Shouts Outs to The Africans That Claims to Be Jamaicans aka “Kofi Kingston”
For me, this isn’t just comedy. You got faux revolutionaries (shout out to the ones on Tumblr) who think that being from the continent or 1st generation solves all identity issues around that particular kind of blackness. African cultureS are constantly disrespected by white people of course, and yes, other POC. I’ll bet my relaxer money that any 1st generation or recent immigrant kid here in the states has dealt with ignorance from their peers of all colors. Of course, the root of that issue is white hegemony but how often do elementary school students discuss how whiteness teaches them to loathe the POC cultures, in this case, African cultureS?
It’s not cool to be African. Sure there are people who are all about loving mother Africa, appropriating kente cloth and talking about Egypt, excuse me Kemet, as if that is the only place on the continent that produced greatness. (If I see another ankh I’m going to scream.) However, in the grand scheme of things, those people are few and ultimately, their behavior is highly problematic. That’s not to say that there are not people of the diaspora who manage to respect AfricanS and their respective cultureS but in my experience, those are far and few. I hope that others do not share my misfortune.
AfricanS are the butt of jokes in popular American culture. (I almost said Western but let me stick to what I know.) Our accents are mocked and exaggerated. If another person clicks at me I might haul off and punch of them. People think of the poor starving African children to make themselves feel better about their “first world problems”. Never mind that there are hungry children in the so-called first world, and that many Africans have these “first world problems” as well.
In spite of these sentiments, I have never been one to hide my Ghanaian identitieS. As a child liked being able to pick up my cell phone and speak a different language with my family. It didn’t and still doesn’t bother me that My GaGa wears African prints whenever we she goes out. The woman is 2973469732 years old and I don’t think she’s ever put on a pair of pants. I had too much pride (with a smidge of arrogance) for me to feel bad just for being me.
As a Jamaican, I never experienced Africans playing Jamaican, only beef between us.
But real talk, being African only recently became cool here in the UK. Before that, naw, niggas was the butt of all jokes. Jamaicans were the top of the Black people pile for a long time out here.
Thanks for bringing in a UK perspective and being honest. People like to forget that AfricanS, Black AfricanS in particular are teased and disrespected constantly. Being African is not the popular kind of black to be. Hell even the folks who are appropriative are laughed at. Not because folks recognize that their behavior is problematic but because Africans are always laughed at.
No one wants their identity to be treated as a joke or a costume. So I don’t really get too upset with people who aren’t gushing with pride for their African culture. It’s not like it’s encouraged from mainstream society and in a way, it may not be encouraged at home.
In my experience, parents want you to maintain the culture while simultaneously pushing assimilation.
If any of my 1st generation folks have something to add please do. Especially if you’re outside of the United States. Discussions here are always US Centric and I’d love to here about other perspectives.
The one on the UK is so true. When I was growing up, everyone wanted to identify as anything BUT African. And it was a lot cooler to be Jamaican or from the islands. Most people here idolized AA’s. So it’s still a major issues and it really only has been in the past couple of years that being Africa (or rather wearing wax prints etc) has become cool. Still, I don’t know how long that will last, given the way that taste is so easily coerced. And it’s not like people still don’t make “fresh of the boat” jokes, or ridicule African accents. So *le sigh
Adding to the UK perspective as well. I personally know a lot of Africans who (in the past) would lie about their nationalities because they didn’t want to be seen as African. Apparently this is all changing thanks to azonto and P-Square. But like lookingforthesteel suggests, you never really know.
(And how are they going to use an image of the badass circus performer who tamed a gotdamn hyena so that his daughter rides on it like a horse in a negative manner?)
This is an interesting conversation. My father is an African/Africana History professor, so I grew up in a home that was very pro-African everything. I traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Nigeria as a kid, but I didn’t really start to perceive that people viewed Africans negatively in the U.S. until my teens. I’m in my 30s now, so this was in the 90s. The climate has completely changed in the U.S. Back then, it definitely was not cool to listen to Fela, afrobeat music or any kind of music that was unapologetic about being outwardly African. Not at all. At least not in high school. I listened to Fela, it’s what my older sisters and older relatives listened to. I remember people calling it “jungle music”. Now rappers are sampling that jungle music like their lives depended on it. Funny how things fall in and out of favor. I actually got into jazz music because of Fela. On his song Zombie, the first 5 minutes is nothing but horns. I remember being so enamored with it, that I went to the library and searched on Lexis Nexis (before Wikipedia, we had to go to the library for research. I know I’m dating myself) for trumpet and saxophone players. I got Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie etc. Then I would run to Nobody Beats the Wiz (Who remembers The Wiz??) and buy jazz CDs for $4.99. Then I’d look at the sidemen on the discs, and proceed from there. Without Fela, my trajectory in music wouldn’t remotely be the same. I learned a lot about music this way. That’s what that “jungle music” did for me.
In high school, I had a friend called Chinedu who was so ashamed of his name, he told people to call him “Chinz”. I was over at his house one day, and his mother was making eba. He actually said he didn’t want to eat it because he would have to use his hands like a “bush person”. So he asked me to go to McDonald’s with him. This fool wanted to abandon fresh eba and soup for crappy McDonald’s. I told him he was going to use his hands to eat his burgers, so why was that acceptable, but eating eba with your hands was somehow primitive. Of course he couldn’t explain why. I wouldn’t want to live in a world void of eba, egusi and okra soup, jellof rice, pounded yam, moin moin, suya etc.
Not to excuse the behavior of folks like Chinedu, but they act that way because of how many people treated them. They used to say he looked African, and that was the insult. I remember being perplexed because for the life of me, I didn’t know why actually looking like an African was considered a bad thing. I mean, of course he looked African, he is! It made me realize how fortunate I was to grow up in a home where pride and respect in who you are was instilled from the get go. People didn’t make fun of me, and I think it may have been how I carried myself (being a football player didn’t hurt either), and that came from my parents. Sometimes, I would bring food to school, because quite frankly, high school lunch was shit. I would get stares, but I stared back. Yes, this is jellof rice I am eating for lunch, you’re eating sloppy joe’s, cold fries and chocolate milk. I fail to see how I was the loser there.
Anyway, now it is chic to be African. Everyone is wearing Kente cloth, Masai scarves and any other thing they feel like appropriating from the continent. I saw a white lady wearing a gele with wrapper at a concert. The only way that would have happened many years ago was if she was married to a Nigerian man, not so anymore. After the Fela Broadway musical, oyinbo man now is shaking his yansh. People talk about the good the play has done, but it has also done a lot of bad. The big one is that we are now flooded with absolutely terrible oyinbo afrobeat music, and a lot of it is praised in the press. There is no shortage of musicians exploiting and riding the afrobeat wave because it is hip. In NYC, I have seen musicians switch from punk rock to afrobeat because it is in. They release watered down nonsense like this. The scariest part is that this is becoming the face of afrobeat here.
So now the music is cool. African clothes are fashionable, and the next frontier is the food. African cuisine is the next big thing. There are some African fusion restaurants now that make African food for the western palette. Now, you can finally eat your eba and egusi soup with champagne. Isn’t that wonderful? lol - You can gauge how good the food is by who is eating there. If your African restaurant doesn’t have any actual African people in it, then it’s probably shit.
From music, to clothes and even food, some Africans are Johnny come lately to their own cultures. They don’t embrace it until the west embraces it, which is a shame. Oh well, the wheels will turn with or without them. For every African that I’ve encountered who is ashamed of their heritage, there are 10 more who are not. We should keep that in perspective. The positive thing I can take from this is that many of the younger African kids I see these days (in real life and on tumblr) are very proud of who they are and where they are from. Believe me, it wasn’t always like that. I remember.
I’ve rambled enough.
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