Anthony Agbali:

This has been an incisive discourse. Its been interesting given my present studies on African immigrants in urban America, Social identity, religion, and integration (in St. Louis, MO). I found the discourse very appealing and cutting into certain fundamental assumptions and trajectories that shape social and historic relations. The gap between Africans and African-Americans in this age is a serious one, given that Pan-Africanism, leading to the interaction between African-Americans, was significant in the nationalist agitations that gave birth to the independence movements in many parts of Africa.

Thus, the Negritude movements and Harlem Renaissance have historic roots to the cultural revitalization that pervaded Africa, especially in its resistance to colonialism. The personalities of people like W.E.B Dubois, and the influence this had on people like Kwameh Nkrumah, Zik, and others are part of the historic repertoire within the mutual contacts and cooperations between the two groups. The genuis of African-American cultural and intellectual efforts is at the heart of the somewhat liberation of many African countries from the clutches of colonial domination (that is if we agree this has even been achieved). Folks like Fela, who came to America to pursue jazz was directed through the interactional and honest exchange of his African-American (then Afro-America) girl friend, to look into an original and unique musical format, in constituting his hybrid formation Afro-music, as a combination of jazz and African music.

Now, here are areas of cooperations. However, it seems that the confusion and suspicion between the identities of the two groups have widened over time. In the actuality, many African Americans have complained about the nature of the relationship between them and their African brothers and sisters that come here to pursue the golden fleece. These argonault look down upon these brothers and sisters within an idiom of constructed superiority over and above the African Americans, whose struggles for freedom, through the "sweating" of their bloods, over four hundred years of domination, oppression, and repression, produced through the civil rights movement the universe of opportunity that today has granted impetus to the dreams of the African immigrants.

The truth of the matter is that many Africans come here with an inferiority complex that sanctions almost everything about western civilization as normative, absolute, and quintessential. Most are ignorant of the historical and complex matrix of the territories that they venture into, all that matters seems to be the ability to prop up their energies to make more dollars. These dollarized immigrants, therefore, are oblivious to the cultural contours, they cooperate with the dominant and influential power, often composed as "white power" to ensure the hegemony of their own survival. Caught within this constellation, they do everything to cooperate, to be in the good books, even when it means their denigration and dehumanization. Afterall, they argue if their country was so good they would not be here, so they reason that even these "eating shit" syndrome is better than situations in their African homeland. Thus, they are doubly marginalized first by themselves, and secondly subtly and actually by the structural systems of domination. However, some when they begin to experience, and intellectually rationalize their situations they begin to breakdown in the realization that they are being exploited in most cases, then they begin to adopt the "Michael Jackson syndrome." For like Michael Jackson, who sometimes in the 80s claimed he regretted being a black person, once they begin to sense trouble they sing a new tune, and begin to attempt to align with racial interests, as MJ has done courting with the Black Moslem- the Nation of Islam, interestingly.

The very issue of African versus African American relations is not new. Michael Coniff aluded to this in his edited work about how African students that come here in the 1960s easily align more with whites, and adopt a flawed identity and construction of "whiteness" in their mentality and relationships with their fellow blacks. Other scholars have made similar references. Through patrimonial and prebendal processes they are made to look down, and internalize white stereotypical paradigms about African Americans as criminals, lazy, and other such negative stereotype. While, these Africans are able to navigate within the White social spaces, it was noted that they were being patronized, and they (Africans) internalized these patronizations as social acceptance, therefore, reasoning that if they could transverse white social spaces, then it is because they have the magic wand that the African Americans have refused to possess. Such views valorizes the hegemonic view that sanctions the existential domination and reinforces the sense of noxious associations of negativities with African Americans.

In furthering this discourse, African Americans are also through historical constructs, history textbooks are also conditioned to look askance at Africans as the cause of their fate in America, having collaborated and sold them to slavery. Even some of these views talk about the fact that they were like the initial denizens of Euro-America, the pilgrims on board the Mayflower, who were the rejects of their society given their puritanic dispositions, and even some unwanted criminals. Now, when they turn around they are told they were like these pilgrims the rejected of their African societies, who wittingly disposed of them through slavery. Nothing much is stated about the fact that the different African societies, were autonomous in their constitutions, as is America, Britain, and Iraq, and that some of these were involved in war, and were not conscious of skin pigmentations, but about nationalist sentiments, and acted as conquerers. Thus, that this conquered people are no more treated specially as are our contemporary conquered Iraqi and Afghan military personnel or terrorists, many of whom are in custody or in Guantanamo bay.

However, that many Africans have begun to talk about this situation is a mark of progress. I think it was Dr. Chike Achebe (the physician son of Chinua Achebe) who noted, in a piece posted sometimes on the website, that we Africans need to valorize our African-Americans brothers and sisters, rather than devalue them. I think that the thrust of his the argument was that while many of us are now beginning to complain about how our skin color lead to our marginalization and pain in modern America, we must imagine years before now the kind of painful humiliation that the African Americans had to endure. I think that this line of reasoning is significant as many of us pride ourselves over and above these population who have had to endure the unimaginable; denied of their rights as human beings and as citizens. Yet, we know that the first Africans that came into Jamestown in 1619 were not slaves but immigrants, but that not withstanding the tide turned against them when the ideology of slavery began to dominate even the good Christian consciences of the dominant class.

It is in this light that while we are postulating all manners of avenues of ensuring the mode of our interactions, we, as Africans have to rethink our ways. What do I mean by this? I feel proud that, in spite of everything the African Americans, though sometimes accused of their hyphenated identity rather than simply Americans, has kept and internalized their Africanness, even if not their Africanity, through the very designation of their identity, and even rituals and spiritual idioms. Well, as part of these, we have a Yoruba village in the heart of America, the Oyotunji village in Carolina. Not so for many of my African brothers and sisters, who are quick to discard their African identity at the slightest opportunity, and paint Africa black in the mode of "African pessimism." I was in a program with a Nigerian priest at an hospital in Austin, Texas once. One of the nuns, a mean looking and ugly nun of the Daughters of Charity, was picking on Nigeria and Nigerians, though it looked like a joke it carried weight. Ths good priest, older than myself, ordained since when I was about four years old, denied he was Nigerian, he claimed he was Biafran- yet Biafra is not on any modern map as a country! Also, though he is a naturalized American citizen, he still carries a Nigerian passport, and cook "okproko" (stock fish) in his kitchen! Truly, people are whoever they are and want to be, but there is always a modicum of truth about who we are not. This priest came to Nigeria and traveled the world with a Nigerian passport prior to coming to America. He does not want to be associated with Nigeria, or even Africa, as I got to know him more. Yet, our brothers and sisters whose only identity with Africa is their historical- often oral- imagination and cultural identifications has retained "African" in their very identity.

Needless, to say that I was proud one day, at another hospital, where I now work as a professional hospital chaplain. One day, some grade school children during Christmas wanted to help a family. They donated some items for a particular family having multiple issues going on in their lives that particular christmas. But being a Catholic school, they wanted a mass to be celebrated at the hospital. I was called upon, and we did. It was a fantastic and moving experience about how these little ones are committed to the ideal of charity and generosity. I had them all introduced themselves, and they made me introduced myself. At this event was the son of one of the teachers, they were from South Africa. Least did I know that he and the others were very attentive to details- and my accent not withstanding. I incidentally met him and his mother on another occassion during a casual visit to the hospital, and he remembered vividly. Though Caucasian, these young boy of about nine told me something that has left an impression on me till day, "You are Fr. Anthony, you are African, so I am, I am African too, we are all Africans." His Africanness means a lot to him, he could easily refuse to identify with this aspect of his identity, but not my young friend, he is truly, regardless of skin pigmentation, proud to be African.

Thus, when it comes to the issue of our Africanity, it is painful when we try to at times demean our very blood, regardless of the fact that history has changed them, and some have multiple ancestry- White, Indian, Black, and whatever. But by the definition of the one-drop, many of these are blacks and lay claim to Africa, by their very identity of African-American. Thus, when some African leaders, especially President Olusegun Obasanjo, trivilizes the issues of reparations at the South African conference on racism in 2001, without seemingly understanding the emotional and political constructs, he drove a knife into a matter that seems to have preoccupied Black America. I mean, I am not necessarily an advocate of this matter, but I am sympathetic to the rationale behind it. Today, though reparations have not being paid, this agitation is tormenting some corporate entities, in some states they are now obliged to indicate their associations with slavery. Maybe, when this is all done, we would be able to calculate somewhat the role of African-American human labors in the making of America. But for an African, who did not go through that experience, because of his role as a leader of the most populous black nation on earth, to speak arbitrarily on such salient issue, continues to reinforce certain perceptions regarding the conscious role of Africans in the enslavement process, when however, Obasanjo, an Egba, should have known better about such phenomena in reshaping and altering the contours of pre-colonial Yoruba political and historical landscape.

In spite, of the notations made about the awry level of relationship, there have been remarkable partnership with Africa by African Americans. Randall Johnson, for instance, in the dark days of Nigerian dictatorship tried to lobby American law makers against the regime, and was a force for the democratization of Nigerian from military domination. Going back, Kwame Nkrumah, noted in his autobiography of the African American landlady that was helpful to him during his American sojourns. As noted Fela got his inspirations from an African American friend of his, an inspiration that through determination and hardwork, brought out the musical genuis in him. "Aggrey of Africa" married an African-American woman and seems to have maintained a very happy relationship until his death.

In spite of these, let us also beware of the attitudes some of us have developed that led to further straining of relationship with African American brothers and sisters. One of these is in the area of "Green card marriages." Some of these marriages are entered in good faith by African Americans, only to become end up, unmasked later that while one party (often the African American) was fervent, committed, it was a charade from the beginning, as it was merely done to ensure certain agenda and benefits. Often, these "green card" spouses (often the wives) are discarded and trashed as soon as the agenda is achieved, and then the true bride the African girl or young woman from the "sweet home Africa" becomes the "rosy" replacement.

Sometimes ago, I heard of the story of an immigration judge who is very antagonistic against Nigerians, based upon her own history. She had given her life to a Nigerian man, only to be used for green card and later discarded with her children. The man did not want anything to do with her and the children, calling her illiterate because she was as uneducated as his new wife from his Nigerian village. This became her motivation, painful as the situation, was, she put herself through, struggled through it all into Law school, and rose to become an immigration judge. Now, she is noted to be very antagonistic and hard to Nigerian immigrants who appear before her. Not many African Americans are able to achieve such feat, but their broken hearts, is a cauldron of anger against Africans, and it seems Nigerians in particular. Thus, while some get what they want, they leave imprints that are dangerous to the erroneous perceptions of other hardworking, loving, and caring African immigrants.

Therefore, there is more to the issue. African immigrants in their privilege, as one of the highest educated class in America- though I do not know if it often translates into economic heights, given the enormous numbers of Nigerian and African cabbies that tell me they have Master degrees or even PhDs- must also ensure to redress structural and systemic imbalances that sanction injustices based on ethnicity and geospatial identities within the black communities. Hence, while it is laudable that African and Caribbean blacks, more than native blacks are passing through the ivy leagues, we must remember that the children of African immigrants born here are becoming natives here, and so the pervading standard against the native blacks might also lessen their live chances, if these issues are not redressed by us, in our tower of present opportunities.