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Cornelius Gyamfi

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The African in America and the African American? Feud ,Stereotypes of Africa and the lost identity of the African American. Why?

People can still tell that I am an African by the sound of my name and accent even though i have been living in America for close to 10 years. Ever since i came to the states whenever I am around people, they begin to ask questions about Africa. For example, someone asked me “did you walk around naked in Africa?” Another person asked me “did you live in huts at Africa?” and the funny thing is majority of them tend to be African Americans who disclaim their ancestry linking back to Africa. Even majority of my Caucasian friends have a better appreciation of my culture and roots. I want to know why this has come to be?

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    Jan 14 2013: This is to tell us that racism, arrogance or ignorance is not an exclusive failing of a particular race, nationality or ethnic group. It is just that those with more power give more pain.

    We usually tend to think that the oppressed are also the virtuous; but in most cases they gain some power and then do exactly the same thing they have been condemning.
    Human nature is basically human nature.

    We've got the best of us, the worst of us, and everything in between.
  • Jan 12 2013: In the days of slavery and segregation African Americans needed something to keep their hopes up, so they constructed a new culture that included African Americans who were descendants of different tribes with different lifestyles, religions and traditions. Since there were very few people of Indian (from India) ancestry, racism was rampant, and only Africans were used as slaves in the US, being a black African was what these people all shared and that's what they based their culture on, complete with the founding fables every culture has (white American culture has the founding fathers and manifest destiny as founding fables). One of these fables was that black Africans were all united, culturally similar and all oppressed by the other races of the world. The fact that black Africans were diverse, warred with each other and sold each other to slavetraders would not have made for a very effective founding fable. This fable still influences black American culture today.

    Additionally there is the fact that black Americans tend to be the poorest and less educated Americans (which is to a great extent a result of their history) and in Georgia, where you live, only the most educated white people would regularly associate with an African immigrant such as yourself (most of your white friends are probably not rednecks).
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    Jan 14 2013: Your question has many answers ... but regarding sterotypes of Africans I have an opinion. Movies, books, media, and even National Geographic all have a hand in forming the sterotypes.

    Entitlement programs and generational welfare mentality have harmed the blacks more than anything else. The liberal politicians have thrown money at the problems of the blacks and to date have never become involved in solutions dedication to long term advancement of blacks. It is all about garnering votes and perceptions in order to stay in office.

    I have retired three times (military, engineer, state service) the one constant regarding the blacks I observed in each job was that peer pressure ruled the day. Blacks with degrees when associating with non-degreed or street people revert to street talk and ethnic gestures and actions.

    When all options are open most groups associate with their own ethnicity. In all three jobs white and mexicans cross the ethnic lines often and black seldom link with other groups. I am not a psych or a social worker and cannot explain it.

    I find it very offensive and shallow when someone introduces or refers to their "black friend", white friend, etc .... I do not have quotas and you are either my friend or not. Life is to short to have that type of a friend who is holding you up to the world and says I have a black friend ... who the heck are they trying to impress. Maybe they feel guilty. Who knows and quite frankly I don't care. They have already demonstrated how shallow they are.

    I like Feyisayo's comment.

    If a person is sincere please take the time to educate them. If they are not sincere then nothing you can do will help.

    I wish you well. Bob.
    • Jan 14 2013: "Entitlement programs and generational welfare mentality have harmed the blacks more than anything else. The liberal politicians have thrown money at the problems of the blacks and to date have never become involved in solutions dedication to long term advancement of blacks."

      Free public education and financial support for college are incredibly effective programs the "liberal politicians" have instituted to give black Americans a chance at improving their situation. As for the welfare programs, they were definitely necessary at one point because post-segregation black Americans had inherited severe disadvantages such as a lack of education and lacking skills (because few had ever had good jobs), so unless you wanted to let the parents starve to death while the children attended state funded education, you had to have some welfare programs. And that's just in an ideal meritocracy, in reality social mobility in the US isn't all that it's cracked up to be: poor people usually stay poor (especially if you don't fall for the right-wing think tank BS of counting upper middle class college students among the poor), that's true for all races, black Americans just started off with more poor people and that's why they still have more poor people.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Jan 13 2013: I think that it's a left-over from the days of slavery - for STARTERS. The Civil War that was supposed to have ended slavery didn't really end it. There were ways to get around the prohibition - especially in the south - until the 1970s. Racism is still rampant in our society. (sorry).

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was an effort to remove the word "nigger" from our vocabulary. Nigger has it's own meaning, and it was never intended to mean negro, but the two became synonymous because a slave is a nigger by definition, and nigger and negro sounded alike to racist whites. Nigger became slang for negro - which means black. So there was an effort to find a different term (rather than erase the distinction, which I would have preferred). Some chose "African American" - meaning an American from African origins. Others preferred "black" because it couldn't be twisted into something denigrating.

    I recently read a post (another site) written by a young man who moved from Baltimore, Maryland (a mostly poor black city) to Alexandria, Virginia (a mostly upscale city). He described the differences between his previous and his current high school. In Baltimore, there was intense peer pressure to "be black". In Alexandria, he was accepted for who he was. He had never experienced that before.

    He reminded me of BET (Black Entertainment Television). I rarely watch it, but when I do, I am filled with sorrow. I witness how poorly the characters treat one another; how little they think of themselves; how ignorant they portray themselves as; how they are stereotypes; how aggressive they are. This is peer pressure.

    Throughout this, there is discrimination against blacks within the black communities. It's very pronounced. The more light-skinned you are, the better you are. Darker people see THEMSELVES as inferior.

    Too many drop out of school because of no opportunity. This reinforces stereotypes and increases crime that reinforces stereotypes, that ...etc
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    Jan 13 2013: People asking idiotic questions tend to be the result of not being a very knowledgeable person in general
    (and without trying to sound offensive...) The statistical odds just work against you coming across knowledgeable people when you live in a deep-south Red state.

    I'll take a wild guess and argue that perhaps you're just coming across Blacks who fit with the general consensus and the whites who associate with you (Because they aren't immediately judging you solely on your skin color) are those who would most certainly be exceptions to that consensus.
    Unexpected statistical happenstance, possibly.
    *shrugs shoulders*
    I'd like to think I'm wrong, but unfortunately not as often as I'd like to be in matters such as this.
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    Jan 16 2013: distortion of ones cultural roots has been a political tool since ancient times...it embarrasses people to be seen as connected to peoples,groups...once disenfranchised they have no collective history..in the case of blacks it is their oppressors who tell them who they are,,,not a great way to begin ones own self creation...Im sure in the states history is not taught about the civilization of Egypt...which is like taking Greece and Rome out of European history,,,,there has always been an effort in Acedemia to say blacks .africans,could not have built the temples of Egypt...a simple way to prove it was not outsiders,is there are no camels on any tombs...American blacks see themselves as they are described in schools as former slaves and oppressed...they are still angry..they did not get reciprocity on their work...The Brittish did however pay everyone for their loss of :property"Many major instituions were funded by rich slave owners,which still bare their name...everyone acts as if this unfair division of wealth is far in the past...Your country Africa is described in the media as primitive,violent even though one of the countries has the 6 lowest murder rate worldwide...In order to be fair...ask your white friends to inform you about their knowledge of Africa.....polite comments around blacks does not indicate knowlege...just tact ...I would ask a few more questions before I decide whose is less knowledgable
  • Gu E

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    Jan 16 2013: Its a shame that you have had to address idiotic questions like the ones you've listed. I am also American, and happen to also be African- more specifically Somali heritage. I too have received stupid questions, but I have always known how to distinguish between those who are ignorant (a result of whatever reason, be it poor education, no socialization with people like me etc.) and hurtful stereotyping (subtle or blatant racism).

    The fact that you had such questions come from Black Americans (non-African immigrants) is most likely a reflection of your geographical location. Unlike you, I got questions like those from people who were largely White or Arab, and Asian. The Black Americans I encountered always demonstrated an interest and some knowledge of the continent - similar too other Whites. I believe it comes down to a combination of social experience + quality of education + an individual interest to learn about peoples, cultures and places other than your own.

    There is essentially a significant difference between what I consider somewhat harmless ignorance and pure lazy stereotyping + racism. No need to be offended by questions. Just laugh and educate them (oh and, yes, you can laugh because lets face it, dumb questions like those are funny).

    Now in response to the comments below regarding "self-segregation" along race or ethnicity, I want to warn everyone that we must be careful in our attempts to assess what such observations mean. Just because some people choose to socialize with people of their race more than others, does NOT immediately suggest a conscious effort to self-segregate. Instead this can also be a reflection of seeking out people with cultural similarities and/or personality traits/interests. Then again, I am not ignoring the very real instances where people do self-segregate due to race, and race alone.
    NEVER generalize. I have very often seen Whites self-segregating when they are the minority abroad.
  • Gu E

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    Jan 16 2013: Don't assume that Black Americans know any more than other Americans just because of their race. And don't assume that White Americans know any more or less because of their race either....especially if just based on your particular experience.