For the Culture: Similarities and Differences between Africans and Black Americans

Published by Tierra Ola on

For the Culture: Similarities and Differences between Africans and Black Americans

When I think about how it feels to be Black in America, I am think of a famous quote by James Baldwin, an American novelist, activist, and poet who is known for his ideologies on race, class, and sex in the United States: “To be a Negro in this country and relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time.” 

That quote was stated 60 years ago in 1961, and unfortunately, we are fighting some of the same problems today.

Although our main cause of oppression stems from the patriarchy (usually heterosexual, wealthy Whites), there are other forms of prejudices that have stemmed from the Black community.

For decades, there’s been a perception that Black Americans and African-Americans differ as far as identity is concerned.

As a Nigerian-American, I consider myself an expert code-switcher between the two [making me a double code-switcher]. 

I was born here in Atlanta, Georgia, like my mother–but my father was born and (mostly) raised in Lagos, Nigeria.

I have vivid memories of attending middle school and being too embarrassed to correct the teacher for mispronouncing my last name or informing other students that my last name is Nigerian, not Hispanic.

Likewise, I have friends from different African countries who were taunted for the food they ate or called an “African booty scratcher” simply for being themselves.

Having progressed, we now see and even popularize African clothing and music across the U.S.

However, we still have a long road of equal representation ahead of us–even within and amongst ourselves.

Earlier this year, the Fufu trend seemed to skyrocket across platforms like TikTok and YouTube, which includes (usually) Black Americans trying West African and Nigerian dishes then, rating them on a scale of one to ten.

Despite good-natured intentions, many of the responses included negative comments that projected disrespect toward the dishes rather than discontentment. In a video posted by Beauty blogger Aaliyah Jay and her boyfriend, they are seen instantly making faces of disgust after tasting Fufu, a dough that is boiled and pounded from either Cassava or Plantains, and other foods. 

However, they followed up by rating many of the selections poorly, which would relay the message that Nigerian/West African food is nasty. Many other content creators flocked to the trend in similar fashion, posting videos of their reactions and disrespectful comments on a variety of African food.

This didn’t sit well with too many Africans, explaining that there is a difference between disliking something and blatant disrespect.

While Black Americans have their own opinions and thoughts about Africans and their culture, Africans have their own perception of Black Americans as well.

Often referring to African-Americans as “Akata,” Africans depict Blacks as loud, ghetto or culturally misplaced (lost).

Akata, which means “wild cat,” is a term that is derogatory toward Blacks outside of African countries. The term is usually coined by older Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans, who, also tend to believe that their children should not date or marry an “Akata” man or woman. 

This seems to be very common thinking within the African community, however absurd it may be. 

I can recall many times when my grandparents would refer to my sisters and me as being a “lazy American” or a “stupid gal.”

I’ve always hated the notion that my laziness or “wrongdoing” was the result of my Americanness.

While trying to grasp this notion, I also wondered why this was something that many Africans believed in. And then it hit me…

Portrayal is key.

Portrayal is everything, especially in this scenario.

The constant depiction of Black Americans as ghetto, uneducated, violent and Africans as dirty, poor and hungry contribute to these common misconceptions.

Despite differences (in thoughts and opinions) between Africans and African-Americans, there are similarities as well. 

Sadly, one of the similarities includes the struggle against police brutality.

Last year, police brutality was at a peak across the U.S. and Nigeria with the Black Lives Matter protests and the End SARS movement.

With the ongoing pandemic, many people have questioned their thoughts, faith and identity.

There is a lack of teamwork and inclusion at the moment.

More than ever, mainly among Black Americans and Africans, we need unity and understanding. 

Even just supporting Black businesses is a small step that can be taken to invest into our own communities and contribute toward a safe space for our people. We have to control the narrative and learn how to work together to achieve aspirations of a peaceful, fulfilling life–without racial or ethnic discriminatory disruptions.

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Tierra Ola

Tierra Ola is a dedicated writer and journalist with a habit of preparing and collecting facts to deliver the truth. Whether she is blogging or reporting, Ola finds writing to be second nature and peaceful. Currently attending Georgia State University, she is majoring in Journalism and plans to obtain her Master’s degree by 2025. One of her biggest goals in Journalism is to write and create a documentary that will expose corruption and become a novelist at some point.

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