I, for the very first time, saw the possibility of being able to call myself African and believe it. It allowed me to step into a world where being black could mean focusing more on being African than American, or at the very least, to the same degree. Being African was something I could claim as a tangible identity and not an obligatory or obscure label. Being an African-American no longer had to be an anchor to a coiled history bottled within my genes, but a direction I can choose to follow.
The term “Oppression Olympics” was first introduced to me in passing during my junior year of high school when two friends of mine had gotten into a heated argument. The quarrel was about the injustices they face as a result of them being a member of their respective marginalized group. As I attempted to calm both of them down, I began to wonder why some members of marginalized groups feel the need to diminish the residual effects of painful history other groups outside of theirs faced?
The post-colonial mindset is real, and colorism exists in places where one may never imagine, at least I didn’t imagine it to be so. I was walking with my group, and multiple times I was called “Obroni” which is an Akan word that means “foreigner” or truer, “white man”. I was called this not because my skin was more brown than black, but because of my curly hair, which stood out to the local people and the typical coarse, kinkier hair which they were used to seeing. They saw the injecting of white man’s genetics into my being from generations past, and associated me with the like, fully.
I graduated with determination and resilience, two critical characteristics that surfaced out of my experience in our current society and my Africana study courses. As I looked at the workforce for guidance I knew that my focus would be working with a community that represents me. In reality that was not the case. I was seeking jobs in environments that disconnected me from my experiences at home and my community. Although the pay was greatly livable, it was not nourishing my spirit.
We, Ethiopians, stereotypically perceive ourselves as a different sect altogether. It is true that we are a longstanding sovereign country, who do not hail colonization in our history, and our great-grand and grandparents have given their lives to make it remain so. But that does not give us an exemption from our Blackness.
It was very indicative of the current relationship between Africans and African Americans. There’s so much animus or competition that I have never quite understood. Both groups use derogatory names to refer to each other. In Africa, African American culture is very big and influential in terms of how people speak and dress. But in creating “Black Panther,” Africans and African Americans came together to create art that black people around the world are proud of. But in everyday life, there is no such unity. I think it’s a vision for what can be possible when the two groups work together.
In spite of these tragedies, black women prevail and still aspire to be in happy and healthy relationships. How many of us however, ask ourselves questions like, who am I? What am I passionate about? What do I believe or not believe in? What are my boundaries? How do I want to contribute to society? I know a lot of people who continuously go through this back and forth limbo of dating and being in relationships without allowing ample time to reflect on the last.
We are here in the midst of an extremely historic time. People from all over the world are rushing here to smoke cigars, to see Cuba before the “changes” begin and to say they witnessed history. However, we came here with different intentions. Heeding the words of Angela Davis, we came here to partake in the revolutionary act of self-care.
In the beginning, the music of African American music instilled hope and unity in the black community and operated as a part of our culture that separated us from them. It was a disguise for our escape and keeping our will high. Today, with social media and the power of technology, messages can be dispersed at a rapid pace. It can spark a movement that can last for some time, and a good song is always remembered. It has the potential to be just as powerful as it was in the times of slavery.