The original URL of this article is:
Parallel Lives Of Africans And African-Americans
By Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo
January 18, 2005
When Kim Lewis of the Voice of America's Africa World Tonight program contacted me and requested for an interview regarding my comments in "Cosby Disses my Homies", I was at a lost as to what caught her interest. In the course of the interview, I discovered that her interest amongst other things was the parallel lives of Africans and African - Americans that I inferred in the article. It was something I have not really thought about in that light.
A look at the position of the average African and average African-American revealed some surprising parallels. For the purpose of simplifying this piece, I will generalize even when I know there are exceptions. I also know Alexander Dumas warned that all generalizations are dangerous, so don't snap as you read. Treat this as an honest start of an authentic dialogue which all Africans in the Diaspora must have.
To begin with, Africans believe that the white man through colonization caused the problems that are ravaging Africa. African-Americans on their part believe that the white man through slavery sowed the seed of the problems ravaging the Black community in America.
Africans are seeking reparations for colonization. African-Americans are wailing for reparations for slavery.
At the end of colonization, Africans are blaming the elite, who have constituted themselves into a new colonial power, for using religion, ethnicity, and class differences to continue to divide and rule. On their part, African Americans are pointing at racial discrimination as the new tools that whites are using to subjugate African – Americans.
Africans believe that efforts by progressives to revamp Africa are being thwarted by some elements of the western society that want Africa on its knees. African Americans believe that efforts to resurrect African-American communities are being impeded by a segment of the white community that desires the dependence of African Americans.
Africans believe that it takes a village to raise a kid. African Americans believe that the society has an obligation to the people who constitute it.
Africans run to God for solutions to their man- made problems. African-Americans run to God for solutions to their man-made problems.
If Africans in America were home, they would not have stooped low to clean toilets and be nursing aides. They would have been making phone calls and sending letters and emails to their brothers and sisters abroad asking for handouts. African Americans who have an exaggerated sense of entitlement would rather stay home and wait for a handout than to go out there and clean toilets and be nursing aides.
Africans are outraged at High School drop out rates amongst African Americans. The figures on the percentage of kids who enter High School in Africa are abysmal and beyond embarrassing. Yet, it does not conjure up the same sense of outrage.
Africans would easily dismiss as mere excuse any attempt to establish the impact of American society on the conditions of African-Americans. Meanwhile, the divorce rate amongst Africans in America is easily attributed to the impact of American society on the conditions of Africans living in it.
In the privacy of their homes, Africans acknowledge difficulties at work place and most of which they attribute to discrimination. When possible, Africans quit the cooperate world and start a business for themselves in response. In public, Africans frown at any attempt by African- Americans to mention discrimination as an impediment to their success in America.
Africans do not know a thing about the truth and the sojourn of African-Americans. The concept of internalized self-hate, scramble for a lost heritage, endless years of struggle for ones dignity are things Africans are luck not to have been exposed to in a larger scale. African- Americans do not know a thing about the truth and sojourn of Africans. The idea that the establishment favors Africans who come to America ignores the rugged determination and drive that push the Africans.
Africans think that African-Americans make them look bad. African-Americans think that Africans make them look bad. In the eyes of whom, one may ask. In the eyes of those who do not wish to see any side appreciating, strengthening and emulating what is good in each other. Beyond the myth, the rise of African-Americans will mean the demise of Africa's stereotype as failed society, such as the rise of Africans will also mean the demise of African-American stereotype.
Africans are horrified by the black-on-black violence in African American communities. African Americans are disgusted by the ethnic/religious wars in Africa.
The poverty in Africa, often, in the midst of riches, is as troubling as the poverty in the inner cities of the richest, greatest and most powerful country in the world.
African-Americans who are searching for their heritage, their home and their history are looking toward Africa. Africans who are worried about the transformation of their home, their heritage and their history are trying to preserve it in America.
African- Americans invented Kwanzaa, Nation of Islam, soul food, all in an attempt to reconnect with Africa and separate themselves from white America. Africans on their part try to invent a new boat, even when the reality is that they are all in the same boat now.
AIDS kill more Africans than any other people in the world. AIDS kill more African-Americans than any other group in America.
If you want to save a people you don't just scold them. You have to understand them. Even when you scold, you have to scold from the position of understanding. You do not show that by condemning. You show it by serving. To effectively lead a people, you have to love them – not from a distance, but from an intimate and compassionate porch.
Can you imagine how much the cause of Black Renaissance would be advanced if these two parallel lines meet? Can you image the force of nature that would emerge?
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is a freelance writer based in New York. This article was originally published at