African Americans are Appropriating African Culture: An African American Response!

Written by: Alycia Lowery

I think it would be fair to state that over the last few years there has been a significant influx of millennials embracing their African heritage and black empowerment. For many this embrace is one of racial pride, self awareness, and a well overdue unite between Africans and African Americans. However much like any other major movement, there seems to always be a group whose primary agenda is to  derail the positive  progress with negative commentary and  propaganda. Several continental Africans (those who are directly from the continent and their offspring; usually first generation Americans) have taken their sentiments about African Americans “appropriating” African culture to social platforms such as twitter, instagram, facebook, blogs, etc.

Appropriation is defined as “ the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.” So in terms of the definition I’d like to know how in the world can we appropriate a culture that is rightfully ours just as much as it is yours, furthermore who do we ask, for permission? I will openly acknowledge that if we (African Americans) are not wearing the garb properly during the appropriate occasion, missing key ingredients used to prepare a traditional meal, mispronouncing your name, or any other form of misrepresentation; BY ALL MEANS CALL US OUT! But please be sure to follow up that constructive criticism with a tutorial; because as far as I am concerned without the latter,these types of remarks are nothing more than an ethnocentric rant with a premise based on nationality hierarchy.

It is preposterous to state that African Americans are appropriating African culture when we are literally categorized as “African” Americans, with African stated before American as a clear indicator of who we are( All my Black Natives and Indigenous folks please do not come for me; I am aware and understand the narrative, in an effort to remain on point let’s not derail).  These types of remarks reveal an aura of haughtiness within the diaspora  experienced by AA’s by way of Africans. We’re literally put in a “damned if we you do, damned if we don’t circumstance.”

 

 

I also acknowledge the voices of our African brothers and sisters who state that their experiences here as children in the U.S. were accompanied with scoffing, cruel  jokes, and hurtful behavior from African Americans. On behalf of African Americans I’d like to extend my most humble apologies. What was done was wrong and completely unacceptable. There is no amount of explanation which can justify this behavior and as AA’s it is our responsibility to do a better job educating our children on the African diaspora and the numerous of people who may resemble us in phenotype but differ from us in location, language,cultural customs, and nationality.

I do ask that consideration be given to our (AA’s) upbringing in comparison to yours (Africans) and accept your responsibility in this this divide also.

I am confident in stating that many AA’s were not taught in our homes to hate or dislike Africans, in fact if we were to be caught engaging in such behavior there most likely would be some sort of disciplinary action taken by our parental figures. In comparison to Africans in which I can recall several first hand accounts where I have befriended continental Africans and along with the expression of hurt caused by AA’s, have confessed that growing up their parents specifically told them to stay away from AA’s, to disregard our cries of enslavement as it is nothing more than an excuse. AKAATA! Is what they call us; this term is just as derogatory as calling us Nigger, and God forbid you bring us home for courtship, you’ve practically ruined your life (sarcasm).  These sentiments which are embedded in you (Africans) since childhood more than likely remain well into adulthood, where in turn as AA’s mature and learn the majority of us do not go about berating Africans, in fact we tend to be much more embracive only to be met with disdain.

I find that some Africans will tell us to get over slavery all the while holding onto the torment experienced as a child and use that as a means to justify their nasty behavior towards AA’s in adulthood. This proves that trauma isn’t as easy to overcome; so when you reflect over your experiences, extend the hand of empathy towards our historical plight here in America.

When does this cycle end? The behavior displayed by some continental Africans towards AA’s is no different than that of a white supremacist. We are being kicked why we are down then frowned upon for not attempting to get up (i.e. “you have no culture!/ Why are you appropriating our culture?”) For some it is clear that your confidence thrives on our “lack”; lack of what is perceived to be without culture. “Even amongst the niggas, someone still has to be the niggers!” It is also interesting to consider whether Africans take into consideration that based on their logic that they too are capable of appropriating African American culture. I have witnessed multiple times where Africans will come into our spaces, assimilate, polish up their look, and climb the social ladder, and turn up their nose towards us; case and point.

 

How many times have we seen African women rocking bamboo and door knocker earrings, lace fronts and gelled baby hairs, and makeup which has either been advocated for or produced by AA women for darker pigments. How many times have we witnessed African men and women strolling in the parties with the rest of the Black greek community. How many times have we witnessed Africans using our slang/ebonics (brody, cuzzo, lit, etc.), doing our dances and jamming to our music, mimicking our platforms (i.e. reality tv, film,etc.), and infiltrating the thug/gang/street life (not condoning, making a point). Our culture is just up for grabs for everybody. Also, consider that the Black face here in America is rapidly changing to those of African and Caribbean nationality. If we are going to have this discussion let’s be honest in our criticisms and transparent with our analysis. The truth is you all are just as guilty as we are.

This is not an attack on continental Africans, personally I have had far more good experiences that not; but a mere reflection of your hypocrisy and a festering issue that if left unaddressed could potentially set back progression for unity and strides for collective ascension.

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