Why No Love Lost Between African-Americans and Nigerians
By Reno Omokri
Recently, a video of a Nigerian woman making claims about Nigerian émigrés in the United States trended on social media and since it will almost certainly fall into the hands of those who may have no scruples about using it for propaganda, I have chosen to address it with a rejoinder. And it seems Mr. Tope Fasua, a long-standing buddy of mine, also found her claims well, interesting,
To summarise what she said (which was also featured on television), she claims that before migrating to America, Nigerians are brainwashed by their parents and society against associating with African Americans, and that in addition to this, we are consciously servile to the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment in America.
Basically, what she claims is that Nigerians are snobbish with their African-American cousins.
The woman herself may not be very knowledgeable about the experience of Nigerians in America. And she betrays a behaviour common with many Black Africans: eagerness to talk down to their countries and their people, and being in a mad rush to jump to the worst conclusion, rather than giving the benefit of the doubt to their own.
Anyone who followed the global reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement that exploded after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by a police officer, would testify that at least Southern Nigeria was one of the geographical locations where the movement took strong root. There was a lot of public sympathy for the late Mr. Floyd in Nigeria, and we even had our own offshoot of the anti-police protest that erupted in America, which we tagged EndSARS.
So, it is difficult to understand how anyone would suggest that a people who were so empathetic to a largely African-American cause as Black Lives Matter, would have mass prejudice against the classes of people they showed solidarity with.
I first became resident in California in 1983, at the age of 9. From my wide travels within America, I am of the considered view, which I concede may be wrong, that what she says is not the typical experience of Nigerians living in America.
Before moving to America, many Nigerians and Black African immigrants are in awe of African-Americans, and want to be like them, talk like them, and walk like them. But when you land in America and speak and act as an African to some of our African-American brethren, the reception you get may be very cold.
Nigerians generally don’t get along with African-Americans and one of the reasons behind this is the deep-seated colour-based hierarchy in African-American communities, where darker skinned blacks are looked down on. It is so deep-seated that sometimes, African-Americans are unconscious of it. Many of them may not even know how it originated.
In many historically Black universities in America, they had fraternities and sororities which practice the Brown Paper Bag Test, whereby if your complexion is darker than the brown paper bag used in packaging groceries, you can’t join.
If this shocks you into disbelief, then research it. Google it even. Do not take my word for it. It is still going on in America as you read this, but not in a way as obvious as it used to be. Nowadays, the test is carried out using the eye to gauge complexion.
Sadly, in Black America, privilege is often, but not always, tied to skin tone. And this has done a lot of damage to a lot of people’s psyche.
Now, Nigerian immigrants come from a background where everybody in authority was Black and probably very dark skinned, from the President to their school principal, to police officers. So, they generally tend not to have any inferiority complex as regards their dark complexion. They are not even aware that it is being used to classify where they belong in society by some people.
And ignorance is bliss.
Now, some African-Americans unconsciously expect that due to their usually having a darker complexion, and an accent, Nigerians and other Black Africans should know their place.
This sadly is not their fault, and when you notice it, as a Black African, you ought to be more understanding, rather than resent them. It comes from the categorisation of darker skinned Blacks as field Negroes, while their lighter skinned relatives were considered house Negroes. It used to be a thing of pride in the African-American community to be a house Negro.
For instance, a lot of people are unaware that the real woman who suffered for refusing to give up her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, was Claudette Colvin. She was arrested in March 1955, seven months before Rosa Parks.
However, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People did not feel that Ms. Claudette Colvin would be a good test case to attract public sympathy. So, they staged the same situation with Rosa Parks, and when she was arrested, they used her as the test case for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.
To understand why some people believe that Rosa Parks became the face of the boycott over Claudette Colvin, you may want to Google their photos and observe their complexions.
And since Nigerians especially are oblivious of this complexion obsession, they just go about their activities and treat Whites in authority with the same respect that they would treat Blacks in authority back home. And this can create tension between them and African Americans, who may see their confidence as too much swagger or arrogance, and their relationship with White authorities as bootlicking.
And it is a false stereotype to say Nigerians in America suck up to White Americans. Not true at all.
A lot of African-Americans, due to their history, are somewhat aggressive when dealing with White Americans. And some expect that Black immigrants would behave likewise.
But Nigerians generally tend to relate with White authority figures with courtesy, while steadily making their way up the food chain, and they themselves eventually become authority figures.
This is why Amy Chua, an Asian-American of Chinese descent, recommended Nigerian child rearing practices to American families who want to produce successful children.
For example, though Blacks of Nigerian descent make up less than 1% of the US population, more than 50% of all Black doctors in America are of Nigerian descent.
Nigerian parents tend to be domineering. And that is not such a bad thing for children. Children need structure. Especially in a place like America, where there are many shiny things to distract children, especially males. And where, if you are not careful, the public school system will push your Black child towards athletics or entertainment, while you are oblivious to what they are doing.
Every year, millions of black males in America are chasing after less than a 100 slots in the American NBA to be professional basketball players. The odds of failure are just too great.
Millions more black youths in America are chasing the dream of becoming the next Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Less than 20 will succeed at that level in music and Hollywood each year. The odds are even greater.
Nigerian parents have proved, with empirical evidence, that Black youths stand a better chance at succeeding through STEM education. And as Nigerian-Americans rise up the social ladder, of course some people are going to resent them. Some will see them as uppity. Others will feel that they do not know their places.
But by succeeding, Nigerian-Americans are creating a new paradigm for Blacks in America. They are changing the way Blacks see themselves and how other races perceive us.
And their successful children are not nepo babies, which makes their success even more noteworthy.
Though I may be wrong, I would classify what this lady said as anecdotes she may have picked up from beer parlour talk. They are not reflective of the actual experiences of Nigerians in America, and do not appear to come from her own personal experiences.
And another thing that makes it hard for African-Americans to classify and deal with Black African immigrants is that while they have by and large one identity, Black African immigrants have multiple identities.
Other than exposed African-Americans, most domestic Blacks view every Black African as just an African. The nuances of being Nigerian, Ghanaian, Tanzanian, Rwandan, South African, Cameroonian and what have you, is lost on many of our brothers in the United States.
So, they may have dealt with a Ghanaian, and Ghanaians could sometimes be anodyne in nature, and then they deal with a Nigerian, and expect the same type of interaction. But then, Nigerians tend to be more assertive.
In other words, while it is easier to stereotype the African-American, it is harder to do the same with Black African immigrants.
And then again, some African-Americans retain very strong grudges against Black Africans for selling them as slaves. Of course this comes from a place of ignorance about how the slave trade actually worked (a lot of the people who did the actual slave raiding where Arabs and Arabised Blacks). For example, Bishop Ajayi Crowther was slave raided by the Fulani, not his fellow Oyo Yoruba).
The unfortunate thing is that whereas Jews in America fight for Jews in Israel, and Italian-Americans fight for the interest of the Italian nation, and Irish-Americans fight to give the Republic of Ireland a sound footing, African-Americans and Black Africans find themselves fighting each other.
It is easy to blame African-Americans, but when you travel to South Africa and see that almost the same thing exists, to a different degree there, you begin to understand that this is a Black problem that we must address as a race.
Other Blacks, including those whose nations paid with sweat, blood, and dollars, for the liberation of South Africa are looked down on as Makwerekwere, and some of these our South African brothers and sisters prefer to deal with their former White oppressors to their own Black African kith and kin who fought alongside them for their liberation. Imagine the irony!
Even in America, there was a time when African-Americans from the East coast of the United States did not like their fellow African-Americans from the West Coast.
If there was that schism amongst them, then why would any Black African resent them for any perceived coldness from them?
Rather than resentment, we have to be the ones who break the ice, and foster a bond between us and them, so that we talk in terms of ‘we the people’.
And videos, like that done by the woman I referenced in the first paragraph of this piece, and which has since gone viral on TikTok, do not help. At all.
The Black Race is the most fractured on planet Earth. And to heal that fracture, we need to foster understanding of each other’s situation, rather than serve the divide-and-rule purposes of those who either brought about or exacerbated the fracture, by feeding false stereotypes, which only serve to widen the gulf between our people.
After God, NOBODY on Earth has the capacity to love you completely unconditionally, like your mother. It is a spiritual umbilical cord relationship. That is why men who allow their wives to turn them against their own mothers, hardly end well. Your wife has good relations with her own mother, but wants you to cut yours off? In the wild, when a predator wants to kill a young animal, it must first separate it from its mother. Any wife that is poisoning you against your mother is a predator wanting to kill you. No exception to this rule. Absolutely none. Your mother is evil, yet she was civil enough to care for you until you became the man your wife admired and married? Even you as a father, no matter what your wife or ex-wife does to you, refuse to turn your children against her!