At times it feels like Black people literally have something against Africa. The way we sometimes criticize it, avoid it and completely disregard it pains my heart. Why even call ourselves Black, let alone African-American, if we truly want nothing to do with the continent?
Here in America, we complain about or having our culture stolen and appropriated. We are determined not to be made invisible or erased. But here some of us are, completely ready to erase the better parts of ourselves– the African parts which make us so unique and beautiful.
It has happened many times where the mere mention of Africa to Black people causes them to crack jokes about “African booty scratchers”, dirt-poor living and backward-thinking Africans. I can recall insulting words about the continent and its inhabitants going all the way back to childhood. And while I can understand the origins of such shade (White supremacy), I can’t for the life of me understand why, in 2017, we can’t seem to shake these negative images of the homeland that lives inside each and every one of us? What does that say about our collective self-esteem?
Recent Real-Life Examples
Just this past week, I mentioned visiting Africa in a casual conversation about places the person I was speaking to wanted to visit in this lifetime. The keyword here is “visit”– I didn’t mention moving to Africa or even going on an extended stay. But as they were rattling off a list of countries they wanted to visit around the world– all European or Asian– I simply asked which African countries were on their bucket list. I was shocked to hear that this Black person had no interest in visiting Africa. And I don’t even know why I was shocked, since this isn’t the first Black person I’ve met who feels this way. Still, the rejection of Africa by Black people always manages to baffle me.
Later that same day, I spoke with another person who described to me a recent event they’d attended which featured foods from around the world. As they described the various dishes representing China, Mexico, Germany and so on, I was curious about which African dishes were served. After all, it was a Black organization hosting the event and everyone in attendance was Black, so I just knew there’d been some jollof or banku served.
The person I was speaking with paused as if to think for a moment before saying, “You know, now that you mention it, there weren’t any African dishes there.” You could have picked me up off the floor. How did a group of Black organizers manage to think of so many foods from other countries, but didn’t include a single African one?
Back to Africa Begins in the Mind
I get that we’ve been brainwashed into believing that Africa is an undesirable place. We’ve been taught that it is nothing more than a hot, dusty and poor continent ravaged by war. Heck, some of us were darn near grown before we realized that it actually is a continent where 54 independent countries are located and just one giant country itself.
But we live in a new era. One where we literally carry computers in our pockets… computers that connect us with the rest of the world allowing us to learn the truth for ourselves. We live in an era where knowledge is accessible to us all through content and through personal interactions. There simply is no excuse in this day and age for Blacks anywhere in the Diaspora to not know that Africa is a rich and diverse place or that modern Africans enjoy the finer things in life, too.
It’s time for us to grow up and outgrow the narrow images we’ve been sold about Africa. It is time for us to explore the world and ourselves by embracing our origins and reconnecting with who we are. I’ve heard Black people say that they didn’t leave anything in Africa and have nothing to return to, but that is a lie. Some of us left our authentic selves, our self-esteem and the deepest parts of our identity in Africa. It’s no wonder we are still struggling to figure out who we are and define ourselves in a Eurocentric world. We have forgotten our point of reference, our touchstone. Yes, we definitely have something to return to. An African odyssey represents a return to ourselves.
Do you know Black people who outright refuse to entertain even a visit to Africa? Know any who don’t want to be identified with the continent at all? Are you one of these people? What can we all do to help change the image some Blacks hold of Africa? We want to hear all points of view here, so please feel free to drop us a comment below.