While African immigrants attend college at a much higher rate than U.S. born Blacks. Their motivation of course, is very different—in that they leave their country, which has no opportunities and come to the United States that has many opportunities. “They come to do something with their lives, not to sit around and do nothing.” Exclaimed David, my male Ugandan friend who sat across from me in a Cuban restaurant. “Our cultures are very different.” CeCe, my female friend continued. I said yes, but for American Blacks, it’s a culture of low expectations also…dating back to the days of slavery (CeCe rolled her eyes at me, but I ignore it). “American Blacks were faced with institutionalized racism; do you know what that even means?” I asked. “It means that the system that was erected due to biased inequality in this country was woven so deeply into the fabric of this country’s laws, policies and practices based solely on race—so Black students just gave up.” I finished, taking a bite of my chicken.

“Don’t be angry.” David besieged, trying to placate me. “I’m not angry.” I replied, looking at both of them. But I was. “Look, the legacy of colonialism impacts each group” He says. “Along with how people are introduced to and have access to work. People born in Africa have a different perspective on opportunities and rights at the workplace than those who were born in the United States, who have their own perspective on this country’s history of discrimination. So for American Blacks and Africans, there’s always going to be an undertone of conflict. It doesn’t surface often…but, I have to tell you, people from Africa have the impression that they’re a little bit smarter…a little more superior than you American Blacks. It doesn’t get talked about in mixed company of course, only amongst ourselves. I don’t always agree with my countrymen, because I’ve met very intelligent American Blacks…you included. But I have to further say, both groups share misinformation, lack of knowledge and understanding of each other.”

“But you know what bothers me?” CeCe asked. “Africans think that American Blacks give their children useless, stupid names, like Tameka and Tyquesha or Moesha…what does those names mean?” She asks me. “I don’t know”, I replied. “But the majority of our names especially our surnames are white names which tell us our ancestors were once property owned by the white slaveholders. And I’m guessing by giving their children quasi-African sounding names is their way of erasing or correcting that.” I reasoned. “Okay, that’s plausible, but I’m tired of the self-pity the American Blacks always wallow in; always blaming your problems on ‘Wazunga’, the white man…or if not the white man, then the Africans who sold their ancestors into slavery.” CeCe finished, pointing her fork at me.

“Well its true isn’t it?” I challenged her. “Well maybe they should have run faster, and then maybe the white man wouldn’t have gotten them!” “CeCe that’s not funny.” David said, admonishing her. “Okay, it’s not funny, but it is ridiculous to suggest that Africans haven’t had to deal with racism…we dealt with it, tried to overcome it and have moved on. We don’t dwell on it.” I had to remind her that racism in this country is still alive and kicking!! And is even more self evident because we have a Black president. “Yes, but Americans stay too focus on the racism, which prevents you from moving forward to achieve. A lot of Africans come here with absolutely nothing but the desire to do something for themselves, and for that, we are condemned for trying. We know all white people see is our black skin; and they could careless about our intra-cultural arguments…in fact they are hoping that we all kill each other fighting over the scraps…to divide and conquer.” Out of breath, CeCe took a drink of water. “I understand all that”, I said. “But let me tell you about some Black history that you don’t know…or maybe you do.” David leaned in closer.

“American Blacks moved up north from the South in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s to fill low-paying jobs. They fought for their rights…rights that YOU and David are enjoying NOW!!!! They demanded access to better jobs and weren’t willing to continue bad-paying work under poor and substandard conditions. But when Africans come here and take the goff and disrespect white bosses subject them to without complaint, they are seen as “better workers, with better attitudes” than American Blacks. And it worsened in hard economic times when Blacks of all stripes vied for the few measly jobs available, especially when a lot of you don’t understand what it’s like to not be seen as a valid contributor to American society. And when you get here, you pick up on the stereotypical attitude toward American Blacks and think to yourself, ‘I wasn’t born here, so I’m not one of them. So what we see is a willingness to stab us in the back, while kissing up to the white bosses with a ‘yes, massa’ attitude.” I exhaled. “So David’s earlier comment about Americans sitting around doing nothing…I resent the hell out of that comment. And by-the-by, both of you have been in the United States only 6 years and if it weren’t for American Blacks you wouldn’t be able to enjoy OUR…

• Affirmative Action
• The Right to Vote
• Access to Education
• Civil Rights (even though most Africans didn’t participate in the movement)
• Jobs with benefits
• Decent housing
• Healthcare
• Other Economic opportunities, entitlements, etc.

I continued to say, “American Blacks have trail-blazed and set examples in this country of which Africans enjoy, so DO NOT denigrate American Blacks.”

A.G. Thornton is a writer an author of FAMILY, FRIENDS, HUSBANDS and LOVERS… THE BEST OF ENEMIES


  1. Well said, I have had a similar conversation with people from Africa, who when they have encountered me, said things like yes but you are different. As if to said I am unique in the fact that I have education and speak proper English. They took it as to assume that all blacks fall under the stereotypes that the media shows. I have told them if it wasn’t for the strives that blacks have fought for, they would not be able to come here and benefit. They become just as jaded as others but I noticed the younger African generation is embracing American culture more and more every day. They adopt American names and assimilate to the lifestyles also. There is some hypocritical behavior in my opinion.

  2. A.G., thank you for your article…I enjoyed it, it was very thought provoking. So, this very, stimulating conversation took place in a Cuban restaurant. Cuba is a place I wouldn`t mind visiting one day. I have much love for Cuba, for maintaining that sovereignty, in their defeat of The U.S. in that debacle, called, ‘The Bay Of Pigs’ under the Kennedy administration. The U.S. got what they deserved, a good butt kicking. I, stand and, salute Castro, Che Guevara and all the great freedom fighters in their defence of Cuba.

    Now, first of all, the commentary amongst you and your comrades illuminated the great divide between Blacks in The states and those in Africa. The effects of slavery still persist. When you have a conversation between Blacks in America and those in Africa tou will inevitably have a clash of ideals…one being Western and the other Eastern. Our brothas, and sistas, from Africa can`t begin to comprehend what was done through slavery. We are talking about something that has lingered for five centuries.

    Institutionalize racism does play an unequivocally and immense role in all areas of life in this, so-called, democracy, that we called, The U.S. In many companies today, you still have positions being filled by Blacks as a token to satisfy quotas. So, when it may appear on the surface that you have gained ground it is nothing more than an illusion at its finest. Whites, in America, will NEVER affirm the humanity of Blacks, regardless of how many laws may be passed in order to placate us. Until a man first acknowledges your humanity, all areas of life will be less accessible.

    Now, it`s no so much that Blacks in America have become languid, but more that they have become disillusioned by the proclamation of American largess. Blacks, in America, have a historical perspective that speaks largely against any professed equtiy by whites. Now, as far as culture goes, I submit that we, especially in America, don`t have one. I read in ‘Nobody Knows My Name’ by James Baldwin, in a conference held in Sep. ’56, where one of the speakers stated, paraphrasing, that you can`t have a culture unless you have total liberty…and I totally agree.

    I agree, because how can you express your mores, your essential nature, etc, unless you are totally inprohibited. When you are a colonized people, all meaningful life is slowly sifted out of you until you begin to take on all the traits of your colonizer…greed, selfishness, etc. Blacks, in America, still have an enormous crucible to face. And from where I stand, I see a huge thunderhead just beginning to form…I pray that, The Most High will supply us with the proper armor that will allow us to endure.

    MJ & The GOLDEN 80s 4eva!!


  3. I don’t think Africans are smarter than Black Americans. It depends on each person’s intellect. I do think that when they come over they do utilize the opportunities for advancement. From discussions that I’ve had Africans think Americans look down on them. Some Americans thi nk africans think they are better. It would be nice if we could all come together. To me black is black, africa..america..jamaica..haiti..I love everybody…

  4. =) Hey A.G. Point well taken. However, while African Americans were fighting for civil liberties in the US, Africans were fighting for civil liberties in Africa. It was called Jim Crow here, but colonization over there. Let’s not forget that many of the amenities and natural resources we enjoy here in the U.S. are at the expense of the labor and often times even lives of Africans. =) By the way, I’m both African and African American (I couldn’t help but notice how you used Black instead of African to refer to blacks in America. And for those of you who want to point out that you’re not African since you’ve never been to Africa, may I remind you that African American is used to refer to us blacks who were brought here by the slave trade. No one ever assumes you’re from Arica when you say African American. Africans never refer to themselves as such. They always name the African country of their origin. Everyone knows African American is reserved for those of us who were stripped of our heritage). My dad is from Africa and my mom is black and from the Jim Crow south. =)

  5. I have heard and seen the same stated above from the author. We can be in the same building but don’t communicate. I have had some interesting conversations with Africans that have turned me off. I have heard some of the worst comments from them. I will not forget what I have heard or seen from them (Professionals). Horrible.

  6. My previous post was a little long. Simply put, I understand your frustration, A.G. However, before you spit off a laundry list of all African Americans have done for Africans, don’t forget what Africans have done and are doing for African Americans. =) Believe me, boo–we’re all in the same boat. The quickest way to destroy a vulnerable group is to create a dichotomy. Let’s put an end to that. Africans, do better. African Americans, do better. Hell, West Indians, do better.

  7. There are some trifling parts of our culture as AA I will admit, that causes many cultures to look down on us AND vice versa. I think it stings a little more when it’s Africans we can learn from one another and uplift each other. Personally I don’t think it’s as serious as the white racism we have to deal with, I think we need to try and get to know one another better that’s all. I am proud of what Africans have accomplished here but they must remember WE made that possible.

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