“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”
Being an African living in the U.S,it’s so easy for me to take an observer’s perspective and see myself as an outsider to race relations here.Or so I once thought…the truth is,if you appear black,regardless of where you are from-Ghana,Nigeria,Sierra Leone,you are just another black person in America. Whether you want it to or or not-the color of your skin will mostly define your identity.It might not be the identity you own ,embrace or acknowledge .Many Africans who migrate to the U.S choose to identify as Ghanaian -Americans,Nigerian-Americans,Liberian-Americans,Somali-Americans,etc.That is not just an assertion of identity ,but a constant struggle to preserve the uniqueness of these identities,in a society where ideas of blackness are seen as homogenous,and not as complex and diverse as they truly are.However,these assertions of uniqueness do not seem to make much of a difference with regards to race relations for Africans.
Micheal Brown,an unarmed 18 year old African American,was shot by a police officer in Ferguson,Missouri. Amadou Diallo ,an unarmed 23 year old immigrant from Guinea,was shot 41 times by police officers in New York in 1999.Ousmane Zongo,an unarmed 43 year old immigrant from Burkina Faso,was shot by a police officer in New York in 2003.What are the similarities here?They are all black men,regardless of their status as African immigrants or African American.
If you are a black African living in the U.S,do not expect to have a brief Q and A session,in which you will be asked what kind of black you are,before being racially profiled or discriminated against.You can assert your identity as a “non-American Black”,but America does not allow you to be autonomous in your perception of your own blackness and identity.
As I stated earlier,blackness in America is homogenized. Even the safety net of being among the “model minority” does not guarantee safety from racial discrimination or racial profiling.Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie rightfully stated,”America doesn’t care”.