Good Morning Good People,
So, the other day, I overheard a conversation between a Jamaican social studies teacher, and an older gentleman in regards to student expectations and mindsets.
While I don’t remember the exact conversation word for word, I can tell you that the social studies teacher came to the conclusion that African American kids are defective.
I’m using African Americans here because we got diasporic differences and issues and I need you to keep up.
And that they were defective due to the ways their parents raise them.
African Americans were lazy, underachieving and dependent on the government for their survival.
Let that sit for awhile. This conversation was being held by all Black folk.
So, I jumped in the mix.
You know, I had to jump in the mix, being one of those supposed African Americans and I tried to beat back these stereotypes of African Americans. I always have to remind people of the trauma still suffered today, by Africans in America from the subjugation of chattel slavery. That Africans in America have been conditioned to believe that they are less than and that no matter what they do the odds are stacked against them. This sort of conditioning would leave anyone dependent, especially a people who have lived more years in bondage then out of it.
I have these debates with my Caribbean friends all the time. So I was ready for her. I explained the ways White supremacy, racism, segregation and a host of other prejudicial systems have helped to create our current conditions.
And I acknowledged that Caribbean people have a different outlook and experience on life and their racial identity.
We had a spirited debate. But in the end she still concluded that African Americans make too many excuses and that they need to essentially “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
At the end of these types of conversations, I’m always left feeling the same thing, There ain’t nothing wrong with Black people, but there is something wrong with Black people y’all.
Now I know y’all are like, “Vito this is CREAD! Culturally Responsive Educators Of the African Diaspora.”
The AFRICAN DIASPORA,: my guy.
“WE ARE ALL BLACK.”
I’m gonna need y’all to hear me out.
This thought isn’t new. Hell, I know we have all had similar thoughts.
Older dudes in my neighborhood would always say ignorant ish like “there are Black men and then there are N****s.” Shit, Chris Rock made an entire skit about it.
This adverse way of thinking about Black people is so ingrained in our minds and the culture of this country with the help of comedians, music and popular media. Rock debut this skit 21 years ago, and the messages of internalized racism and self hate still runs amuck in the Black community today.
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece called Diasporic Connections about the lack of cultural connectedness between Latino/X people and Black people and in the end I landed on the fact that there are some serious divides in the Black community; and dare I say it, most times it feels like Black people hate each other.
As a child I grew up with the understanding that I was African American, and my peoples descended from Africa, but that my norms and mannerisms were American. I am Black and while I knew other people that were Black like me, I understood quickly that we were not all the same.
I was raised in a part of Brooklyn where if I went the 90s towards East Flatbush I would find A1 jerk chicken and bomb ass roti skins. They were Black, but a different kind of Black.
If I headed to East New York, I knew I could get bomb ass pastelitos and ceviche. They were Black also, but a different kind of Black.
And if I headed towards Pitkin Avenue I would hit up African owned hair salons and small mom and pop stores that sold all types of shit. They were Black Black. Lol!
I realized early on that these groups all had Black skin, but that they were all very different.
I realized: Blackness wasn’t a monolith.
I believe most non-Black White people think that Blackness exist as one thing and we’re all linked by our love of:
- Fried chicken
- Good music
- Sports &
I mean those are the ish we like. LoL! But we are different….and the same…
The system of chattel slavery dispersed African bodies across the Americas and the Caribbean intending to kill off our connections to our ancestral homeland, our cultural foods, practices, religions and and especially our history.
But regardless of our final destination we were all able to keep remnants of our ancestral past.
Our African-ness is our connection may we be Africans, African-Americans, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino, or Afro-Asians (yes that’s a thing), we are profoundly connected. But until we reclaim our history and our connection as a nation of resilient beautiful African people, we will continue to hate each and be divided under the blanket of White supremacy.
We have a lot of work to do to reconnect and unite.
Colorism has been helping to dividing the Black community for years.
I grew up in a house with four sisters, one of whom has a very light complexion; a complexion that for most of her younger years, earned her the nicknames Pinky and Light Brite. Not very nice names as I look back at it now, knowing all that I know. Smh…
I think most of the battles my sisters had throughout their lives were about their hair; the texture and the length were markers of beauty that was distorted through the lens of Whiteness and White standards of beauty.
I grew up alongside one of my favorite cousins, who’s more like a brother to me, and we used to tease him, relentlessly for being a light skinned Al B. Sure type of brother with his wavy hair. We would jokingly separate our character traits into “light skinned nigga shit” and “dark skinned nigga shit,” internalizing that Willie Lynch shit; the differences in our complexion determined the difference in our disposition and intellect and attractiveness.
IT WAS ALL IGNORANT.
Now that I know better and I am raising a beautiful little girl I am always hyper vigilant about making sure that she doesn’t let these negative ideas around colorism affect how she sees herself and treats other Black people.
We can’t build Black wealth without rebuilding a Black identity
I grew up hearing this distinction about Black folk; “African Americans are lazy and privileged” while “Africans and Caribbean people are hardworking, resilient people who came to take advantage of the American dream.”
I’ve literally had this debate most of my adult life, with my African American Mom and my Caribbean and African friends, both sides saying inaccurate and harmful shit about each other.
We so busy fighting each other about who is lazy and who is not that we make it impossible to build Black wealth. Black people are so far behind Whites when it comes to income and wealth, White families have nearly 10 times the wealth of Black folk and by 2053 the little bit of wealth we do have will drop to zero.
Now, I don’t know about the ways of White folks, but I do now they are making sure they continue to build and protect their wealth, collectively.
While we squabble amongst ourselves about “who ain’t shit” and “ who got and who ain’t got” the fact remains that we collectively are struggling compared to our White and Asian counterparts. Sure, a few of us are doing our thing, but in the end we are ALL BROKE when we use our estimated 1.1 TRILLION in spending power to make Wypipo business success while we ignore and debase our own.
We got to do better.
How do we undo the over 400 years of Black inferiority and division we have been fed that has us hating ourselves?
How do we foster positive racial identity development in diasporic people growing up in a country where Whiteness is the standard?
How do we make Black people realize that we’re diasporic, and therefore we are connected to a history that starts in Africa?
Man, How do we actually get Black people to love Black people?
Two weeks ago or so, on Thursday October 19th, I was invited to attend CUNY Black Male Initiative’s 2nd Annual Kickoff featuring Birthright Africa, whose mission is to, “inspires youth and young adults of African descent ages 13 – 30 to explore their cultural roots and legacy of innovation within the United States and select nations in Africa. Through travel and project-based learning in collaboration with our partners, we aim to instill pride, enhance self-efficacy, and spark the creativity of our Scholars to fulfill their leadership and entrepreneurial aspirations.”
This organization, in collaboration with CUNY and the Black Male Initiative, sponsored a trip to Ghana for 7 CUNY students in order for them to establish their diasporic connection. They select students who identify as African in descent, and through an application process, these students had to explain what the experience would do to further develop their African cultural identity. Before the trip abroad, students spend time in New York’s Seneca village and Washington D.C.’s Museum of African American history doing field work to familiarize themselves with the history here in America and on the Continent.
Then the students spent 10 days in Ghana visiting universities, the slave castles, villages and other cultural sites, as they interacted with local Ghanaians and learned about an Africa that they don’t get to see on TV.
I was very excited to attend the kickoff and eager to hear from the students about their experiences. The students were inspiring, but I kept on wondering what was next? How would they use what they learned to dismantle White supremacy? How could they continue to make connections between Black people here in America and their relationship to the continent? I wanted to know how this experience would impact our liberation?
I know, I was putting way too much pressure on a ten day trip.
Khalilah quickly reminded me that this work and the enormity of it all is not meant to be carried by one program.
The weight is for all of us to bear.
Birthright Africa is giving Black students the much needed opportunity to develop a diasporic lens and see themselves within the larger, more global backdrop of Blackness. And even if that is all that they do, than that is amazing in and of itself.
“We have been taught how to resist White oppression and supremacy for so long, that we may not actually understand how to dismantle it.”