Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Africans & African Americans

127 Africans and African Americans

There’s been some trouble between these two groups lately. They seem not to like one another any.

Why would that be? Good question, Let’s see if we can come up with some answers, or at least some trails that lead to answers.

Story: Those of us on the 4:05 AM train out of Moote Pointe know this one. (It’s hard not to notice everything going on when on a train that empty.)

You could tell the difference between the African Americans and the Africans pretty easily. The former were listening to rap on their iPods, always loud enough so you could hear the percussion but not the words (Tune anyone? Nah.)

The latter were studying.

The postal exam, the police exam, the civil service exam, the FDNY exam. Or American history. Calculus. That kind of thing.

They land here from Ghana, or Togo or Senegal, take menial jobs and learn about America and American ways.

They may not have much to offer at the start. They sell knock-off Rolexes out of K-Mart attaché cases on aluminum stands, or umbrellas when it rains. Sometimes even African art and sculpture on streetcorners.

Not one in the past ten or 15 years has been accused of a violent crime, let alone been convicted.

They send money home to families in The Ivory Coast, live frugally and listen and learn. The next generation of these guys is going to include stock brokers and professors, auto technicians, computer geniuses and entrepreneurs. Like their Caribbean co-ethnicists, they compete to see how many more jobs than their neighbor they can hold.

They come to our shores with two advantages: First, they have lived in colonies and know what real hardship is, unlike some of their US born counterparts who think it’s tough living in public housing and not having enough money to buy the bling of the moment or the Nikes they want. Second, they mostly speak the language. That’s not Ebonics, it’s English!

Somehow, the racist, whites-only culture that many young African Americans say holds them back doesn’t do the same for the African Africans.

There’s almost no drug or alcohol problem. Families – if they are here as a unit – tend to be two-parent household.

But it’s not just what Bill Cosby called “the culture of failure” among modern blacks. There’s another element: the total ineffectiveness of the churches. Go to 125th Street on a Sunday morning and who do you see heading in to worship? Usually it’s older women in furs and those wonderful hats. Young people? A scattering. Probably had to toe someone’s line and act as an usher or a member of the choir. But you take those older women away and the joints are empty.

Young African Americans seem not to trust organized religion (they shouldn’t) and so turn to the rappers who either hate everything or find that they can make a good buck pretending to hate everything, advocate violence, demean women and bully the general culture into believing they need more than what their leaders of the 1940s, 50s and 60s fought for.

It’s the path of least resistance. Is there any other way to go?

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

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