When I hear the word “diaspora” I think of a globe. In my opinion, the Pan-African diaspora is that of a globe– interconnected across the world through identity and ancestral connection. Diaspora wars are social conversations that embody black cross-cultural conflicts. I believe diaspora wars are redundant, unproductive, and must be put to an end.
Africans vs African-Americans has been a persisting issue for many years. As immigrants from majority black countries continued to expand into the United States in the 70s and 80s, racism and xenophobia conspired to intensify negative preconceptions of each ethnic group. Western media portrays Africans as poor and undeveloped, diminishing the light of a vibrant culture. African-Americans perceive this from an early age and develop internalized hate against people who resemble them. In an effort to shed the label of “African” and assimilate into America, they pledged distance to Africa entirely. Africans, on the other hand, have only been shown African-American culture in a negative light. They’ve been told African-Americans are inherently violent and aggressive– ingraining the message that Africans are the “good ones.” “The good Black people.”
“You don’t embrace who you really are.” My childhood African friends would taunt me in mockery. As a first-gen Nigerian-American, I remained keen to both sides, but Africans never took that lightly. They viewed it “disrespectful” to my culture, to my “sole” identity as Nigerian. The implicit use of “African-American” as an insult didn’t bother me, but reminded me of a notion I believe both harmful and present across generations. African-American culture is widely celeberated and embraced. The music I listen to from hip-hop to jazz is all rooted in their popular culture. For 400 years, African-Americans have built America from the ground up and become the global entertainment standard. Yes, African-American culture is not distinctly African, but that must be respected.
“I longed to go back.” My father told me, reminiscing on his early years in the nation. He regularly spoke of the suffering he endured as an African immigrant and the subject always piqued my interest. Upon arrival, my dad naively wanted to build a community with the Black people around him– just as he had always done– but he was unaware of the divide. As a result, he faced rejection from people of the same skin tone. This was a culture shock, because back home, everyone was one and shared one. Like every African, my dad was prideful, but without a safe place to discuss his experiences, he could not be outspoken about his identity. In the end, he retracted from the Black-American community and is now unlearning his own prejudices.
Although not entirely at blame, African-Americans and Africans both owe an apology to each other in order to acknowledge the past and positively move forward. I’ve seen how diaspora wars divide the Black community in pointless ways. Every one of us has our own beautiful culture that should be respected and celebrated together because simply put– the difference between us all is a boat trip.
This content was originally published here.