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Are African Americans really Americans?

Whereas regular folks on the continent have demonstrated in solidarity against the extrajudicial killings in America, the thugs in power have remained mute. One could only imagine what the outcry from Africa would be if we still had leaders like Kwame Nkrumah

There are the evocative feelings that come with claiming the American citizenship. These emotions are prominent during the swearing in ceremonies of immigrants (with other national origins and tongues) as new citizens. However, those emotive reactions are clouded in the hype rather than the realities of what the European interpretations and applications of American nationality is truly about. For American citizenship, contrary to the popularly held assumption, is not rooted in the jargon of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Rather it is centred on the notions of white patriarchy and privileges. This accounts for the duality of meaning in the invocation of American citizenship between European Americans and African Americans. For the former it is about segregating themselves from others while coveting their resources and for the latter about drawing closer to the privileged white folks evocative of colonialism.

Thus it is not uncommon for European Americans to use African Americans as pawns when it concerns immigration policies. Well-meaning white folks are quick to wonder why citizenship and permanent residency status should be conferred on immigrants. They ask questions about the cognitive goals of granting citizenship to people who are going to take jobs from African Americans. Caucasian policymakers and citizens from the left and right political divide grant lip service to the employment, education, and health needs of African Americans. In the midst of these divide and distract milieus there is a cognitive dissonance rendered to centuries of racism and contemporary discrimination. Utterances are made as though African American unemployment levels, educational underachievement, and health disparities are accidental.

Instead, these are systematic issues that America has prioritized to yield the status quo. African American woman when compared to their African counterparts in the United States, have more premature babies due to their exposures to environmental stress factors. The school systems do not have parity in funding because primary education is based on the housing and financial tax base of jurisdictions. The allocation of resources in this manner invariably sets up a two tier schooling system. In many schools young African American boys are singled out for harsher punishment, suspension, and expulsion, which results in higher dropout rates and acts as feeders to the prison pipelines. Their communities are overwhelmed by risk factors that are compounded by years of neglect and the erosion of public trust in governmental institutions that seek to maintain patriarchy, white privilege, and self-fulfilling prophecies.

However, the efficacy of white hegemony does not allow for thorough reflection amongst most African Americans. For example, during the 2005 hurricane Katrina natural and man-made disasters an inalienable truth was revealed to the global community about what the American government and the state of Louisiana thinks of black lives and poor people. The international community is currently alight about foreign crimes and torture committed by the Bush and Cheney administration but in the domestic arena nearly 2000 innocent people were allowed to die in Louisiana. There is no doubt that criminal negligence and homicide occurred in New Orleans. If those pictures of the victims of hurricane Katrina were to be superimposed onto any catastrophic photos from sub-Saharan Africa, most people would not recognize any phenotypical or geographical differences.

But majority of African Americans remain under the illusion that being born in America is a panacea against racism, state abuse, police brutality, and neighbourhood occupation. There is the internalised gratefulness for escaping birth in Africa or the Caribbean, as though one has a choice regarding their place and status of birth in the cosmos. It seems the vestiges of Pan-Africanism for most people in the African American communities are no longer salient with the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. In some quarters, the term Africa is now used as a pejorative though the use of the n-word is a term of endearment. With the cloak of their Americanism the average African American in this era might be unaware of the present invasion and occupation of the African continent by corrupt African rulers, Europeans, Arabs, and Chinese (see also here).

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Ironically, most immigrants are able to empathize with African Americans because of the shared experiences of becoming strangers in their original homelands and getting viewed with suspicion in their adopted communities. In this stage of middle identity disorder the old African adage which states that “when your paternal family disowns you, you can always run to your maternal family” might not hold true. This might account for the remarkable silence at the African Union (AU) about the second-class citizenship and brutality of law enforcement institutions toward African Americans in the United States. Whereas regular folks on the continent have demonstrated in solidarity against the extrajudicial killings of African folks in America, the thugs in power on the continent have largely remained mute. One could only imagine what the outcry from Africa would be if we still had leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere.

Sadly, the conundrum of the present crop of rulers in Africa is how to affirm the sanctity of African lives in the United States when they are directly responsible for the devaluation and deaths of fellow Africans in the mother continent. African rulers, like most African Americans, appear to be under the spell of European civilization, the prominent “free”-market global civilization that champions wars, weapons proliferation, brutality, and coveting the properties of others. This situation with African rulers is analogous to the struggles of European Americans who profess to love Africans while showing contempt for their African American cousins stateside. Similar forces are fighting against the empowerment of the first indigenous peoples of the earth. For example, in America policymakers readily allocate billions for warfare while most African Americans and the poor are left in perpetual socioeconomic hardship.

When it comes to allocating revenues to engage in years of imperial wars, the well runneth over. The musician and philosopher Tupac Shakur could not have said it better when he stated “you know it’s funny, when it rains it pours. They got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor.” African Americans and other folks are now discovering that the same weapons that are used to conquer foreign lands are now handed over to local police to dominate the homeland. The elites in America such as politicians and war contractors have perfected the business of war profiteering and profiling. Comparable nefarious forces may have triggered the Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. In 2007, Corgenix Medical Corporation, US Army Medical Research Institute, and Professor Robert Garry of Tulane University went to West Africa to improve healthcare, conduct bioterrorism research, and study Ebola. Seven years later Ebola outbreaks are the norm for the first time in some West African countries.

Happy Kwanzaa

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