Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hater hater hater hater hater

As salaam alaikum,

I started reading The Root (theroot.com) after my previous relationship, and my SO at the time was into all things black. All things pan-African and all things African diaspora. I mean, it's no wonder--we met at a pan-African book club hosted by mutual friends. It only had to be. Except, in spite of being the one who actually has black American ancestry, he was blacker than I was. I didn't read The Root or Grio as my main news sources, after all. And it was always off-putting for me to see only stories about black people--as if only news stories involving black people mattered to black people.

Maybe I really wasn't black enough.

Though it's by far not my only news source, it's one of the more consistent news sites I visit. I get most of the rest of my news from my Facebook newsfeed and the front page of NYT or The Seattle Times in the coffee shops I visit a couple of days a week.

I don't have television.

Anyway, this was a long preface.

One of the stories I love to read in The Root is that of young adults of color excelling in academics or in their early careers. Reading these pieces make me almost certain that I want to home-school my future children, insha'Allah. Seriously, it seems like children who are home-schooled really have their potential unlocked.

Occasionally, there will also be a story about a young person who got accepted to all of the Ivy League schools for college. I'm impressed that this happens more than once, but then again, I never met anyone who applied to all Ivy League schools.

The first two articles of this type that I'd seen in the last two weeks were about first or second generation African students. One was Nigerian American, the other, Somali American. I've come to almost anticipate in the comment section at least someone pointing out that these are African immigrants, and then stating a variation of the following sentiments:

(1) "Slave-descended success does not equal non-slave-descended success." I put this in quotes and I must call it out because this was blurted in a Facebook discussion by one of my acquaintances, who was one of my smart and hardworking classmates in public health school. She said this in response to an article I posted about Nigerians being the most educated immigrants in the country. I think she didn't know that I was, in fact, only half Nigerian and the other half "slave-descended." I asked her which success I benefited from, either or none at all. The more tactful version of this comment is, "I'm proud of this young person, but their circumstances are different, being an African immigrant. They came here as a child, so their formative years were not marred by the effects of American institutionalized racism like their African American counterparts."


(2) "If only young black kids/students could stop [fill in the blank of some stereotypical assumption about black students], they could be achieving these things, too."

(3) African first- and second-generation students are taking "the slots" meant for African American students at these schools.

There are probably others I have missed.

I'm used to these things, and, knowing that I probably shouldn't be wasting my time reading comments sections, anyway, I move on. Or so I think.

Then, today, I read an article about an African American student whose family lost everything in Katrina who overcame this loss and went on to get into 8 Ivy League colleges. I looked at her first and last name. She did not seem like a first- or second-generationer. I scrolled down to the comments section, expecting to see someone say, "Now, here is the story I'm looking for. Congratulations to this young woman!"

Instead, I see a comment, full of vitriol, that does not merit paraphrasing and makes little sense. The young woman wanted to study literature and political science. Great. Those are great majors for pre-law, I would think. Instead, this commenter said something about the majors guaranteeing that she would stay in her parents' home until marriage, harkening to a history at HBCUs of women entering college to marry the HBCU men, snarky comment about high echelon blacks, as this person assumes this woman's parents must be, etc.

And the title of this post is my reaction to that comment.

I realized that there is a group of never-satisfied people who will take this story and despair at the fact that the person is African immigrant or immigrant-descended and thus not "real" black. There is someone else who will dismiss and individual as being part of a so-called disconnected black social class, even if they do not have that data.

This is why I loved the "Player Haters Ball" skit of the Chappelle show so much. Hate for no reason. Hate because you're breathing. Hate with no data. Hate because you can.

And this is the semi-benign (because no hate is ever benign) hating-on, as opposed to the always damaging actual hate that I'm speaking to.

I guess those who think of the stories in an only positive light, like myself, are not the ones commenting.

One of black people's favorite words (at least the black people I grew up with) was accolades. Okay. Can we not give accolades where accolades are due? Seriously. Let's stop bickering about how we should celebrate young African first- and second-gens less because their success means less and its supposedly achieved on the backs of African Americans. Because no it doesn't and no it's not. I am Nigerian-American and I am African-American. I live both perspective simultaneously. Ask me anything.

Maybe if we celebrated one another with genuine pride, we could learn from one another and make this place a better place for all of our children, because seriously, right now, this country is pretty shitty for black people. An African surname will not save any of us from a racist too blinded by our hues and browns to see our humanity.

Maybe we wouldn't have turned our back on Martin Luther King and left him vulnerable and left him assassinated.

Maybe we wouldn't have assisted in the killing of brother Malcolm.

And on and on.

So, in summary, I'm tired of the hate. This is ridiculous. Yes, I do want to hear the story of the kid raised by a hard-working single mom, or who grew up below 100% poverty line, or who struggled through the grittiest ghettos or survived the most dilapidated of school districts get accepted into all the Ivy league schools he or she applied to, but more than that, I want to hear about the adults on the other side of their college education finding careers to help make a difference in ways that are meaningful to them in their communities and in society in general. Because that's where it counts.

And if we're stuck back at being less proud of Africans or disdainful of rich blacks, then I have to quote my mother in telling us, "That's why [we] ain't runnin' nothin'."


  1. Aw, this was an incredibly good post. Taking the time and actual effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I put things
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  2. Excellent post! I am often amazed by the lack of support amongst black people. I am not certain the cause but know that it is detrimental to the advancement of us as a people.

  3. this sounds like part of the Africans vs. African-Americans debate. It's great to read someone's perspective as a member of both communities. At some point I became convinced that its human nature to tear things down; I thought it was phenonom largely engulfing academia but unfortunately its all around us. I think we (all black folk in America whether your people immigrated by choice or otherwise) don't get enough platforms to articulate the diversity within our communities and so when we do they come out as trite statements like slavery-black or sugar cane-black or rice-paddy black. At the end of the day, assimilation is the American way, so even if our parents came from Togo or Trinidad after a while, it doesn't matter as much--- we end up facing many of the same prejudices. But yeah it's hard to accept or even realize the fact that many of the barriers that are in front of AFrican-Americans are not neccessarily in front of Africans... but many are. At any raate, I say kudos to those kids that beat the odds and get into all the Ivies or even one, wherever they came from, I just wish more had the opportunity.

    1. Yes, yes, it is part of the African v African-American debate. Growing up both was interesting, in the way that you are at the same time of both groups and of neither group. I agree with you on not having the platform to discuss our diversity articulately...I love the way you put that! Let's put together something not hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr! ;)

    2. It seems that talking about the nuance of identity and race is something that is challenging everywhere I go. On one hand one has to be a master of not being offensive towards the sensibilities of those who have been greatly harmed by the racism of the mess that resulted from the trans Atlantic slave trade, on the other hand to give people a pass on personal responsibility is not beneficial either. Yes, it is unfair, No, no one else will fix it for us.

      As long as minorities look to the very group that harms them, that being the institutions of government and law in all of their various manifestations, for help.

      I say this, knowing that if a child is born with melanin in his or her skin that the odds of them receiving the same type of education and health care as someone withoyut melanin is very unlikely.

      And most people will agree that education and lack of urban infra-structure are 2 giant issues that keep us locked down in the cylcle of under eduacation, poverty, and violence.