Same Color, Different World: How White Power Works
Posted by porlapaz on April 1, 2008
Entering the crowded cafeteria my eyes darted around for a place to sit and eat lunch. “Akbar” (not his real name) a student from Kenya was sitting alone so I decided to sit with him and chat a little bit. Akbar was a transfer student from Daystar University in Nairobi and I enjoyed talking with him, hearing about his experiences both in Kenya and the U.S. We were both at a predominantly white Christian college in the U.S., both had similar skin color, he was African; I am African American, but clearly our worlds were very different. Akbar would tell me about his adventures in the city as an African who was sometimes mistaken for an African American. He shared his frustration of being taken as a thief when store security followed him around while he shopped. “They think I am African American” he would say. “Many African Americans steal and many are violent.” “Aw come on Akbar, do you think that’s really?” “Yes, I see it for myself now that I am here but before I came here, the missionaries in Kenya warned me saying I should not associate with blacks here because they are violent, I should only associate with Christians.”
This dialogue among many other disturbing conversations with Akbar took place a long time ago but they have never left me and they continue to resonate in dialogues I have had with other Africans living here in the states. An African colleague recently came into my office to express a heartfelt concern, “Why don’t African Americans like Africans.” A Nigerian man asked me why African Americans have not attained more status especially with all the opportunities they have in America. Are they just lazy? While taking a town car to the airport in Denver just a few weeks ago, the driver, a gentleman from Morocco talked about how great America is and how anybody can make it here. He loudly wondered why so many black people have not done better in America. “What’s wrong with them?” Similarly, many African Americans carry frustrations regarding Africans. What’s going on?
Kofi Glover, Ghanaian professor of political science at University of South Florida, first states that “a shared complexion does not equal a shared culture, nor does it automatically lead to friendships. Whether we like it or not, Africans and African-Americans have two different and very distinct cultures.” Glover also points out that many of our perceptions of each other are rooted in “all the negative things we’ve been taught about each other. A lot of African-Americans were taught that Africa was nothing more than just a primitive, backward jungle from whence they came, while Africans have picked up whites’ fear of blacks. Our perception of African-Americans is that they are a race of people who carry guns and are very, very violent.” (Quote from “African vs. African-American: A shared complexion does not guarantee racial solidarity,” by Tracie Reddick, The Tribune Co. 1998.)
Internalized Racial Oppression (IRO) persists between these groups. Africans and African Americans stereotype and point fingers at each other while the broader scheme of white power and privilege quietly consumes us and preserves itself. The divide and conquer trickery of white power is that it maintains itself by creating infighting between people of color groups, thus diverting our attention away from the real problem, that of white power and privilege. As people of color we must find ways to come together to fight the common enemy of white power, and refuse to let that power continue to divide us.
This entry was posted on April 1, 2008 at 3:56 pm and is filed under immigration, internalized oppression, newsletter, white superiority. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.