Dear Black Americans, African-Americans, Haitian Americans, Jamaican Americans, Cape Verdean Americans, Black Puerto Rican Americans, Black Brazilian Americans, insert nationality + Black
Black folks are a people of immigration. A story that goes untold.
We are all vaguely familiar with the transatlantic slave trade. (If not then check it out in 2 minutes here.)
As Europeans ‘discovered’ more brown and black countries, people began pouring out of the blackest place on earth, Africa. (Learn more about forced migration here). Black people landed on different continents and created new phenotypes all connected to Mother Africa.
Looking at these pictures should point out a very big commonality… Descendants of Africa universally have darker skin and different features than the descendants of European nations, Asian nations, and most Middle Eastern and Latin nations. Even as we seek to separate ourselves, our skin, hair, eyes, noses, and mouths all hold varying evidence that we are all Africa’s children.
After discovering these ‘new’ countries, white Europeans set out to exploit and capitalize off of their discoveries. As a result the story of the black diaspora is EXTREMELY COMPLEX and experienced all over the world.
Enter my home: ‘Murica.
The white folks in America decided they wanted to leave the other white folks in Europe and do their own thing. (Learn about the American Revolution in 5 minutes here.) They are not alone. Native-born South African white people had the same idea.
But back to America: The Revolution created a unique White American identity that minimized their perspective heritages- Irish, Polish, Italian, etc. (This has come with historical challenges and discrimination that was overcome by identifying with a larger white social and political identity. See Irish Immigration and Italian Whiteness as examples.)
(Please note that we are not aware whether this man is Irish American, Spanish American, Italian, or whatever. He is just American.)
Black people were enslaved in this country during that time. The collective American identity for blacks was property. When you choose to enslave people primarily on the color of their skin, you have to find justification.
Black people became criminals, lazy, dumb, and any thing else to justify the need for slavery and oppression. Cheap labor is hard to come by. Black & brown people (more specifically poor people) fill this necessity in America today, as they always have.
The consequences of this thinking haunt White America creating interesting conversation around white rage, a topic for another time.
And black folks are collectively asked to believe that it is black people’s fault that natural disasters hit us harder (Hurricane Katrina and the Demographics of Death), recessions unemploy us first (Black Unemployment Rate History), prisons filled with us to the brim (Bureau of Prisons). (Note that the US does not discriminate by nationality).
The idea of race is SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED. (Read more about the Social Construction of Race here or here.)
What does this mean?
It matters less in America what you consider yourself and more what people around you consider your race to be (this is not true all over the world). This means that your beautiful Jamaican son, in America is a black man for whom the American world reserves little beauty. The cops do not give a damn where you were born. And no matter how much you seek to protect your child he will become exposed to what race means in America, especially if he is born and raised here entirely.
What can we do?
Within the black community we have to work harder to include black immigrants and cultures into our lives. I am going to write more about the contributions of black immigrants to black culture and America in this blog so stay tuned.
UPDATE: We need to work harder to recognize the contributions all Black experiences have made to the American experience. And acknowledge that while American Black Culture is the most widely viewed image of Blackness, Black Americans are the minority in the total Black Experience. Let’s talk about this more on my post next week about Blackness.
Black immigrants that land on the shores of America should be included in our efforts at learning American Black history and culture. This understanding can create conversations that will lead to a clear agreement about issues that affect ALL OF US. And how to improve systems that claim to serve ALL OF US. (For example: crimmigration, police brutality, housing discrimination, disparities in education, and black unemployment to name a few.)
We are all connected so much more than we realize. Let’s all stop looking down at each other and start holding on to each other. THEY can’t tell us apart. So WE shouldn’t tear ourselves apart.
Let’s use social media to climb over the age old bullshit that has kept us separate. Do not fear what you don’t know and don’t understand. Let’s learn about each other.
What I am proposing is a radical love for each other. A love that will excuse our shortcomings and look past our miscommunications into something we could all deeply benefit from in this day and age: UNITY.
Do it for Mother.
We all we got.
Update: Done with the input of the creative mind behind The Black Love Project and the stationery company Watersidemrkt —-
Monique Ameyo consulting from New Orleans. She heavily influenced next week’s post about Blackness and I hope that her voice continues to be a part of the future! Please click and support! (She has some of the CUTEST Africa-inspired love notes ❤️).