TYPES OF AFRICAN AMERICANS
There are different types of African Americans. Contrary to what the lay man on the street, especially for those outside the shores of the American continents, the African American is not an homogeneous specie of mankind that can readily be identified or defined. Biologically, socioculturally and even materially the African American is far heterogeneous and far diverse beyond the imagination of the casual observer.
Professor Ali Mazrui wrote “The term ‘African Americans’ can be either hemispheric (meaning all descendants of enslavement in the Americas) or national (meaning all descendants of enslavement in the United States).”
The most striking form of diversity readily noticeable among the African American population is obviously that of skin complexion. This is, in part, actually accentuated by the undue regard accorded to skin color in the context of the American society. The skin color of the African American varies from the palest (which is indistinguishable from that of the average Caucasian) through the so-called ‘high-yellow’ to jet ebony black. It is on this note that Mary Church Terrell wrote that ‘We are the only human beings in the world with fifty-seven varieties of complexions who are classed together as a single racial unit.’
Other forms of readily perceptible diversity within the African American community are mostly material and geopolitical.
Generally speaking, the poorest section of the American society is the African American community. In fact the African American community proportionately has the largest percentage of people below the poverty line in the American community. This has created a broad-spectrum of economic variation between the diverse financial classes of African Americans. From abjectly poorest African American at the bottom of the spectrum to the wealthy African American elite at the top of the spectrum there is almost an infinite range of economic and financial gradation in-between.
Closely related to the topic of the economic diversity of the African American is the precursory issue of education, skills, and professionalism. Whether by design or by accident the African American has been perpetually relegated to the background in terms of educational, intellectual, and professional attainments in the American society.
Lack of access to full educational spawns its own daughter evils of unemployment, abject poverty and wanton criminality. Paul Hill, Jr., wrote “What is our condition? Thirteen decades have passed since emancipation, and half the Black Men between twenty-four and thirty-five are without full-time employment. One Black Man graduates from college for every one hundred who go to jail. Almost half of Black children live in poverty.”
The only professional field in which the African American has excelled is that of show business. But that is nonsense; the contributions of the entertainment industrial to the processes of community development and nation-building are secondary, if not tertiary and trivial, to the economic and political fields in which the African American have never been allowed the opportunity to excel.
Majority of the African Americans are prevented, by various social and economic factors, from an access to full-term educational qualifications. This has, in a vicious circle manner, teamed up with functional illiteracy and poverty, to continuously keep a major section of the African American community below the professional threshold from the attainment of economic and political excellence.
It is in this regard that a great diversity is readily discernible among the African American community in terms of economic attainments and financial achievements. This unsavory situation has in no small measure spawned different types of African American personality types that are atimes so disparate as to defy common inclusion in the same African American fold.
Another remarkable form of diversity among the African American population is that in terms of the geopolitical diversity. The Americas are geopolitically divisible into three main linguistic areas, namely, the English, the Francophone and the Hispanic areas. Since the population of the African American is immanently present in all nooks and corners of the Americas, it follows that the African American population has itself been divided along geopolitically linguistic lines into the English-speaking, French-speaking and Spanish-speaking African Americans.
Based on the geopolitical historiography, the English-speaking African Americans are concentrated mainly in Central America, the French-speaking African Americans are mainly concentrated in North America (Canada) and the Caribbean; while the Spanish-speaking African Americans are concentrated mainly in the South American continent.
The geopolitico-linguistic diversity that has isolated the sum totally gigantic African American into different, minority and enfeebled sub-communities has resulted in the generation of such sociologically diverse types of African Americans that greatly diminish any sense of uniformity that the term ‘African American’ may ever has implied.
This is not the right place to delve, in any details, into the economic and geopolitical diversity that has dismembered the African American population into an acephalous cacophony. We shall do that in the relevant sections of the present work. Also, my books titled ‘Why America Slept’ and ‘The Rise of Africa’, may be contacted for further details on this interesting topic.
For now we will begin our discourse on the different types of African Americans.
PRE-COLUMBIAN AFRICAN AMERICAN
The Republic of Guinea in America
Western history has been so steadily bleached that nobody is today aware of the fact that there were communities of Black African Negroes resident in the Americas long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus. These Black African Negro communities of pre-Columbian African Americans were not autochthonous or indigenous to the Americas , they were colonialists from West Africa and they were well-established as economic and maritime powers in the Americas before the so-called ‘discovery’ of America by Christopher Columbus.
Dr. Etiese Abasika discussed this issue with special reference to the Ibibio people of Nigeria in the following words: “According to African history, before the arrival of the white men in the Bight of Biafra, as early as 15th century by Vasco Da Gama, on his route to India, the Ibibios were great sea adventurers and in advanced civilizations in technologies, inventions and industries relating to arts, crafts, astronomy, entertainments, sciences, government setting, philosophy, culture and traditions which were equal to or superior to that of the white men. The present inventions of the white man in the areas of piano, drums, music, medicine, carving, weaving, ladders, ceramics, iron and bronze casting, religion, drawing and painting, circumcision, and so on, are the direct imitation of the Africans… The major differences in the definitions of civilization between that of the white man and the Africans are based on the social class structure and the capital mode of production.”
In the early 1920s Professor Leo Wierner’s phenomenally documented book, ‘Africa and the Discovery of America’, shook the academic and anthropological worlds by its massive array of vast research data proving that Black African Negroes were well-established in economic and political enterprises with the Native Americans long before the advent of the European Age of Discovery. Professor Leo Wierner pointed out that Black African Negroes from West Africa were the ones who led and conducted Christopher Columbus to the West Indies. The claim that ‘African Slaves’ merely ‘accompany’ Columbus to the West Indies is nothing but revisionist propaganda.
The idea of a pre-Columbian discovery of America by Black African Negroes from continental Africa has been around since the nineteenth century when Black intellectuals and historians began to challenge the Western depiction of Africa as a continent that has made no contribution whatsoever to the advance of human civilization.
The earliest documented beginnings of such claims may be traced to the writings of Professor E.W. Blyden which, in rather theoretical and non-scientific manners, sort to illustrate the world sovereignty of Africa through Egypt in prehistoric times was one of the leading Black intellectuals of that era. But, according to Dr. Kevin Shillington, a prolific historian of Africa, it was the scientifically-minded Professor Cheikh Anta Diop who came to give the necessary empirical and systematically documented evidences to the theories of Professor Edward Blyden. In his ‘Nations Negres et Culture’, Cheikh Anta Diop, who is a professional physicist and an Egyptologist, emphatically point out the fact that before the rise of the Caucasian races of Europe to world hegemony, the entire planet earth was originally under the One World sovereignty of Black African Negroes.
In the light of these Afrocentric ideologies the trove of incontrovertible research data have emerged in confirmation of the fact that Black African Negroes from the West African coast have been navigating the Atlantic Ocean, known in those days as the ‘Ethiopian Ocean’ or ‘African Ocean’, between the shores of the Americas and Africa.
The Black African sailors who have been navigating between Africa and the Americas were actually involved in an extensive network of commercial, political, religious, cultural and even administrative intercourses with the Native Americans, the so-called American Indians.
The emerging picture, therefore, is that of an ongoing acculturation between the Black African Negroes and the Native Americans for centuries before the Santa Maria and its daughter ships made their landfall in the Caribbean in 1492.
The Conquistadors and the Pre-Colombian African Americans
There is a growing accumulation of reports that the pioneering Spaniards, who increasingly began to come to the Americas in the wake of the Columbus ‘discovery’, actually came into contact with townships and even entire settlements of Black African Negroes who were originally immigrants from Africa.
The pioneering Spaniards described these Black African Negro African American townships as well-organized polities that were in civilized intercourse with neighboring Native American settlements. The Spaniards reported that they even saw, atimes, the Black African Negro African American townships in engaged in political alliances that often pitched them in warfare against or in coalition with this or that Native American tribe or polity.
From the reports of the pioneer Spaniards in the Americas we gain more and more insight into the nature of the pre-Columbian African American community. It seems to be a budding colony of Black African Negroes who had adopted the Americas as a new-founded land upon which they were grafting the basis of a new African nation – a pre-Columbian African American nation on the shores of the Americas.
It might be said that but for the untimely intervention of the genocidal Conquistadors, who in due course established the Spanish Empire in America which deleteriously decimated both Native American and pre-Columbian African American populations, there would have sooner or later been established a pre-Columbian African American State in America.
Questions might be asked as to the fate or whereabouts, if there are any remnants at all, of those pre-Columbian African Americans. Nobody knows for sure the answers to these questions. Instead speculations abound.
In all probability some sections of the pre-Columbian African American population might have been assimilated into the rest of the Native American populations – for there were indeed extensive intermarriages and crossbreeding between the pre-Columbian African Americans and the Native American Indians. There are reports of entire mulatto or half-cast settlements resulting from the extensive interbreeding between the pre-Columbian African American and Native American populations. There are those who even claim that some Native American tribes were wholly half-caste ethnicities of interbreeding between the pre-Columbian African Americans and the Native American Indians.
Another strong probability as to the fate of the pre-Columbian African Americans is that entire sections of its population were simply exterminated by the holocaustal ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the warmongering Conquistadors and other racist White men from Europe.
It is a common knowledge today that the materialistic aggrandizement of the White man was solely responsible for the virtual genocide that the Native American Indian population was subjected to in later half of the first millennium C.E. There is no reason why this genocide perpetrated by the Europeans shouldn’t have been equally meted out on the pre-Columbian African American population which co-existed together with the Native American Indian population when the White man first arrived in the Americas. While both the pre-Columbian African Americans and the Native American Indians were busy using Guanin capped spears and arrows, the White man from Europe had in his possession the gun powder, compass and the printing press- three powerful weapons for the orchestration of a nation-wide massacre of any native ethnicity.
Still yet, there are others who are not ruling out the possibility of sections of the pre-Columbian African American population having survived till the Slave Era and of having been simply assimilated into the Trans-Atlantic Slave population that began to snowball during the 17th century. Though this probability might seem too far-fetched, not totally ruling it out might be of advantage to those engaged in investigative research works.
Iberian Black African Negroes in America
Pre-Columbian African Americans and the African American Identity Crisis
However, and in the context of this present work, the most important point in any dissertation on the existence of the pre-Columbian African American is the fact that it is a challenged, however minimal, to the myth that the Americas were first discovered by the Europeans and that, accordingly, the European colonists have some superior rights or claims to ownership of the New World as a national homeland.
If the documented reality of the existence of the pre-Columbian African American is any thing to go by, and of course it should be so, then today’s African Americans had better been enlightened as to the fact that their racial attachments to the American soil goes beyond that of being brought to the Americas as chattel slaves. Before the Europeans brought disease, genocide and wanton capitalism to the Americas, the pre-Columbian African Americans, the precursors and forefathers of today’s African Americans, have introduced and established high civilization in the Americas.
The pre-Columbian African Americans were poised to build the Americas into centers of Black African Negro civilization when the Europeans came and truncated everything. Ever since then the clutch of Western Civilization on the Americas has been intensifying especially with the U.S.A. eventually becoming the final bastion of Western Civilization since the first half of the twentieth century. Throughout this lengthy Westernization of the Americas all traces of the original Black African pre-Colonial African American legacy of the Americas has been progressively bleached out of history.
This, of course, is detrimental to the psychological consciousness of today’s African American. He is being denied the stimulating knowledge of the glorious role he had played in the civilization of America before the advent of the White man.
If today’s African American were well aware of his remarkable pre-Columbian contributions to the history and development of the Americas his mental image of himself would have, at least, been buoyed up beyond the level of the pitiable low self esteem he has of himself today. Besides, he would have developed a more healthy and emotional attachment to the American soil than he does today.
Instead of perpetually cringing under the apprehension of the current domination of the America by the White man, today’s African American had better began to appreciate his historic attachment to the Americas – the role he had played in the development of pre-Columbian America, the more befitting role he is supposed to be playing in today’s Westernized America, and the role he shall play in the Americas of the future.
It is high time the African American had thrown aside his myopic worldview of seeing everything only within the framework of Black and White America. There is more to the question of the African American than that of the current uneasy relationship between Black and White Americans.
Measuring everything with just the yardstick of contemporary Black and White Americas has in effect stunted the progress towards the consolidation of a formidable, unassailable national identity for the African American.
The pre-Columbian African American is a reality which is rapidly rising back into our consciousness. With time more and more research efforts will reveal much of what has been deliberately concealed from the sight of the general public as regards the contributions of the pre-Columbian African American to the overall history of the Americas. This will go, in no small way, in enhancing the self-esteem of the African American who is yet to recover from the fortitudes of the vicious character assassination that has been heaped on him by generation upon generations of revisionist writers who invented the myth of the ‘Savage African’.
POST-COLUMBIAN AFRICAN AMERICANS
Whenever the term ‘African American’ is mentioned today everybody’s mind is fixated on the descendants of the Black African Negroes who were shipped to the United States of America as slaves during the trans-Atlantic Slave Era.
But the term ‘African American’ should be more realistically construed as a comprehensive term referring to all peoples of African descent resident in the Americas regardless of whether they were of slave origins or not and regardless of whether they are resident in the USA or not.
There are different types of African Americans and the African American of slave descents who is resident in the USA is just one out of the different types of African Americans. In all fairness to the USA African American, however, he is the archetype representative of the African American population. He is, first and foremost, the most demographically dominant of all the various types. He is also evidently the most well-informed. He is, however, the worst affected by the ravages of racism resulting from the intercourse of the Black man with the White man in the New World.
We shall discuss the USA African American and other types of African Americans in the following chapters.
Suffice it to say at this juncture that the classification of the different types of the African Americans can be based on a assortment of taxonomical methodology. The post-Columbian African American can be classified based on the geopolitical diversity of its subsections; based on their modern linguistic affiliations; based on their chronological order of their arrival in the Americas; based on their religious or sociocultural characteristics; etc, etc.
In the present section we shall use the most striking, that is the geopolitical, mode of classification of the post-Columbian African American. In this regard it might be necessary to remind ourselves that the African American population can be geopolitically divided into eight or so major subdivisions, namely, the African American of the USA, of Brazil, of the West Indies, of the Guianas, of Central America, of Venezuela and Columbia, of Canada, of the Bermudas, and the rest. We shall presently discuss each of the geopolitical types enumerated above in the following chapters.
The U.S.A. African American
Today the largest demographic concentration of the African American is in the U.S.A. It is no wonder, therefore, that the U.S. African American has come to symbolize everything about the Blacks in the Americas. In fact to most peoples outside the shores of the Americas, the vary term ‘African American’ conjures only the image of the U.S. African American.
But the popularity of the U.S. African American as signifying the universal African American is further reinforced by the fact that the U.S.A. has, over the decades, ascended to the position of a paramount World superpower. It is to the same extent that the activities of the U.S.A. government have come overshadow those of all other governments in the Americas that the fame of U.S.A. African American has come to overshadow that of all other African Americans in the other nations of the Americas.
In fact so real is this actuality that historical events, especially in the twentieth century, aptly demonstrates the fact that most of the activities of the African Americans in the U.S.A. had serious influence, repercussion and consequences on all other African Americans in the rest of the Americas. It is all as if the U.S. African American dictates the pace and the course of the history of the entire African American population.
The relative sociological advancement of the U.S. society over others in the Americas has endowed the U.S. African American with some advantages over the rest of the African Americans. We have stated before that the U.S. African American is, on the whole, the most enlightened, the most well-informed and the most sophisticated of all the other African Americans.
This comparative refinement of the U.S. African American has made him a most special type of the African American. It might be said that the U.S. African American can easily be ranked the topmost in virtually standard of gradation of the various types of the African Americans.
In that case, however, it should be noted that the U.S. African American leads not only in the case of the positive indices but also in terms of the negative vices. It is just very logical indeed to see that the U.S. society has not only availed the U.S. African American with a number of commendable sociological advantages but that the same U.S. society has also relegated to him a number of sordid characteristics that can, with all dispatch, rank him among the worst of all types of African Americans.
The fundaments of the American civilization are rapidly deteriorating and as the U.S.A. gradually prostrates before the inevitable laws of the rise and fall of civilizations, the African American regrettably seems to be leading the way in terms of sociological decadence. This, as we shall discuss in a latter section, is not due to any inherent depravity on the part of the African American but is due to the scapegoat child of circumstances that the very framework of the American society transformed the African American into.
In a White dominated U.S. society where the African American constituted just 10% of the total population and wherein the African American is actually an economic and political marginality it is not difficult to see why there are some deplorable characteristics that has become seemingly second nature to the African American.
The historical witness to the residency of the African American in the U.S.A. is, in sober truth, an appalling one. Ever since the days of the Slave Era hitherto, the U.S. African American always has a cause to complain about being marginalized in a White dominated U.S. society that is never free of an undertone of racial chauvinism.
It is no wonder, therefore, that the entire history of the United States is checkered by persistent uprisings of the African American population. In his book, American Negro Slave Revolts, Herbert Aptheker listed, in point of fact, some two hundred and fifty, among other, slave revolts and conspiracies in the U.S. during the Slave Era.
Vladimir Pozner observed that “The only ethnic group that did not come to America of its own free will is African Americans. All others came to turn a new page, start a new life; they were hardy, adventuresome, entrepreneurial. They came with their culture, their education. The blacks were brought over in irons, their roots destroyed. They were slaves and remained slaves for generations. When they were set free nothing was done (with the short-lived exception of Reconstruction) to raise them to the general level. They were never given the opportunity to cook in their melting pot, be part of the American dream. The Declaration of Independence didn’t apply to them.
“Therein lies the riots past, present and the inevitable riots of the future.”
During the American War of Independence era there were rumors that England was plotting a nationwide slave revolt in a bid to destabilize the strength and morale of the Union Army. Thomas Jefferson actually accused King George III of England of inciting the slave population of America to rise in revolt against the Continental government.
Then during the Revolutionary War itself there was serious pressure on George Washington not to enlist slaves as soldiers as there was real fear that armed slaves might turn in mutiny against the White population of America. The case of the Haitian Slave Revolt was repeatedly used by Southern politicians and wealthy plantation owners to persuade Washington to stop the enlistment of Negro soldiers.
At last George Washington permitted Horatio Gates to declare an end to the enlistment of slaves as soldiers. This was, of course, most to the chagrin of the runaway slaves who use enlistment as a guarantee for achieving freedom. The Ebony Editors wrote “Official policy apart, blacks knew that a Northern victory meant the even¬tual end of slavery and an improvement in living conditions for those blacks living in free states. So they were not content to sit on the sidelines and watch white men fight over their destiny.”
The British took advantage of this situation when on November 7, 1775 the Earl of Dunmore, John Murray, proclaimed freedom for all Negro slaves who join the British army against the Americans. As a result of John Murray’s Proclamation thousands of slave soldiers deserted the Union Army during the Valley Forge campaign.
The Ebony Editors wrote that, “It has been estimated that more than twenty-five thousand blacks served on the side of the British against the Americans. Lured by the promise of freedom, many slaves braved hardships and even risked death while making their way to the British lines.”
The Reconstruction era, the latter half of the 19th century, the twentieth century, and many other periods in the history of the U.S.A., are all also marked by repeated crises directly or indirectly resulting from the dissatisfaction of the U.S. African with the inhuman plight he has been subjected to.
A careful consideration of the history of the African American in the U.S.A. will by far show the fact that all these positive and negative historical and sociological factors have combined, in a concerted and intermixing fashion to bring into being the peculiar type of African American that we have in the U.S.A. today.
As a distinct type of African American, however, the U.S.A. African American community has its own unique and peculiar sociocultural characteristics. Some of these characteristics, upon which we have partly descant before, we shall proceed to discuss further.
The most impressive of these characteristics unique or peculiar to the U.S. African American is the fact that he seems to be at the vanguard of almost every development, negative or positive and for better or for worst, that comes upon the African American community as a whole.
Lerone Bennett said the U.S. African Americans “are the forgotten founding fathers, the black pioneers of East and west, the creators of cities and rhymes, the builders of railroads, the makers of America’s only original song and dance, the unsung inventors, theorists, and activists. Here are men and wmen who made Mount Vernon and Monticello and Charleston and New Orleans possible. Here also are the victims, the thick black line of victims, the casualties of wars for freedom which did not pay off in their own lives, the casualties of mobs and repressive legislation, the casualties of sociopolitical process which condemns to death twice as many black babies as white babies and permits white men to live seven years longer than black men. The victims are here, and so are the dreamers: the men and women, black and white, the Nat Turners and the John Browns and the Frederick Douglasses and the Harriet Tubmans, the Marshalls, the Kings, and the Malcolms, all the men and women who repeatedly forced Americans to the high ground of principles enunciate but not lived. They are all here, the victims and the dreamers, the activists and the builders. And no one, I think, can read their story without gaining a new sense of the meaning and destiny of America.”
Brazilian African American
The Brazilian African American is another notable type of African American. So remarkable is the story of Brazilian African American that some people have suggested him for the topmost rank, above the U.S. African American, on the hierarchy of the different types of the African American.
The point is, and this should be delineated right from the outset, that the Brazilian African American has enjoyed a better and more distinguished history than the U.S. African American. If the U.S.A. have not been such an outmatching economic and political power, and thereby conferring on the U.S. African American some inevitable social advantages, the Brazilian African American would have been the leading African American.
The major difference between the U.S. African American and the Brazilian African American lies in the sharp difference in comparative racial tensions in the U.S.A. and Brazil. Whereas racism and social discrimination has been the unfortunate and embarrassing lot of the U.S. African American, the Brazilian African American has enjoyed a life of virtual lack of racism and social discrimination ever since the beginning of his residency in Brazil.
Ever since the Slave Era the Portuguese colonists in Brazil were less racist and more humane toward the African American than the White American. And after the abolition of slavery in 1888 in Brazil, the Portuguese Brazilians have interacted with the Brazilian African Americans in such a public-spirited manner that Assimilated rapidly became a leading national trait of Brazil. This has led the Encyclopedia Britannica to observe that ‘In Brazil the peoples of mixed race are increasing, while those of separate racial stocks are declining.’
The peaceful coexistence between the Portuguese and African American population of Brazil has been attributed to a wide variety of factors leading among which are the unifying influences of the Portuguese language and the non-racist feature of the Catholic faith.
A salient result of the relative nonexistence of racism and social discrimination in the Brazilian society has been the unprecedented level of interracial socializing and intermarriages that have made Brazil the American country with the fastest growing population of miscegenation. The overall result is that a new type of the Brazilian man is emerging – a miscegenation that is mainly of mixed Portuguese and African American bloodlines.
In discussing miscegenation as a national trait of the Brazilians, however, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that concomitant with the ongoing racial admixture is a process of cultural amalgamation that is even of more profound import.
In Brazil the cultural heritage of the Brazilian African American has been wholly assimilated by other sections of the national population. African culture, religion and general sociology have literarily overwhelmed the Portuguese and otherwise sections of the Brazilian population.
Our discussions so far on the Brazilian African American show that two profound sociological forces are currently shaping the very identity of the Brazilian African American. First is the fact that he is gradually being assimilated into the larger Portuguese, and even Indian, population, and secondly that his distinctive culture, of African heritage, is gradually overwhelming the other races of Brazil. In other words, the Brazilian African American is tending towards a lose of his ethnicity in exchange for the national dominion of his culture.
Caribbean African American
The Caribbean African American is a third notable type of the African American. The most distinctive thing about the Caribbean African American is that his community usually forms the major section of the national population. Except in Cuba and Puerto Rico, the population of the African American is the majority in all other Caribbean countries.
The present demographic picture is as a result of the great influence that Slavery and European Colonialism has exercised in the History of the Caribbean. First it was the European Colonialists who came and literarily wiped out the pre-Columbian populations of Native American Indians, constituting the overwhelming majority, and immigrant pre-Columbian African Americans, who constituted a minority of the population. The Mercantilist nature of European Colonialism in turn led to the massive importation of Black African Negroes from West Africa as slaves for the working of the Plantation farms.
The trans-Atlantic Slave Era saw the large-scale repopulation of the Caribbean with Black African Negroes to such extents that the slave population eventually approximated that of the Whites in many of the Colonies.
Then came the Haitian Slave Revolts led by General Francois Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture in the closing years of the eighteenth century. The concluding result of the Slave Revolt in the Caribbean was the drastic reduction in the population of the White people, the abrupt end to the institution of slavery in the West Indies and the ascension of Caribbean African Americans to demographic and political supremacy throughout the region.
The ascension of the Caribbean African American to demographic and political supremacy was a phenomenon of unparalleled dimensions in the entire history of the African race in the Americas. To this very day no any other community of the African American population has tasted the freedom of political and demographic supremacy in any other part of the Americas.
It is this distinctive feature that has made the Caribbean African American a special type of African American.
With the power of demographic and political dominion the Caribbean African American population expectedly became a deep-seated bastion of African sociocultural values in the New World. It was all like the abominable Slave Trade of old had ultimately led to the establishment of a New African State in the Americas.
In this context Hannibal Prince wrote, with exultant happiness, that Haiti has became the “the Mecca, the Judea of the black race, the country (…) to which every black person with African blood flowing in his veins should go on pilgrimage at least once in his life time; because, it was there that the black person made himself into a person; it was there that, breaking his shackles, he irrevocably condemned slavery.”
Albeit, the diplomatic machinations of the World Powers of Europe and North America vehemently conspired against any meaningful development of the Caribbean nations in a manner that will be of any pride to the African American community or the rest of the Black African Negro race in the Old World. Today the unfolding history of the Caribbean countries is dominated by political malpractices, administrative despotism and a society deeply affected by economic underdevelopment.
One principal factor that contributed to this negative turn of events for Haiti is the active exercise on the part of the Haitian authorities to assimilate Western cultural values into the deeply African traditions of Haiti. C.L.R. James explains: “for over a century after independence, the people of Haiti sought to craft in the West Indies a carbon copy of the European civilization, that is the French civilization (…). For generations, the best children of the Haitian elite were educated in Paris and distinguished themselves in French intellectual circles. The glowing pre-independence racial hatred had evaporated.”
Despite all these, however, the Caribbean African American has continued to attract serious research attention as a case study due to the singular fact that he is the only African American, of all others, who has so far tasted the real flavor of unconditional freedom.
Comparing the different types of African Americans and the Quest for the African American Identity
Comparing the different types of African Americans and the Quest for the African American Identity
In the preceding chapters we have studied the three main types of African Americans, namely, the U.S.A. African American, the Brazilian African American and the Caribbean African American.
As is clear from our discussions each one of these three archetypical African Americans is characterized by a set of unique and peculiar sociopolitical features. The U.S. African American is locked in a seemingly unending racial friction with the White American whereby the U.S. African American is losing out on his pristine African values while obstinately maintaining his racial purity; the Brazilian African American lives in a blissful coexistence with his White compatriot though, in the meantime, he loses his racial purity while consolidating more and more of his African sociocultural values; and, the Caribbean African American is in control of both his racial purity and his African sociocultural values.
So, the picture is that of the U.S. type opposed to the Brazilian type of the African American. What the U.S. type has, relative racial purity, the Brazilian type lacks – and what the U.S. type lacks, a relative purity of African sociocultural values, the Brazilian type has. In other words the U.S. type and the Brazilian type are mutually opposed.
On the other hand the Caribbean type of the African American has both of what the U.S. and Brazilian types respectively lack. The Caribbean African American has control over the maintenance of both his racial purity and the heritage of his African sociocultural values. Furthermore, the Caribbean African American has, in his possession, political and administrative powers.
The Genius of the Caribbean African American
But the apparent quirk of fate here lies in the fact that the Caribbean African American, despite all his advantages over the U.S. and Brazilian African American types, does not seem to be performing relatively better than the U.S. or Brazilian types.
It first it might seem like the Caribbean type of the African American is just inherently uncreative or non-industrious. But then such a claim will be immediately refuted by the glorious spark that marked the genius of the Caribbean in the immediate aftermath of the Slave Revolt in Haiti. Despite European and general Western misinformation, Caribbean African American leaders, including General Francois Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe, were extraordinary virtuosos who did their best in not only bettering the living standard of the entire African American population in the Americas but also in remarkably reshaping the history of Western Civilization as a whole.
Dr. Elikia M’Bokolo wrote “Beyond the pioneering, exemplary and rousing nature of its independence, and the legitimate pride the people took in their long and victorious resistance to slavery, Haïti was constantly faced with attempts to undermine this independence especially by France, the former colonial power, and by its over-bearing neighbour – the United States of America. From the 1860s, this state of affairs was compounded by the European colonial ambitions in Africa and, above all, by the racists discourse employed by European States to legitimise colonization in Africa. As a matter of fact, that racism also directly targeted Haïti which the theorists of ‘inequality of the human races’ and European journalists revelled in describing in the most negative manner, not only to justify possible ‘decolonisation’, but also to deny Africans and their descendants outside the Continents any reason to defend or demand the right to manage their own affairs.”
The Ebony Pictorial of Black American History wrote: “Taking advantage of the rivalry between Britain, France, and Spain over the control of the island, L’Ouverture took to the field, first as an ally of Spain against France, then as an ally of France against England and Spain. Thus, through a combination of military genius and shrewd diplomacy, General L’Ouverture forced the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The last to withdraw were the British, whose abortive attempt to wrest the island from the black general cost them some forty thousand men.”
Given the straitening conditions under which the Slave Revolt leaders of the Caribbean operated in the 1790s and the early nineteenth century, and considering the diplomatic dexterity with which they were able to sustained the continuous existence of the Caribbean nations as sovereign states against the wishes and machinations of the Great Powers of Europe and North America – witness, say, the manner in which Haiti forced Napoleon to abandon his prospect of establishing a French Empire in the Americas and the humiliating manner in which France was forced to sell Louisiana to the U.S.- one will be left with no option than to accept that the Caribbean African American possess all the potentialities of great world achievements.
Jean-Price Mars wrote “It is appropriate to emphasize the huge paradox in the fact that hundreds of thousands of men taken away from Africa to Santa Domingo to work as slaves in plantations the soil of which they had prepared, triggered the most phenomenal prosperity of the time and after mingling their blood with that of their oppressors, reversed their role, taking the place of their erstwhile masters; and in that corner of the Americas, built a new fatherland for the black person. However, this fantastic metamorphosis contained difficulties inherent in the very process of the phenomenon. It is obvious that the assorted origins of the components of the new community drawn as they were from across the Western Coast of Africa, from Cap Blanc to the Cape of Good Hope, people specially recruited from eternally diverse and deliberately disparate tribes, in a way to ensure that their heterogeneity provided a guarantee against possible revolt; it is apparent that all these precautions had been taken with the design to perpetuate slavery. However, in the end, these precautions could not at the fateful hour of destiny prevent the rallying and indeed the welding together of oppressed people, culminating in the creation of a Black State in the basin of the West Indies …”
The Economic Plight of the African American
If the Caribbean African American is not inherently unproductive, then other social, historical, political and otherwise forces are at work against the progress of the Caribbean African American. Of these presumably negative forces that of economic deficiency ranks foremost.
Ever since the days of the Haitian Slave Revolt itself the emergent African American leaders of the Caribbean states were immediately accosted by a decrepitude economic system that could not survive into the immediate future. The Caribbean archipelago lacks a tangible natural resources and the adequate development of the necessary human resources is a program that is far beyond the limited capabilities of the Caribbean states.
In effect our thesis is tending towards a claim that the addition of economic power to the sociopolitical powers that the Caribbean African American already enjoys will go a long way in establishing the Caribbean African American on the pedestals of world sovereignty.
Economic incapacity is not peculiar to the Caribbean African American alone; the U.S. and the Brazilian types of the African American are also incapacitated by economic deficiencies. In fact many authorities have realized right from the beginning that the bane of the U.S. African American is economic incapacity. Booker T. Washington was, for instance, convinced that the economic empowerment of the African American will immediately furnish him with a universal capacity at excelling in all fields of human endeavors.
But then, unlike the Caribbean African American, the U.S. African American is in addition burdened with sociocultural and political disability. Although generally more economically empowered than the typical Caribbean African American, the U.S. African American is an economic weakling in contrast to his White American compatriot.
Many people wonder what incredible achievements the U.S. Afr4ican American will accomplished if he were to be economically and politically empowered within the framework of the American society. His remarkable assertiveness, his environmentally induced sophistication and his amazing sense of creativity are unquestionably potentials that the U.S. African American will definitely used to perform wonder if he were to be economically and politically empowered. But for now, he is not able to fully utilize these potentials due to his economic and political disabilities.
So far we have seen that the Caribbean African American is in need of economic empowerment, and the U.S. African American is need of both economic and sociopolitical empowerment, if they are to truly realize the fullness of their peculiar potentials. But what about the Brazilian type of the African American?
The problem of the Brazilian type of African American is the gradual loss of his racial purity in the extensive process of racial intermixture that has become a national trait of Brazil and most other Latin American nations. Furthermore, the Brazilian type of African American is, just like the U.S. African American, also economically and politically incapacitated. The only edge that the Brazilian type of African American has over the U.S. type is the relative dominion of his African heritage values over those of his White and Indian compatriots.
In essence the bottom line is that economic disability is a common denominator that is universally restraining all types of the African American from any meaningful advancement in all directions. Other disabilities, including the sociopolitical and that of racial purity, are rather peculiar subsets primarily afflicting only particular types of the African Americans.
It is at this juncture, after working out some common denominators, particular or universal, that question of the relevance of all these to the Identity Crisis of the African America becomes imperative.
It has become clear from the foregoing paragraphs that three key indices, namely Economy, Politics and Culture, have become defining parameters in the historical development of the African Americans. Unfortunately all three have exercised only negative influences on the African American common. All three are by and large beyond the consummate reach of the African American and have, therefore, been contributed, by design or otherwise, in the sociological subjugation of the African American.
Of all possible facets to the African American Identity, it is in regard to these three that the Identity Crisis of the African American is most damning. The Economic Identity of the African American has perpetually remained appalling. The Political Identity is similarly nothing to write home about. And this is despite the historical political achievements of the Caribbean African American and the remarkable political gains of the U.S. African American in the latter decades of the twentieth century. The Cultural Identity of the African American is likewise not that comely. And this is, again, despite the popularized African American culture which is, in reality, non-natural in relation to the pristine African culture back on continental Africa.
With an Identity that is economically, politically and culturally insecure, it is no wonder that the African American, in spite of all his hardwork and genuine aspirations, has continued to be downgraded to the lowest of rungs on the social ladder of the American polity.
In the U.S., for instance, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., observed this about the Negro:
“Of the good things in life he has approxima¬tely one-half those of whites; of the bad he has twice those of whites. Thus, half of all Negroes live in sub-standard housing, and Negroes have half the income of whites. When we turn to the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of in¬fant mortality (widely accepted as an accurate index of general health) among Negroes is double that of whites. The equation pursues Negroes even into war. There were twice as many Negroes as whites in combat in Vietnam at the be¬ginning of 1967, and twice as many Negro soldiers died in action (20.6 per cent) in proportion to the numbers in the population.”
To the African American the very damaging-consciousness of being the bearer of an insecure Identity is a primary factor in the crescendoing vicious circle that is essentially wreathed with the strands of economic, political and sociocultural incapacities.
That is why all leaders, ideologues, activists and concerned individuals or bodies who have ever worked on the African American Question have inevitably found themselves, in one way or the other, going back to their drawing boards emphasis the same primary necessity for an extensive program of Education for the African American.
Education for the African American
Education is what all have unanimously agreed is the basic tool necessary for achieving the economic, political and cultural emancipation of the African American. It is not a coincidence, for instance, that majority of the civil rights activists in the U.S.A. are educationists by profession. Booker T. Washington, Professor Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Mary McLeod Bethune, Dr. Mary Church Terrell, etc, etc.
Marcus Garvey stated that “Education is the medium by which a people are prepared for the creation of their own particular civilization, and the advancement and glory of their own race.”