An African Diaspora without cohesion


By Omoyele Sowore

ORDINARILY, the "African Diaspora" would consist of Black Americans, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Cubans as well as continental Africans living in the Western hemisphere. Today, there is a festering conflict between continental Africans and African Americans in the United States, these two groups are supposed to be members of "Africans in the Diaspora", a community that is currently searching for identity, cohesion and acceptance. Any discerning mind knows that it has not been rosy between African immigrants on one hand and African Americans on the other.

It is so bad that children of refugees from Liberia based on Staten Island near New York City had to form themselves into gangs to protect themselves against African American school kids who bully them and call them names; there have been reports of Nigerian kids who have been stabbed and wounded by their black brothers. At every level there is an unspoken animosity between these two. It is difficult to find a balance or a point of resolution of this conflict because no one really likes to admit openly that black people hate themselves as much as we are now experiencing.

In some respect, there is some measure of unity between African male and African American females, you are most likely to strike friendship with an African American female 10 times over before you meet another male who accept you fully as the females do, but these type of friendship serves a different purpose of survival and existence, so it cannot be valued in other sense, but it has great statistical value. Professor Wole Soyinka was recently a Guest of Honour at a lecture held on the campus of Columbia University in New York to discuss this "taboo". Though he was not part of the panelists that dealt extensively with the subject, he made a brief comment about the issue and later opened up at the question and answer session and what he had to say was profound in terms of the perception of African American leaders towards the continent of Africa.

He said, African American leaders mostly view Africa from the "Prism of Power" and relate with the continent of Africa as such, it was as though the tension in the room was deflated, it was the auspicious moment that everyone must have been waiting for. He didn't dwell much on characters for the fear of raking up old wounds, he said. But I could immediately pick up on his position. I remember the ignoble roles of the likes of Louis Farrakhan and Rev. Jesse Jackson who have related with African leaders at the detriment of freedom, and democracy for Africans. Under Abacha, who Professor Soyinka referred to as the most "repellant" dictator, Minister Louis Farrakhan was gallivanting around the world defending the brutality Abacha visited upon Nigerians, especially when Abacha tried and hanged Ken Saro-Wiwa based upon the judgment of a 'Kangaroo tribunal'. He was quoted as saying that "the West has no right to tell an African leader who to hang and who not to hang". Also Jesse Jackson was known to have fought very hard to convince President Bill Clinton to allow Babangida on a state visit to the US, even though Babangida was manipulating the democratic process to his own advantage and looting the Nigerian treasury and also the brazen attempt to celebrate and whitewash Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar as an African statesman and intellectual through the Chicago State University at the expense of Chief M.K.O Abiola who devoted his time to fighting for reparation for blacks around the world also with the help of Jesse Jackson. Mention must also be made of Andrew Young's on-going multi-million-dollar annual "lobbying" deal with Obasanjo's government to paint rosy pictures of Nigeria in the eyes of the US public at the expense of hungry, disenfranchised and unemployed Nigerians Professor Soyinka also said that a lot of African Americans were instrumental to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Nigeria during the most difficult times for Nigeria. The history of the South African fight for freedom will not be complete without qualitative reference to the immense contribution of African-Americans in fighting against apartheid in South Africa. It is to the credit of the civil rights movement that at every turn they moved against Ronald Reagan's regime and many corporations doing business in South Africa to get the South African issue on the World map over and over again.

Generally, I think there is a declining quality of civil rights consciousness and by extension a leadership of global civil rights positions amongst African-Americans in the United States. And this may also be attributed to the complete take-over of most African countries by charlatans in every sense. Those days are gone by when the continent of Africa was filled with freedom fighters, ideological intellectuals and committed nationalists who can hold there own ideologies and convictions in the world. In those days too, the continent served as a "Mecca" of a sort to African American activists who sought inspiration and support from their African brothers to confront racism and discrimination in the U.S. Nowadays, most blacks from the U.S. only embark on guided tours, visiting with government officials who help them arrange five-star hotels accommodations and air-conditioned vehicles, these group hardly feel or touch the African reality or they are possibly too unconscious to care about the plight of Africans. There is another group which another panelist at the conference, Professor Chudi Uwazurike, a sociologist, communication consultant and former Director of the Colin Powell Centre at the City University of New York referred to as the "Non-Conscious African Descendants-NCAD", I bet this group permeates the entire African Diaspora, there are a lot of African Americans and also continental Africans who suffer from identity crisis, they really do not know where they belong or where to belong in the cultural and political spectrum . They are the ones who let every issue degenerate to "we against us". Some African Americans have been overheard as saying that Africans take away their jobs and scholarship opportunities and in many cases some Africans are unconscious enough to label African Americans as a lazy bunch of people.

The worst of these feelings are expressed by African Americans who simply love to refer to Africans as the people who collaborated and sold them into slavery. This is most ironic, because African American leaders have now found their way into the hands of these groups of Africans (I mean African despots and dictators) who have made a career of selling their brothers and sisters into slavery. It is either they are directly selling or driving their citizens into economic slavery or they are creating conditions that have made slave-like conditions attractive to their own people.

Apart from greed and the need to seek status and power, which a largely white society doesn't afford some Africans in the Diaspora, there is also a certain solidarity with African leaders in their resistance against US government policies. For instance, the support for Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe is nothing more than a show of support for the "resistance" to the British government. In the cause of doing this they have completely forgotten that Mugabe has become a liability to his people having devised all means necessary to remain in power for longer than necessary. This attitude alienates Zimbabweans in the Diaspora from African-American activists and by extension a gulf in relationships that would otherwise have been possible.

Some African-American leaders do claim that their misadventure in Africa sometimes is caused by their "African brothers" who appear to genuinely love the continent, they claim that these clusters of successful Africans mostly businessmen and professionals actually have been largely responsible for giving them information about the situation of Africa. They point to several African Diaspora organisations that have pretended to be independent from African governments over time only for them to discover that they are fronts for several African leaders only when it is too late. In closing, it is important to share responsibility equally, as a way of finding a middle ground to resolve the unspoken contentions amongst blacks in the Diaspora. Blacks generally should decide on which side of the aisle they want to stand when it comes to identifying with contending forces that confront existence or the dignity of the black man both on the continent of Africa and the Diaspora community whether in Europe, Brazil, Cuba or the United States.