My name is Moji Akinde, and I am an African from Nigeria. And I am American. And I am black. And I am African-American.
I am baffled that, in light of the murders of innocent black lives, a disturbingly large number of my fellow African brethren refuse to identify and empathize with being African-American. We are of the rhetoric that African-Americans could somehow avoid being racially profiled, targeted and killed by simply altering the way they dress, talk, act and live. We believe that if only black people would say their “Please” and “Thank Yous,” if only they wore a 3-piece suit to bed, if only they didn’t speak unless spoken to, if only they didn’t drink or smoke, if only. . .
We tell them to “just go to school” but refuse to acknowledge the bravery of little Ruby Bridges, the first black student to attend an all-white school post segregation in 1960.
We tell them to “just get a job,” yet we forget that we walked the roads paved by Ms. Rosa Parks, whose courage inspired the civil rights movement, which led to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. This enabled all of us to secure reasonable jobs and gave us the ability to send monthly money transfers to our loved ones back home.
We tell them to “just stay out of jail,” yet we forget that it was African-Americans like Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, and Fannie Lou Hamer who spent time in jail, with hopes that one day we would not be unjustly beaten or persecuted simply for the color of our skin.
We say “they have no African home training” but forget that Amadou Diallo was a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea who had only lived in New York for 3 years when 19 of the 41 shots fired at him killed him. His African home training did not save him.
We say “they are always fighting,” yet we forget that Abner Louima, a trained electrician from Haiti working as a security guard in Brooklyn, was breaking up a fight when he was assaulted and sodomized by NYPD officers.
My African people, blinded by an inexplicable superiority complex, fail to see that we are no different from African-Americans, whose ancestors (and our sisters and brothers) broke down walls of oppression and built roads to liberation so that we African immigrants may enter this country of our own free will, not forcefully stuffed in the bottom of a boat. And because we did not sail 7,000+ miles in a ships’ hull, we think that we are exempt from racism, prejudice, injustice, harm and in more frequent cases than necessary, death, based solely on our Africanness.
We believe that racism is and can be influenced by ones’ accents, affluence and accolades. We delude ourselves in thinking that the racist man only need take one look at the nice camouflage we’ve bought ourselves with our nice money, at the nice department store, in our nice neighborhood and see that we are not like “those people.”
Almost all Africans living in the Unites States know someone who dreams of the day they too will be in the “land of opportunity.” We all know of the horror stories, the challenges and obstacles that our African family members go through just to obtain entry into the United States. Because we fight so hard to get to America, many of us feel that African-Americans take their citizenship for granted, and we come to resent them. However, their centuries of struggles for a more fair and just America should dispel that myth. We have to stand with them as they continue to fight against injustice. We are the literal definition of African-American, and their struggle is our struggle too.
If we ignore this fight, we risk waking up one day to our son being the next Tamir Rice. He will not have an African accent because he was born and raised in America. He will speak English as a first language with that Chicago, New York or Houston drawl. He will not have that “African home training,” and he will tell his friends he’s African-American because it is true. He might talk back to his parents. He might talk back to his teachers. He might skip class. He might play loud music or stand on a corner with his friends. He might do something silly like play with a toy gun or buy some snacks at the convenience store. And because of the color of his skin, it is possible he could be killed. With what narrative would you justify his death? The forces that we fight against respect no shade of black or brown. They will kill ‘Tunde’ as quickly as they will kill ‘Tyrone.’