I was a guest on one of USTalk Network’s Internet radio programs this past weekend, and the subject was the troubled relations between African Americans and Africans and people from the Caribbean nations. Raynard Jackson, host of the Internet radio program “Talking Right,” had written a column discussing the divisions existing among these three groups, especially as regards their acceptance of one other. He got quite a bit of feedback – both positive and negative – from America, Africa and the Caribbean. On the show, callers from as close to the studio as suburban Maryland and as far away as South Africa gave their views.
Accounts were shared about negative experiences Africans have received at the hands of African Americans, African American jealousies about the seemingly sudden success of African and Caribbean immigrants when they arrive in the U.S. and the general ignorance all three groups have about one another. In this day and time, such ignorance is puzzling.
There are so many Africans and Caribbean people living, working and studying n America and increasing intermarriage that suggests we should know one another better and have learned by now how to cooperate. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case. After an eye-opening Western Hemisphere Diaspora conference in December 2002 sponsored here in Washington by the African Union, within weeks Africa’s regional organization changed its charter to acknowledge the African Diaspora as the sixth region of Africa. Unfortunately, not much of significance has happened since that time to make this opportunity for Diaspora-African cooperation gain substance. But if we don’t acknowledge one another and learn to cooperate in the greater interest of all the descendants of Africa, that charter change becomes merely symbolism.
Over the last century, leaders such as Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, George Padmore and Leon Sullivan have worked to unite the African Diaspora for the benefit of the continent. The process of reconciliation cannot succeed , though, when you have Africans speculate on how African black Americans are, as one writer questions in the current issue of the magazine “Focus on Africa,” or have people in the Diaspora continue to ask ignorant, insulting questions of Africans about their level of civilization on the continent or have the industriousness of Caribbean people turned into a joke like the skits about the hard-working Hedley family on the “In Living Color” television show. Too much depends on our knowing one another, embracing our differences and understanding what we each bring to joint efforts.
If they were alive today, Garvey, DuBois, Padmore and Sullivan would be bitterly disappointed at how we have squandered the opportunities they made possible. We can do better to learn each other and work cooperatively, and it is high time we did so.