The phrase: “Everybody wanna be black, until its time to be black” is all I can think about these last few weeks in Cape Coast. This phrase revealed the dichotomy of the African and the African-American. The strong desire to be black, here, is related to the wealthy Obama figure, but not the hardship or disadvantages that come with being African-American.
Let us be clear, first, Yes, I love my blackness, and I would not trade it in for the world, but the color of my skin automatically puts me at the bottom of the racial ladder. Yes, being black comes with many struggles, but they also make my people stronger. However, I do not think people, that are not considered African-American, see the struggle of being African-American, only the false possibilities of having more opportunities.
Last week, I met a woman, and she asked, “Do you like America?” Well, Honestly, I love America, and like James Baldwin, “I insist on the right to criticize her.” I told the woman, “America is a decent place, but it’s not great for all people. It is not beneficial if you are not white.” She explained that she desired to move to America, find employment, and a better life.
I wondered what she meant by “better life”. I was unsure if she really knew what she was asking for. Being African-American, in this day and age, was nothing less than a struggle in all aspects of life, but she wanted a better life than her government, ownership of land, home relations- all built by them, controlled by them, and for them. I do not think she realized that African-Americans do not have that privilege of having any legit homeland, or government that is ruled by our people, or land that we are entitled. I wonder if she knew we do not have the privilege of knowing where we came from, or the privilege to actually know our families history.
However, she wanted to give up being Ghanian to be characterized as Black or African-American. This lady was not the only one that wanted to be a part of our hyphenated minority. Many of the people I met dreamed of going to America. But everything comes with a cost. I don’t believe giving up your identity should be the price. This issue was not one-sided. Many African-Americans longed to go back to Africa and connect with their roots. But how can we join a culture or group that is not the western ways we are trained on? In other words, we have lived within a system of western ideas but want to now “return” to African Tradition.
The issue is we have adapted these western ideas, so much that I do not believe we would actually give them up. I do not even think that the Ghanian woman would want to give up her African Tradition. Whether you are going to America from Africa or going to Africa from America, when do we actually find the feeling of being home? When will the African-American actually be able to say, “This is where I am from.” How will the Ghanian be able to assimilate into the western culture?
I have been in Ghana for 4 weeks, and I still do not feel I belong here. I look like I can, but I still know I will never be apart of this society. The language barrier bothers me most. The fact that Ghanaians even has a way of talking based on the region or ethnic group they come from is so empowering and important. As an African-American, we do not have that privilege to be a part of a group and have a language that only we can understand. For example, even the African-American English Vernacular is being mocked by white Americans and other groups. Coming to Ghana, I do not feel that it is possible to mock another region’s language. I admire that Ghana has many languages and is not trying to strip its people of their native tongue. That is a privilege we, African Americans, may never experience.