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Assessing African Americans Consideration for Africa

We’ve changed our ethnicity description so many times over the past four or five decades from Negro to African American to Black which is indicative of us having a difficult time finding the right word to describe who we really are as a group. I’ve always said, first and foremost I’m an American. I just happen to have African genes derived from ancestors of more than 100 years ago. Unfortunately, their culture of yesterday is not a main component of my culture today. While this article is meant to focus on our consideration for Africa I believe we need to first address the identity crisis.

First the cultural connection, a foundation for identity, was broken when our African ancestors were enslaved. This is not meant to blame or to say that I’m angry with white people. This is a factual statement. History shows that slaves were forced to rid themselves of African culture and adopt American ways. For example, a persons name – especially surname – links them to their ethnicity such as O’Reilly being an Irish link. Our surnames are rarely African and, in most cases, can be traced back to early American slave owners. Another example would be the diet which is based on the fruits, vegetables, grains, & meats available locally. My cultural cuisine is primarily southern style soul food such as fried chicken or pork, collard, mustard, or turnip greens, & cornbread which is very American and not primarily Black. The diet in East, West, & Central Africa contain little meat or fried foods and use a lot of grains & starches in dishes such as ugali and fufu (1). Lastly, cultural indicators such as music & dress are very different as well.

Next, another reason for the lack of consideration is that my generation, those born in the 70’s and later, has taken our history for granted. We walk around daily reaping the rewards of the 60’s freedom movement. And, for black women, we reap the rewards of the womens movement as well. The fact that I can vote – sit anywhere on a bus or train – share a bathroom with non-blacks – eat at any restaurant – live in any part of town – freely travel in any part of this country – compete for any job – own any business or any home I choose – and go to any school to study any subject I choose – feels so unmistakably natural and easy that I never give the marches or bra burnings any thought as I live my life.

Unfortunately, the only time I consider Africa is when I meet an African, whom I primarily encounter when I get my hair braided, or when the continents’ AID crisis is discussed in the media or when a celebrity adopts an African baby. Otherwise, Africa doesn’t frequent my thoughts. But, that doesn’t mean I am any less concerned with their needs. I care about what happens across the globe – wars in the middle east – the tsunami – losses as a result of hurricanes – socio-political matters – but where I live takes precedence.

I wake up and drink coffee, get ready for work, and interact with the rest of the world without even considering the fact that I am different because I am of African descent. But, I live in a country mixed with people who are different as well. It’s the one great part of being American. Italians, Irish, women, children, & the poor have all fought in the past for their rightful place here. I wonder if they consider Africa or any other continent or country above their homeland, America? Or are they just like me?

(1)”Cuisine of Africa.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 7 Jan 2007, 20:05 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 Jan 2007 .