Black On Black: Ghana’s Complicated Relationship With The Diaspora

#1. We Need To Talk

It’s  Black History Month – a month America has dedicated to celebrate the feats of African-Americans’ contributions to America and to the world.

It was established because so much of the African-America’s contributions to various endeavours was overlooked, dismissed and in some tragic cases, lost to history. Because – White Supremacy.

But even as Ghanaians join the solemnities and gasp in awe at how far our brethren have come, we need to have a reflective moment.

A couple of months ago, Ghana was the beacon for Africa Americans across the globe who celebrated 400 years since the first slaves were transported from Jamestown, Accra to Jamestown, Virginia. Dubbed Year of Return, it pulled the crème de le crème of African America : from celebrities to bloggers to regular folks who wanted to reconnect with their roots.

It was a mixed bag of experiences but for the most part, it was an initiative that exceeded expectations and has set Ghana firmly as the heart of the Motherland for Diasporans.

But one interesting consequence of this event was the need for conversations to be had between Africans on the continent and Africans in the Diaspora. Because the huge difference between what we each believe about each other to be true and what is the actual truth about our circumstances is vastly different.

Hugely different.

Shockingly different.

In a way, the TV shows portraying African-Americans as thugs and hoodlums has seeped into the African conscience so we tend to regard all African-Americans in that light. (hence the highly insulting term “akata”)

And in the same way, the shows which highlight the stark poverty, famine and civil wars of Africa has lead many African-Americans to buy into the idea that Africans on the whole are poor and deprived (hence the insulting phrase “African booty scratcher”)

Lawrence Fishbourne’s character in Black-ish said it best when he commented off-handledly about one of Junior’s classmates who was from Malawi : “They (meaning Africans) don’t like us anyway.”

I’ve heard it said that one’s perception shapes  ones’ reality; if this is the case, then this distorted perception that Ghanaians (and Black Africans on the whole) and African Americans have about each other is really doing us more harm than good.

We need to have a talk; an on-going, long-running, intense conversation starting from our (Africans’) role in slavery and the slave trade to our current state of affairs.

It’s not going to be an easy conversation, but judging from the level of ignorance being slung from both sides, it’s something that needs to be done.

And since February is Black History Month, there’s no better time to start than the present.

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