In this moment in time that has the makings of a turning point in history for racial equity, it disheartens me to see that while many African immigrants and others on the continent are standing with the Black Lives Matter movement, some still see this as detached from their lives and concerns, to the point of criticizing its existence or antagonizing it altogether. Until we learn to rise together and fight racial equity as a global unrelenting movement and stop falling for the divisive tactics of imperialist interests, we will never take our rightful place and value in this world as the powerful People God created us to be.
I moved to the USA in 1996 as a student with idealistic views of the land of opportunities for all. I was mostly ignorant of US history from a black person’s perspective because, despite being a walking encyclopedia like many of my peers who got their pre-university education on the continent, most of that knowledge came from history written by those same people that perpetrated imperialism, slavery, and colonization. We all know how that goes.
Despite reading about the civil rights movement, I never suspected that the condition of blacks in America was still as bad as I discovered it to be years later. In college, I would challenge anyone who said “the system” did this or that, because I didn’t understand that notion; I was formatted to believe in the superficial equality the USA successfully projected. But I also and always believed that the call for Africa to Unite, from the mouths of African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah to the activism of Marcus Garvey and the tunes of Bob Marley, included the diaspora and thus black Americans.
I did meet the ones who, just like the Africans today who are disconnected from the Black Lives Matter movement, would indignantly retort they were absolutely not from Africa; but I hope that both groups do realize that we are all we got, and while we call on other races’ allyship, we must simultaneously ensure our internal connection as a people is unshakeable.
With time, avid learning, and a career in health equity, I started slowly but surely re-discovering the United States and its foundation of systemic racism that reinvents itself perpetually to the detriment of non-white America; I finally met “the system”. The other thing I learned is that collective trauma, like what we as Africans share related to imperialism and colonization, is different from generational and individual trauma, which cripples you to your core and raises barriers in one’s life that are much harder to overcome personally. Growing up in Senegal, I never had to stop and think about race or sit at a table with my parents teaching me the gestures to do and avoid if stopped by the police. It is different in the US. There is the trauma of collective oppression by a historic system of inequities, and there is the layered individual trauma of being black in America where you can be shot for driving, shopping, selling cigarettes, walking to the store to buy iced tea, sitting at a park playing with a toy...
Moving to the US uncovered the dangers of blackness in a society that was built on white supremacy; a system which must be dismantled because it was built to do just what it is doing: oppressing black and brown people.
Everyone needs to be a part of this work, particularly African immigrants to America. We must be allies. Too often we fall prey to white supremacy by becoming tools of oppression for black Americans. The manufacturers of this system, which ultimately oppresses all blacks regardless of country of origin, have us believing we are different; the classic divide and rule trick. Without having the proper education about the history and realities of being Black in America, many do fall for this evil plan. The result is that African woman outside the white house ignorantly yelling at peaceful protesters that the Black Lives Matter movement is hypocritical for only caring about black lives when taken by a white cop: an ill-informed, brainwashed and manipulated black antagonist, who obviously forgot about 23-year old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo, fatally shot in 1999 by 4 NYPD police officers who were all later acquitted. Don’t be this woman who has fallen right into the puppeteers’ hand that has been working for centuries to have us believe that WE aren’t enough to be in “WE The People”.
WE are, WE have always been, WE are Black, WE are Powerful, and WE matter. Unite!
In love and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement, and all Blacks in America, your African, US citizen sister,
N. Anta Gueye-James
N. Anta Gueye-James
is a Senegalese-born US citizen who left the US with her daughter in 2019 to give her a better life and foundation by moving to Africa. She has worked in equity and disparities reduction for over 15 years and is now a Country Representative for a nonprofit development organization in Senegal.
Opinions expressed on Community Commons are solely those of the author.