African and African American: Unnecessary Social Distancing

I checked my Facebook page today only to come across this long discussion about the relationship between African Americans and Africans in the United States.  On the surface, we are the same people, after all it is a well-established fact that we have common ancestors.   A cursory look at the different submissions showed that there is some deep-seated animosity between the two groups.  It does not often come to the surface, but when one reads through the different views there is no missing it that opinions are very much crystalized, and it will take the intervention of God to bring the two sides together.

Some of the entrenched positions include many Africans’ belief that the African American always looks down on them.  An example is many African Americans referring to new Africans as “Fresh off the Boat” (FOB), and the one that appears most vexatious is when an African American calls an African “Mfufu” just because the name is a tad difficult to pronounce. This feeling is not one-sided, because many African Americans also believe that the Africans look down on them and always feel like they are superior.  One thing many African Americans in that discussion alluded to was the aloofness they feel from the black African when struggles arise with racism, police brutality, and issues of systemic domination and suppression.  What I can call the most vexatious issue for the African American is the idea many African blacks have that African Americans are lazy, and their seeming lack of appreciation for their history and what they have been through.

I decided to address this issue in this column this week, because our congregation is a predominantly black African congregation.  We live here and if we are here, we must play our own role in making sure that there is peace between us and our hosts in general, but most especially our black kin.  Personally, I do not see anything wrong with healthy competition between two groups of people, but we must know when what we say and how we act becomes offensive to the other group.  As far as I am concerned, the African American and the African black are mirror images of each other.  Some of our most noted traits are because of the environment in which we grew.  There is nothing that the African American does that the African black will not do if they grow up in the same environment as the African Americans and vice versa. We just need to learn to respect each other and appreciate the historical background of each other.  We must also learn to accommodate whatever little differences that exist between us even now. The word of God says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

This feud between the American black and the African black reminds me of the story of Abraham and Lot in the Bible.  Lot is Abraham’s nephew, and they have both left their country, their people, and their father’s household to the land that the Lord showed them (Genesis 12:1).  In the new land they both grew, and the land could not support them because both had a lot of livestock.  Naturally, quarrels broke out between Abraham’s herders and Lot’s herders.  Abraham however handled this in a very matured manner; he looked for peace and said to Lot “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives” (Genesis 13:8). He then told Lot “Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left” (Genesis 13:9).  This is a classic example of accommodation, especially between brothers.  This is my admonition, especially to us black Africans.  We must do all within our powers to accommodate our African American brethren, after all just as Abraham said to Lot, we are close relatives.  What binds us together is way more than the things that divide us.  When issues of racism arise, they affect us all.  Unless we speak, the oppressors really do not see any difference between us, and they should not because we are the same.  We must not allow them to capitalize on our differences.  We must all bind together so that all social injustices in the society can be eradicated.  In times when we need to rise, we must make sure we rise.  We are people of the same household and we are not expected to be social distancing from each other; not from them and not from their causes because their causes should be our causes. Let us come together because the broom is stronger together than alone.  May God give us the wisdom of Abraham. – Pastor Simbo Odunaiya

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