The following post was made on Facebook by a longtime friend, Richard Couch, who is an American military veteran. Oh, and he happens to be black. It should be mandatory reading for all the the Black Lives Matter crowd, black separatists, black nationalists, apologists, and those who believe anything uttered by Sharpton, Jackson, Farrakhan, or Obama.
Those of you who know what’s been going on with me lately will know why this is on my mind:
There is a romanticized image of “Mother Africa” held by some segments of the black population of this country. This romanticized image gains a measure of popular currency at irregular intervals, usually coinciding with some real or perceived uptick in racist hostility; the currency recedes after a time — mostly because the image of “Mother Africa” is based on a completely distorted perception of what Africa is. The image is also based in part on an incomplete or faulty understanding of who we black Americans are, as Americans who happen to be of African descent. The distinction is an important one.
In my own personal experience, I have yet to meet a citizen of any African nation who refers to him or herself as “African.” Ask a person from any of the countries of Africa where they are from, and you’ll get an answer along the lines of: “I’m from Burundi,” or “I come from Cameroon,” or “I’m from Nigeria.” No citizen of an African country will say “I’m an African.” This is because Africa is a continent, not a nation, just as Europe is a continent. Ask a citizen of a European country where they are from, and you’ll receive as an answer the name of a nation — not the continent of Europe. American blacks for the most part hold a holistic image of Africa, for want of a better term. We know that our ancestors were taken as captives “from Africa” and brought the United States as slaves. For obvious reasons, very few, if any of us, have any idea from what specific areas of the African continent our ancestors were taken.
Our links as Americans of African descent to the continent of Africa are tenuous at best, and our links to any individual nation of Africa are as good as non-existent. At a stretch, one may make a case that our strongest link to any African nation would be to Liberia, as that country was founded by repatriated slaves, but even that would be, as I said, a stretch.
As the descendants of people who were taken from widely varying areas of sub-Saharan Africa, there is no single culture to which American blacks can point; no single point of origin, no single ethnic group of the many to be found in Africa to which we may make some reasonable claim to membership. And that is a real problem, if one wishes to make some ethnocultural connection to some part of Africa.
The foundation of most African societies are the family, the clan and the tribe, rather than the nation. This is why African nations are riven by strife. The boundaries of the countries of modern Africa are remnants of the colonial era, when the European powers arbitrarily carved out colonies, drawing boundaries according to agreements set by themselves, which took no account of the various groups of people living in the areas in question. After all, they were all black, and the all looked the same, so what was the difference? Well, there was a BIG difference, though that difference was completely lost of the European conquerors. A lot of those different groups of people who were thrown together in the various European colonies didn’t particularly like each other, and they had been squabbling long before the first white man set foot on The Dark Continent. When the Europeans gave up their colonies, their boundaries stayed in place, which meant that those groups of people who didn’t get along were still thrown together, but without the restraining influence of European colonial armies to keep the ethnic antipathies in check. The worst recent example of ethnic boilover was the slaughter in Rwanda in 1998. Those who don’t remember it or are too young to have heard of it, do a Google search. (That will probably not apply to most folks here…)
There are those who blame Africa’s problems on the legacy of colonialism; that is a pretty lame excuse, to put it charitably. The peoples of Africa have had over fifty years to figure out how to live together, or how to divide themselves into groups that can reasonably live together, but for the most part they haven’t as of yet, and there are no white people keeping them from it, either implicitly or explicitly. The people of Sudan did figure this out a couple of years ago. The Christians and adherents of various traditional tribal religions in the south of that country split away from the Muslims in the north and formed their own nation of South Sudan. No one else has managed as of yet to formulate this simple solution.
I’ve said all of this as a preface to my point that those American blacks who cling to a romantic view of a “Mother Africa” where they can live in peace among welcoming people who look and behave just like they do have no idea of what Africa is really like. The ugly truth is that large parts of Africa are pretty horrendous. Slavery is still practiced in some parts of Africa, even in the 21st century, as ironic as this may seem to the descendants of people taken from Africa as slaves. Even if they were to realize their dream of “returning to the Motherland,” they would likely not find it quite so welcoming as they might imagine. As I pointed out, the primary loyalty is to family, clan and tribe — not to nation. Not only is this a source of strife and civil unrest, it would also prove to be a dangerous obstacle to settling in an African country. Far from being welcomed with open arms as “brothers and sisters,” American blacks would be seen as outsiders. I’ll leave the obvious cultural difficulties quite alone, as they should be, as I stated, obvious.
Aside from all of this, far from being a nurturing cradle of ethnic comfort, Africa is a place rife with conflict, cruelty, mendacity and some of the most horrific examples of man’s inhumanity to man to be found on this little planet. If you require proof of this, you have only to read a history of the African peoples written in the past fifty years, or to read news stories about events in Africa.
Yet, there are those people who, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, continue to harbor –and worse, to propagate, the completely false notion of “Mother Africa, The Welcoming Home Of the Disenchanted And Disenfranchised African Diaspora.”
No such place exists; no such place has ever existed, and it is extremely doubtful that any such place will ever exist as long as the various ethnic groups of the African continent harbor implacable, inveterate and irremediable antipathy toward each other.
As the saying goes, “you can’t ever go home again;” you also can’t go to a “home” that was never home in the first place.