THE COLOR OF MY SKIN
First generation African-American families brought to the new world did not drop from spaceships. They came in slave ships. Somehow, somewhere in time past, many Africans, young and old were abducted from different parts of the beautiful continent of Africa and sold into slavery. They were shipped to the New World called ‘America.’ Overtime, they became ‘African-Americans.’
U.S citizens, including African-Americans, are fortunate to have been born in America; ‘The Land of Opportunity.’ Millions of people dream of coming to America. In almost every case with these immigrants, they hope that someday they would become U.S citizens, or at least, obtain a permanent residency status. They would rather not be tagged ‘Aliens,’ legal or not!
Pause for a second. Delete all forms of discrimination, all superiority and/or inferiority complex from the frame of your mind. Now, ask yourself: Who is an immigrant in the United States?
Given what we know about American history, this question must exclude the Native Americans. When this question is examined, it could go back to the beginning of time…the time before Christ and even beyond. One generation begets another. This cycle of life or bloodline will continue as long as there is life. It is true to say that the human race is inter-connected. The things that connect us are many and will remain eternally unbroken.
In recent genealogical studies, African-Americans have been known to trace their roots to particular tribes in Africa. The same goes with the larger white population, whose roots go back to Europe and Asia. Among African-Americans, the surprising oneness in heritage becomes a given. Every American therefore, with the exception of the Native Americans, is an immigrant.
Skin color is that unique fabric of oneself that cannot be traded in any marketplace. It is our inheritance, bestowed upon us by Nature. Nothing could delete that glaring fact. It is therefore a big part of what makes each of us stand out.
Many African-Americans are still struggling with their true identity, unsure of who they really are and where their ancestors had come from; the complexities of being an African in the Whiteman’s land. The idea itself is strange, and brings with it, a hint of degradation. To call someone born and bred in America an African is a hard pill to swallow for some. Hence, attaching the tag ‘American’ completes some of them… and justifiably so.
On the other hand, many Africans born and raised in Africa are in a struggle to fit into the Western culture. Many would rather prefer to be labeled Americans, even Europeans, as a way of forcing everyone to see them as more urbane.
Back in high school, I met a few girls that, given a chance to get married would have done so for all the wrong reasons. Every one of them would have preferred, and would have loved to marry a Whiteman (an oyibo) for one simple reason, to have an oyibo baby. One time, I had a girl say this to me: ‘I just want my kids to look different, especially my daughters… you know, just for the hair.’ Eventually, she did marry a White-American and had two children by him. Her weird dream was realized; her children had curly hair. It is worth repeating… she married for all the wrong reasons. Apparently, she was also ignorant and battling with self-rejection, insecurity, and culture orientation disability.
Often times, people are roped inadequate in their self-imposed battles as they struggle to become something that they are not. It becomes a recoiling nightmare; a bad journey that could, if not restricted, destroy that individual. Eventually, they lose themselves. To bleach your way out of your blackness, and to talk virtually without one’s African accent, does not change who you are. I know for a fact that some Africans love it when they seem to have lost a sizeable drone in the way they originally sounded before coming to America. Maybe, these Africans sound more polished than others because they have been outside their native country for so long. But still, it does not change who they are.
One wonders why parents would choose to suppress their native language in lieu of a foreign one. ‘My children can understand my native language, but they cannot speak it.’ That’s how it starts! Or, ‘My children can neither understand my native language nor speak it.’ That clearly stokes it! Many parents sing this like a song, and say it with such pride. Therefore, it is not surprising that children, especially the ones born and raised in many parts of West Africa are unable to communicate in their mother tongue.
If the trend is not reversed, we could lose a big part of who we are. If only parents would take the time to teach their children (maybe, stay social media), their efforts should payoff; the kids would, inadvertently learn to live and preserve that which has been given to them. They would most likely pass this on to the next generation. That is how culture survives, how traditions and customs are preserved among people.
However, some Africans that were born in America prefer to be tagged wholesomely American. Many of them have gotten used to saying this tiresome maxim;
“I am an American, but my parents are Africans.”
I can appreciate it when a child born of African parents in the United States says for instance, “I am a Kenyan-American” rather than saying, “I am an American.” It makes me wonder where their African heritage fits in. This cycle of ignorance has continued from one generation to another and it needs to be broken.
Although, not everybody wants to fit in, but most times, many do hope that they could. This is about culture and tradition. No matter where you were born or where you live, culture should matter. There is nothing wrong with embracing a culture that is not yours. However, one should not have to lose the values they were born into in an effort to absorb that which is foreign.
The older generations of immigrant Africans have a better handle on who they are. They are a lot better at maintaining their Africanness; their values and cultures. The so-called Digital Natives; the new generations of African immigrants are not so good at maintaining their identity. Furthermore, they are slow, and sometimes fail altogether in raising their children in that proper manner the African culture and traditions demand.
To be black is to be from a unique heritage. To love and be proud of who you are, regardless of your ethnicity or nationality is everything. When one attempts to look, sound, and act like another, in an effort to fit into a profile, it does not change who you truly are. All people are made in the image of God. We are different, yet we share similarities. If you are black, but speak the language that is not yours, and not your mother tongue, you are still black. It is that simple.
There is Africa in every black person