, the people who I assume would be able to understand the pain of being continually silenced — that we are all not brown in the same way, in the same “American” way. I’d rather bury my head in the sand than listen to one more black person tell me “you need to learn your history,” when you know nothing of my heroes — the Margaret Ekpo’s, Ojukwu’s, Soyinka’s, Ngugi’s, and Adichie’s of world black history as I know it. We are not all black in the same way. Ethnicity matters (at least, to me). Can I get a month — say, Black History Month — off from having to explain this? That would be awesome.


Over-Black-Dogma, Spectra

  • Tiger

    I love this post. It's funny, even as an Irish person I run in to a version of this from white people who don't have an immigrant/diaspora story. The other day I was told that having cultural pride contributes to hatred because if we all have cultural pride it's just a nice way of saying we hate everyone else, and that contributes to the divisions in the world. A person in that same conversation told me she didn't want to be Irish and Native American. She'd rather be white, thank you, because it's easier. (?!) I don't get that. There's so much more complexity to the world than that and I think, much the way it seems you've articulated here, that giving up on those multiple identity tracks actually takes away and lessens instead of strengthening. When we perceive ourselves in "shades" it helps us–or so I hope–realize that the world is bigger than one country, one issue, etc. and that can and should inform our activism and the way we approach and bond with others. (and for white people…well, I am not sure if racism can truly be combated until white americans realize that they too have heritage and culture, and do so in a way that isn't about maintaining current privileges but rather about dismantling those same privileges, since the benefits come at the cost of identity)

    • http://www.spectraspeaks.com Spectra

      I haven't had time to respond to your comment — I went on vacation shortly after I wrote this. But THANK YOU for making this connection between immigrant/diaspora, loss of ethnic identity, and race relations in North America regardless of race. Really insightful. Gave me something to think about.

      Love this too –> "and for white people…well, I am not sure if racism can truly be combated until white americans realize that they too have heritage and culture, and do so in a way that isn't about maintaining current privileges but rather about dismantling those same privileges, since the benefits come at the cost of identity"

      That statement above applies to everyone. When checked, people need to acknowledge their part in the oppressive system, not to feel endlessly guilty or incite aggression but so we can all work together in dismantling it. Thank you!

  • Jaded African

    Sigh. You are singing my song.

  • Lakshmi

    Hear Hear!

  • Lesley Agams

    I feel you sister. I’m Russian/ Igbo-Nigerian that grew up in the US before coming ‘home.’ I have suffered that kind of closed thinking in Nigeria. ‘My world view is The World view’. Trying to silence and erase my history. I resented it too. Rants are allowed. Dr. King would say they cause a creative tension. Tell them some history. How’s that for Black History Month?

    On a more progressive level Black Americans and I use the phrase deliberately need to learn more African history and not just about the colonial Independence struggles. Is there any organized effort around this?

    • http://www.Xlibris.com/ReparationsforSlavery.html Gene A. Brown

      Yes there is Lesley. As a Native African American, I sought to examine the history of my ancestral fathers via Africa and Egypt., long before the birth of Christ, and I find it quite exhilarating. Won’t you join me by exploring Black History: from Africa to Barack Obama.

      • Sugabelly

        Sorry but your ancestors are not from Egypt. They are from West Africa – Nigeria and co.

        Why are Black Americans always trying to claim Egypt as if West Africa isn't good enough? It's pathetic!

  • Mary B.

    Excellent piece. You really hit the nail on the head about how the human-created concept of "race" –a way to categorize people according to external physical characteristics, with no scientific basis on actual genetic difference, in order to establish and maintain a socio-political & economic hierarchy– has become an oppressive paradigm. We are not, despite the fallacy of race, a post-racial society and will we ever get there? I don't know. And North America is not the world, as you so astutely point out, and yet that is the bill of goods the global community is sold again and again; but, we must resist cultural monopolies and double standards. I'm Polish and can 9 times out of 10 correctly distinguish someone from the heart of Russia from that of someone who hails from Poland/ Czech Republic based on facial characteristics/mannerisms…and yet people just think "that's cool" and I am not taken to task for that & have been (unjustly) granted the social & historical privilege to not homogenize "the white community". True, many African-Americans in the US have been denied the right to know their roots via the slave system and so must create a communal identity specific to the North American experience, I imagine the discrimination you get for being Nigerian comes from a place of deep pain and mourning for that which has been lost…and yet, people must break through it. Sharing your thoughts here is a start –and hopefully minds will open and engage.

    • http://www.spectraspeaks.com Spectra

      Mary, as always, your comment boils over with empathy and insight. I found myself nodding vigorously at this: " I imagine the discrimination you get for being Nigerian comes from a place of deep pain and mourning for that which has been lost…and yet, people must break through it." YES. We should acknowledge everyone's pain, not just one group; and when we do so, we should push through it to make connections, not sever them.

  • https://www.facebook.com/creatrix.tiara Creatrix Tiara

    THANK YOU. Last year I tried to talk about how discourse of race keeps coming back to a Black American-centric viewpoint and that people like me (a minority South Asian who grew up in a Malay-dominant country with its own issues of racism) can't relate. I got some support, but mostly I got a LOT of bullying and hate from people who claimed I was being "racist towards POC". the FUCK? So thank you for writing this; I can relate so well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1159539110 Danielle Ceribo

    Honestly, I don’t know what else to say other than FUCK YEAH! I love this piece. Spoken intelligently, thoughtfully, and truthfully. Racism is disgusting; intracultural/racial discrimination/ignorance is downright shameful and sad. Thank you for speaking your mind and your heart — sometimes far more good comes from “ranting” than letting it fester within.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wnavarrete91 Washington Navarrete

    This is amazing. Often times highlighting our differences or not accepting a label is seen as being divisive, but at the the end its part of our identities. I say identities because we have many, and our identities are also fluid and constantly changing and developing. It's also sad to see that this happens to everyone. For myself, I refuse to be labeled another hyphenated American or Hispanic because of its negligence to my indigenous roots. It's not to be divisive, on the other hand its to be more inclusive. Creating labels for us, people of color, is another way to divide and conquer. It creates a divide, for me its a brown on brown divide which at times is hard to take in. Anyways, I loved your article and keep it up because through your story you are telling many of ours as well.

  • michel

    First, I can't fully articulate my appreciation and gratitude for this piece. It is absolutely validating and affirming of the immigrant identity of many diverse folks of color–including my very own immigrant identity. This piece highlights the dire need for understanding, visibility, and appreciation for the richness of the immigrant diaspora in the discourse of race in the U.S., including the the discourse of Black race. My immigrant identity intersects at the core of my Dominican, Spanish, Arawak, and African heritage. So thank you for putting into words what some of us have yearned to express to our peers (and allies.)

    Second, thanks for addressing the pink elephant in the room. I too experienced exclusion from peer students who were of African-American and Puerto Rican identity, because I had a "hick" accent and because I was an "immigrant". That experience cemented my identity as an "immigrant" and taught me that I was different from peers. It is an identity that over time I came to embrace and to never feel shame for being an "immigrant". It does get tiring to say to my peers that I grew up home speaking Spanish at home and in school. That my education was not one formed by assimilation, but by the inheritance of Dominican culture, traditions, and views. I can't count the many times that my peer U.S. born Latino peers have questioned my identity and background. To ascertain that I'm Dominican, they go as far as asking me where my parents are from after I say I was born in the Dominican Republic……..sigh!

    In short, thank you for sharing this eloquent, heart warming, and thought provoking piece.

  • li_roc

    Wow. Thank you for speaking my life experience.

  • li_roc

    As the child of Haitian immigrants I have always felt a chasm between myself and African Americans . When I was in school, it was the African American kids who made fun of my nationality and my last name (for some reason back in the 90's, before the Fugees came out, the worst thing ever was to be a Haitian. ) They were the ones who told me I practiced voodoo, that I was a boat refugee, and that I probably ate cats for dinner. Black Americans were the ones who taunted my older cousins in the 80's by telling them that since they were Haitian they probably had AIDS. Thanks to these experiences, when I was a child I wanted nothing more then to assimilate to African American culture and be "normal" with a last name that was easy to pronounce and parents that didn't have accents.

    It took me a really long time to bridge the disconnect that I felt with African Americans because I never felt like I was really accepted by them. I still feel like I'm not particularly accepted at times but now as adult who now takes extreme pride in my heritiage and who won't let anyone denigrate my culture, I now get into arguements with African Americans that feel that since I was born here I'm African American too and that calling myself Haitian is disingenuous and that stating that I connect with a more Haitian cultural identity is traitorous. I feel that when black issues are discussed, the experiences and historical figures of people of different nationalities are often neglected for the good of presenting a united front, as though things can improve for all of us if only the plight of African Americans is addressed. This couldn't be further from the truth and by treating ourselves like a monolithic group of people with one common historical experience and one homogenous world perspective we do ourselves a disservice. A lot of black Americans need to force themselves to look outside of their American ethnocentric bubble.

  • Her

    Due to the slave trade we have been separated, why continue that cycle? We are stronger in numbers (and I don’t know if anyone else has looked at the world view of “blacks” which has a negative/ 2nd class overtone in most of the world). This seems almost as a separatist mentality. I can understand and accept that we have been displaced in many parts of the world, but to say we are not all black in the same way??? I am a bit discouraged when reading this….Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but if we are using the term “black” and using it to describe people descended from Africa, then we are all the same. Our cultures may be different, but yes, our race is the same. I am not saying that the US doctrine for race is the determining factor, however, on a world view scale, if your hypothesis is valid, is there no such thing as “black”? When “white” people are from Europe is the world view of them not “white”? For the “black” person who is born in America and parents born elsewhere, would they be classified as two different “blacks”? I would like more clarification…..

    • http://www.spectraspeaks.com/ Spectra Speaks

      I’m not sure I can understand your question. Moreover, I’m not sure you read the entire piece (?) if you can characterize my need to be affirmed in my cultural/ethnic identity separatist, especially since I clearly state solidarity with black people and “people of color” in general (and even you go on to make my same point ie. that we have different cultures).

      Also, I’ve already explained in earlier comments. My main issue arises when black people tell me that I’m being separatist, have internalized racism etc.whenever I affirm my Nigerian heritage. I believe in strength in numbers, absolutely, not “solidarity” at the expense of the individual, and that happens way too often.

      We are all in the same boat inspires healthier solidarity to me than we are all the same. We aren’t; not even within the US as some other commenters pointed out e.g. the south vs north, mixed.race, caribbean etc. I certainly am not for setting up an “hierarchy” of blackness, but ignoring diversity within it — because it’s not monolithic regardless of what some white ppl/westerners perpetuate — is what creates tensions and then fragmentation. I am not preaching separatism, but promoting the idea of affirming ALL our cultures/experiences as black people, especially for people who have lived their lives identifying as their nationality/ethnicity. I’m Nigerian, African, Black, Igbo etc. I refuse to submit to political agendas forcing me to choose one at the expense of others, the same way I hold LGBT movements accountable for reducing me to
      just a “gay” person and ignoring the needs of people of color; I’m not the
      one doing causing separtism, it’s the people who attempt to silence the
      voices of minority groups for their own agensas that are.

      For African Americans in particular – who are used to calling out white
      people when they burden POC communities with having to “explain” racsim 101
      – it is especially frustrating that this kind of privileged behavior is
      replicated when it comes to discussing how ethnic groups feel
      silenced/excluded; instead of asking what they can do to make us feel
      welcome (in the interest of building true solidarity) we are accused of
      “distracting” from the larger goal (whose goal? Who set the agenda? The
      strategy?) then asked to justify our feelings of exclusion as you just did.
      Perhaps you can re-read the rant with this in mind.

      • Nstantvntage

        Again, yes, there are “black” people that are from different places deriving different cultures, and we should be accepting of them all, however, when one picks this apart we are all derived from the same place, which would make us a group which creates race. We are all the same race: “black” (in world view, like you said above “I’m Nigerian, African, Black, Igbo etc.”), but different by culture and possibly nationality.  As aforementioned “Our cultures may be different, but yes, our race is the same.”  The same “black”.  You say you are all for “promoting the idea of affirming ALL our cultures/experiences as black people” >>>you say, “our culture”…”as black people”….OUR, as if your “black”, and other’s “black” are the same (which seems hypocritical to the title, and tone of the rant). If the piece was entitled my ALL BLACK CULTURES ARE NOT THE SAME, you wouldn’t get a peep out of me. However from reading it above 3 times before a 4th reread per your suggestion, that is not the way this piece reads to me. (Humorous that you tell anyone who doesn’t %100 agree with you to re-read your post, as if your point is going to start making more sense. I’m sure that you could learn a thing or two from those who don’t totally concur with you.) Plus seeing you say  that “we are all not brown in the same way, in the same “American” way” just furthers my point. Maybe you want to re-read what I my post, “WORLD VIEW”.  That is a key in this discussion. This is not an American thing, but it seems like you are hung up on that instead of being able to understand my point of race vs. culture. Two very separate things.

        • http://www.spectraspeaks.com/ Spectra Speaks

          I hate to break it to you but nothing about your point is furthered. As you may have noticed, there are a number of people raising nuances in the discussion via previous comments. Per comment policy, I’m open to disagreement as long as it isn’t derailing. Bravo for noticing that I’m focused on taking to Americans — it’s in the “to” at the beginning of the address. :) I don’t write rants often, which is why I prefaced this one (but you seem determined to “win”an argument instead of ask me how to make me feel affirmed in monolithic black spaces). You still haven’t done that. Coupled with your “tone” argument (despite, again, this being a “rant” lol), this exchange feels similar to when poc complain about exclusion to white people and then white people respond with justifications and then derailing arguments about tone/semantics. And “your” point on race vs culture? It was noted by the 2nd paragraph. If you’re but seeking a way to address the problem of monolithic blackness in the context of the US (which is the entire point of this point), I’m but sure it’s worth continuing the conversation. Do read up on “tone policing” though. You did a lot of it, and it’s a popular silencing tactic used. In the future off you’d like to engage in conversation (at least on my blog), I encourage you to ask questions, affirm and validate commonalities you do see first (honestly, I’m not even sure we disagree all that much, you’re just exhibiting defensiveness — which is to be expected, it was a rant) before making blanket statements (i.e separatist) about my political beliefs. Thanks for your thoughts.

          • Nstantvntage

            I truly do not see this as a tangent. I see that you say you wrote this to open up discussion, and we are doing just that, having a constructive conversation on the matter at hand. Though you may not think semantics is important, when used in the context of the internet and writing, especially about something as sensitive as race, culture, and nationality, it  is. You are opening up into a worldwide platform and putting out these thoughts which I said I was not impartial to. Again “everyone is entitled to an opinion”.  However, your usage of terms is the antithesis in your attempt to validate your point.  It sets the tone of how the world (whom has access to such) could perceive what you are saying. I simply do not agree with your way of deducing the matter at hand. I think there is a more level ground that could be taken then to flat out say such a blanketed statement as “Not all Black in the Same Way” >>This is an illogical statement. As per your blog, I didn’t know that you were looking for only people who agree, to state they agree first, then ask questions. I was just merely giving my opinion of how this felt like such a fail in “black solidarity” instead of a step in the right direction as far as the idea of monolithic race goes. Though yes you mentioned solidarity to some extent, it still was drowned out by the continuance of being so different, and so not “the same way”.  As for tone policing, I am not too worried about that. I am well aware that I am not being defensive because I welcome your opinion, but have some critiques which I think reveal that this piece may produce adverse effects to what you are trying to accomplish with the piece. You can think whatever you want of me. Your OPINION does not give any validation to that either. Funny, you keep breaking your own policies, judging my character, when you asked the other commenter not to do such to you. After all I am not silencing you, but just merely letting you know how I perceived the piece.   

            • http://www.spectraspeaks.com/ Spectra Speaks

              Oy… where do I start with this?

              “Affirm” and validate in the context of a “sensitive” discussion about race, culture, etc doesn’t mean agree like a puppet but validate. If I wanted only people that agreed with me I would moderate comments and only approve the ones I like. Cherry picking from my statements (and hinging your evasive non-arguments with semantics) aren’t really moving this forward, contrary

              Let’s be clear. Your opening comment as a first response to someone expressing frustration with oppression (however angrily) was an epic fail, period. Oppression 101: when someone from a marginalized group expresses that they feel excluded, the LAST way you should respond is ignoring their main point to focus on the manner in which it was delivered and then make suggestions by calling for more politeness. White people do this ALL the time to derail conversations about race / refocus on their hurt/defensive feelings. If you say your’e serious about solidarity in practice, and not just for internet theory speak, you’re not helping by replicating that behavior. I wanted to point this out to you and asked you to re-read again so we could have a conversation about the topic at hand. But you just dug in further.

              That said,I *completely *disagree that this is constructive as you’ve been arguing about “how” I presented the issue vs the issue itself:

              ” I simply do not agree with your way of deducing the matter at hand. I
              think there is a more level ground that could be taken then to flat out say
              such a blanketed statement as “Not all Black in the Same Way” >>This is an
              illogical statement.”

              We are all black. Agreed. There are Caribbean people, Nigerian people,
              mixed race, African-American people etc. Awesome that you get that. So how
              on earth is “We are not all black the same way” an illogical statement? By
              the way, that’s the only clear point you’ve proposed to the conversation
              tonight besides going off about how you don’t appreciate my tone *despite
              the warning that I was pissed and giving myself the opportunity to be
              pissed in the preface to the post!* This is why I initially asked you, did
              you actually read anything I wrote to understand or were you just waiting
              to fire back?

              The only reason I’ve kept responding is because your initial response,
              follow up comments on tone etc are exactly the kind of behavior that
              prompted this post in the first place and it’s worth it to me point to out
              to other readers who may have wanted to see what constantly happens in my
              every day, whether I am polite, angry, begging to be heard, the response
              from black people in the US is usually the same: stop dividing us.

              You don’t agree with my rant against being silenced in monolithic black
              spaces. Not sure you can disagree with how someone feels, but okay. You
              don’t agree that I’ve “ranted” instead of “politely” explained how the
              unhealthy idea of monolithic blackness and other kinds of silencing
              behavior has resulted in bullying, ostracization, and attempted suicide in
              my life. As I mentioned previously, that is to be expected as checking our
              own privilege is hard and very uncomfortable. I expect the defensiveness,
              but I’m not obligated to entertain it. As a good friend often says, we’re
              not talking about golf. This is a serious issue worth the fire to work

              I stand by what I wrote; I can’t say I feel like you’ve done the same;
              first you claimed to have a question (I responded/clarified and asked you
              to re-read with my explanation in mind), then you claimed to be really
              making a point about the manner in which I delivered my message; that was
              re-centering the narrative/derailing. This last comment is where you’ve
              (finally) been able to state clearly that you feel there’s a “better” way
              to build black solidarity than ranting. I have heard you. And per your
              quote above, I disagree. My tone is besides the point, plus I don’t believe
              in an hierarchy of activism; I needed to rant for my sanity, so I did. It
              so happens that others who feel the way I do needed to read it. My rant, as
              “illogical” as you claim it is, achieved its purpose: we all feel less
              alone/isolated. What is your purpose for commenting? I ask in earnest.

              Evading the truth — that constructive would be focusing the conversation
              on “why” I’m angry versus how I express my anger — by ending with “I have
              the right to your opinion” and that you were just letting me know how the
              piece made you feel is a cop out. If you’re commenting to understand where
              I’m coming from I’ll happily engage you. Till then, I maintain that you
              need to follow your own advice and check your expectations at being
              listened to given how much of your comment has been focused on anything but
              the main issues in the post.

    • Spectra

      Hi Devi,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’ll respond to the points that I believe are central to the point of the piece since 1) my piece does not suggest a prioritization of “African-ness” but an acknowledgement of all the cultural nuances within “Black” and 2) I don’t agree that you appreciate (your words, I’d choose “understand”) where my frustration is coming from and I’d like to reiterate.

      For one, the opening paragraph, then address line of my rant was directed to a subset of people:

      I’m Nigerian. I’m African. I’m Black. They don’t compete, they complement, which is why when I’m asked to silence one for the sake of the other, I don’t. This rant is a response to ignorant statements I’ve heard all month, like these: “It’s Black History Month, not Nigerian History Month,” “The reason one would cling to ethnicity is that they’re victims of internalized racism; self-hate for being black,” “Why do you feel the need to differentiate yourself by calling yourself Nigerian?” (wow).

      Dear American / Black Person / Over-Educated Academic Who Seeks to Educate Me About Race…

      I’m not sure the motivation for my rant could have been said any clearer — I’m tired of people in this country prioritizing their experience with race over everyone else’s, and more importantly, that people think it’s okay to perpetuate that all “black” experiences are the same, INCLUDING African-Americans. I concede that I did not spend much time during my rant reiterating that there are some African-Americans who also aren’t down with the idea that we are collective cultures aren’t nuanced, but then again I’ve experienced the most harassment / “schooling” from this group. So, with all due respect, you can’t claim to appreciate where I’m coming from, or not want to deny my experiences when you’re essentially challenging them to be true via this statement, “I don’t think any African-American person believes that is true any more than African, Caribbean, or Latino immigrants do.”

      As I mentioned, I was aggressively bullied, harassed, stalked etc when I first came to this country by black kids who were angry that I referred to myself as Nigerian and not ‘black like everyone else.’ In college, the dean of minority affairs told me to seek support elsewhere for financial aid since his office was for ‘minority’ students (not Africans). In my community organizing work I frequently run into people (more frequently African-Americans) who use the same silencing tactics used by white people to dismiss my heritage: “Stop talking about xenophobia / African stuff, you’re dividing us.” So, I’m sorry. I recognize your need to affirm your African heritage / ancestry, but I think you’re missing the entire point of the rant (per the stated motivation and points about being silenced/forced into a box) and your comments aren’t addressing the issue.

      How then can we build a community of “Black” people that readily recognizes that we are all different, and rather than seek to silence each other, embrace the nuances among us? Especially when the conversations around “Race” in this country are just that… about race, and rarely drill down to discussing culture and ethnicity since for some (I definitely understand) it is a sensitive issue? It’s great to hear that you feel ties with Africa, but there are many African-Americans who do not and they’re likely the ones that have rolled their eyes or told me to focus on being “black” instead whenever I mentioned feeling alienated by, say, weird statements about immigration, “Mandingo” jokes etc in “black” spaces.

      On a final note, and perhaps it doesn’t need to be said, but I don’t think US race/racism convos have a monopoly on the word “oppressive.” When I go by this definition,

      Unjustly inflicting hardship and constraint, esp. on a minority or other subordinate group.
      Weighing heavily on the mind or spirits; causing depression or discomfort.

      … and I consider how I’ve been bullied, ostracized, and even via this very post, told to “Go back to Africa”, asked to stay quiet about identifying more closely with my ethnicity because I’m “dividing us” and a slew of other issues I don’t have the emotional capacity to go into, yes, I consider the interactions I’ve experienced just as oppressive.

      I hope dealing with your hair that refuses to forget your ancestry went well! Not sure what that meant but Africans, too, aren’t monolithic, so neither is our hair which comes in all textures, colors, and attitudes. :)

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  • Chike Nwabukwu

    Go to the website http://www.africanlikewe.com and submit your perspective. Doesn’t have to be confrontational, but here is a way to “show” what you mean. Hope to read from you! Thanks

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