Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Don’t Call Me An African

The cost of this self inflicted inferiority complex is enormous. It destroyed our economy and those of African communities in Diaspora. We do not patronize ourselves anymore turning us into consumers of other people’s services and products because subjectively, we see them as superior to ours. The minority middle class we want our image makers to celebrate push many to glaring crime, poverty and meager infrastructure foreigners see.

Many people take pride in being called Native or Indian American, Italian American, Irish American, and Polish American, etc but don’t dare call this black man African or African American. It was only yesterday he was called Negro and later graduated to black. It takes a while, please, to get adjusted to African or African American. A popular singer said: he is an American period; otherwise everybody is African American in man’s origin. Relatively, the denials are not that many but they heavily put Africans at economic peril.

One Trinidadian university student once told Stokely Carmichael all African slaves died in the sea. Stokely, an American Civil right activist born in Trinidad, said his ancestors must be seamen. At the same time, they claim we are all Africans, as long as black, white and green are included going back to the migration of man from the Continent. The comfort in it has to do with lack of inferiority complex attached to African origin of man. Black or African American is based on a sole African relationship. Socio-economic disarray within Africans, West Indians or African Americans disenfranchised us of economic power.

We also have those that just want to be called Nigerian, Jamaican, British, or American period – black, white or green. The complex shows with the way some protest against or how they deny any association with Africa, even in Africa. We have been cautioned that black Australians have never been associated with Africa and they would be mislabeled if called African. This is ignorance on their part since black Australians are fully related to Africans by geo-anthropology. Identity of the minds revolution across waters is overdue.

Informed Africans from Africa or Africans in America or Europe are not free from this form of inferiority complex either. Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba pride themselves as Oyinbo, Fulani, Jews, Aje-butter, Akada or Adaka. So they patronize or kill for the goods, services and religion not theirs. “Colonial mentality” passed on to kids discouraged to speak local native languages at ages best suited for bilingual training. The freed slaves brought back to Liberia assumed different culture to the indigenes. The same is true in East African where some refer to their Arabian ancestors, even with darker skin than Africans.

African freed slaves from Brazilian quarters in Lagos and other coastal cities in Nigeria still refer to countries they have never been while those in the North, Central and South American and Arab world struggle to keep their culture closer to the point of their great grand/parents departure. So it is not unusual to hear an African Diaspora dialect difficult to catch. A perfect Yoruba may sound archived to the new generation in home Country.

Therefore this inferiority complex is not limited to Africans in Diaspora but to some of us at home. We know the basic reason some downplay our association with the so called “Dark Continent”. While the candidacy of Obama in America brought pride to Africans including tiny Basra in Iraq, it created envy between Africans just coming from home and some that have been there before Columbus without their chance to be President.

The factor of inferiority complex and first come first served, in combination, bring out discomfort rarely seen in others from Germany, Poland or Russia. The Irish American welcome Irish from old Country and so do Italians and others but when it comes to West Indians and Africans in America, there is some uneasiness spreading the welcome mat.

Africans in Africa are just the opposite. Their welcome mat for Africans from Diaspora is so long, those who have lived abroad and experience opposite treatment from African Americans become envious. If you wonder why we were so readily taken slaves by the missionaries and re-discoverer, it is because we generally treat strangers well.

The opposite is true in the case of those we patronize even when their products and services are not superior. Until recently American cars are the norm in United States and those buying foreign cars are seen as either unpatriotic or so rich, foreign cars was one of their fleet of cars. Politicians would sell their foreign made cars before contesting for elections. Workers of auto plants could be fired for buying foreign cars for some other excuses. These biases have diminished but are coming back with the recession.

Foreign auto makers got smarter and stated to build and assemble, manufacture car and truck in the USA. Not only has jobs been created in for the locals any bias against foreign cars and services has divided the communities between American makers and foreign plants in the Country. In Nigeria, where foreign contracts reigns, they left local assembly plants to purchased cars overseas until our assembly plants closed. Self hatred is suicide.

From self inflicted inferiority complex to loss of business in the African communities to loss of jobs within consumers of other people’s products that are makers of none. The best contracts in African countries have foreign taste. In African American communities, even sneakers are not made there but the advertisers are African American sport heroes pushing products and services outside their communities like African politicians.

The basis of our economic problems that turns us into consumers of other peoples’ products and manufacturers of nothing was demonstrated as far back in the fifties when African children in the United States prefer white baby dolls to black baby dolls. CNN’s Anderson Cooper replicated the same studies 60 years later and still found the same results. We cannot blame the white society for pushing their products and services in their best interest. The fact that same study still apply to our children in Africa or in Diaspora shows that we do not buy in our own interest. Self-discrimination is economic.

Since we hate what we produce, we pay with the little we are given for raw materials.

About the author

Farouk Martins Aresa