The case was open and shut or so the defendant thought. He had been contracted by the plaintiff to renovate her house. And he had enthusiastically embarked on the project along with the plaintiff’s brother who was an electrician. Throughout the renovation, the plaintiff made several changes and was rather precocious. At some point, her brother walked out in anger but the defendant remained, preferring to honor their initial agreement. And so he completed the renovation but the plaintiff refused to pay him claiming the work did not meet her specifications and had reduced the value of her property. For two years, they kept going back and forth regarding the money she owed him. Then, she took him to court suing for damages to her property. The defendant could not have been more outraged but he marched to court with the blueprint, contract, correspondence, and all the evidence he had. Several hours later, he left the court deflated and angered. He had somehow lost an open and shut case.
The plaintiff could not have planned a better coup. First, she filed the case in a predominantly African American precinct. Then as her case was falling apart, she pulled out her trump card. She was asked why her cousin walked away from her project, she said, “I’m ashamed to say this, but my cousin is a racist. He is angry because the Africans always think they are better than us. They come over here and steal jobs that are rightfully ours.” At this declaration, she awakened every latent hatred within a jury of her peers. In a diabolical move that would have made Solomon proud, the judge ruled that the plaintiff owed the defendant for the cost of this labor but he owed the plaintiff the cost of her house.
This court house drama is emblematic of tensions between Africans and African-Americans. And it is played out in many other arenas – in college admissions when African Americans insist on generational African-Americans as opposed to first generation. Or in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) where African faculty are passed over for promotion and oftentimes slighted in favor of their American colleagues; at corporations where they jostle for favor from the dominant group; or at forums where the two groups meet and where they hurl accusations at one another and animosity thrives.
Vice versa, we see Africans name-calling and where they have power, choosing to pass over African-American colleagues. Africans look at the plight of majority of African-Americans in this country and think it is a result of negative attitudes to work and life thus ignoring the systemic roots of certain inequities. Unfortunately, the ties that bind us, divide us – we share ancestry and color yet we stratify based on who came over first.
Think, when anyone sees you, do they see poor, rich, or foreign? When racist cops shoot, they only see Black not Nigerian, South African or Mississippi-grown. Hence, we need to change our thinking towards one another. African Americans need to be more open to African input where your energy is flagging from centuries-long struggle over discrimination. And Africans need to lose the arrogance of knowing better (after all, we are experiencing similar problems to wit the numbers of our youth incarcerated).
Fortunately, contrary to the above picture, we have effective collaborations both in the continent and the diaspora. Many African Americans heard the call for manpower in South Africa upon its emancipation from apartheid and went to work. Here, African homeowners positively impact the election of African-American candidates. For example, sheriff in Clayton County, Georgia and President Obama’s win in Virginia particularly in 2008. Many marriages between the groups work except where it is contracted for the express purpose of ‘papers.’ Further, business partnerships work where the rules are clearly defined and contracts well spelt out. And friendships prosper when we let our guards down long enough to enjoy one another. For instance, my family has been blessed with our wonderful extended African-American family in south Jersey to the extent that we attend family reunions in July! Shout out to the Moores! To quote my daughter, “They are so nice. And they share; I don’t even have to beg for candy before I get some.” Not that I train the miscreant to beg o, lol.
Let us not discount the bloodshed, sweat, and tears of ancestors on both sides of the pond that brought us to the current semblance of freedom and brotherhood. Both Nkrumah and King placed a premium on brotherhood and the unity of the African race. They worked hard but left much still to be done. Hence, we cannot allow petty prejudices to rule in our interactions one with the other. Instead, we can collaborate on the following:
- Mentoring: Africans that know better may mentor African-American youth to help them overcome generations of systemic racism has taken its toll on their psyche and aspirations.
- Funding: We must sow into the environment where you are being fed. Make donations to fund organizations such as NAACP and Hosea Feed the Hungry which work tirelessly in the pursuit of freedom.
- Lobbying: African-Americans must join Africans to lobby for better trade and policy practices for Africa. We see that lobbying works but unless we join hands in its pursuit, we would continue to see deleterious policies wreak havoc on the continent.
- Cultural exchanges: to foster understanding of cultural ties in order to promote brotherhood.
- Business: importing, exporting, bartering, training – the needs are as myriad as the human resources available if we will only look beyond our prejudices. We must get creative in our collaborations so they can yield positive dividends at both ends.