AA/African discussion continued...
I just graduated from an American college and for the last four years I’ve been living in the US. Lots of American unis teach African languages. Almost all the Ivy Leagues teach Nigerian languages - Igbo, Yoruba, etc. Harvard does, Yale does, I believe Columbia does too. HOWARD one of the main universities with majority black students teaches Yoruba and Igbo. And there are LOTS of them so I do know what I’m talking about. Never mind that 90% of what you need to pick up a language quickly is one friend or person committed to speaking it to you constantly. Oh, plus there’s the Internet, where people learn lots of things for free!!! And America’s Internet connection is even fast. Yeah, people aren’t making an effort. You don’t have to buy a ticket to West Africa if you can’t afford it, but a minimum of one thousand Nigerians and Ghanaians write interesting, informative blogs about their lives in their countries and their culture, etc. The Internet is good like that for traveling without leaving your couch. And this is a ridiculously conservative estimate.
again, i said most. you named about 5. and Ivy League ones at that. and yea, the Black ones…all 4 or 5 of them. this is not the MAJORITY of universities. and you bring up friends, when i just said there’s not that many Africans in certain parts of the country. and i actually do follow plenty of African blogs. lol, and there’s more countries and people on tumblr than just Ghanaians and Nigerians from West Africa. but even some of them can’t speak the language and/or aren’t putting it on their blog (and even if they did-you cannot learn a language that way). oh, does that make them less African? and you brought up the internet, when i already addressed that…
but the main issue i have with your comment is that you’re coming at it like “this is ALL you have to do…”. it is never that simple. from a financial, emotional, and societal perspective. when Spanish and French are going to get you money, why would you learn Igbo? and many of the Africans born on the continent have said (on tumblr alone) that even if we DO learn the language, learn the ways, etc. etc., that we still won’t be considered “African”; that they still wouldn’t consider us “African”. one commenter, specifically said “i don’t care how many Swahili words you know…”. knowing what i do know about various cultures, it is either some type of consensus among the members of the group or the elder/officials/etc. who decide what makes someone a part of their people.
so how many people (majority? minority? a couple?) /elders/etc. of your people decided that we need to learn the language in order to be considered “African”? just wondering…
Here’s the thing. African Americans / Black Americans are just that. Black Americans. That’s what you’ll always be (at least to most Nigerians - I can’t speak for other groups).
This is NOT a bad thing. You just need to realise that on AVERAGE Nigerians (and my other African nationalities back me up on this if its true for you) and Black Americans view ethnicity/belonging in very different ways.
For example, African Americans often home in on skin colour and other visible phenotypical features (hair texture, nose pointiness, etc) and this is why among African Americans you often hear debates about “blackness” focused around light skinned and dark skinned people.
Nigerians on the other hand, view skin colour and other such features as secondary. What is FAR MORE important is where you are ETHNICALLY from. i.e. blood/DNA/ whatever you want to call it. Right after this is what language(s) you speak and what your culture is (these two are usually tied to the first one - where you are from although sometimes it might not be the case).
So, it might not be apparent to you (or other African Americans) but to a Nupe Nigerian for example, an African American is just as much an alien to them as a white or Chinese person.
This is because as far as they are concerned, in spite of the similar appearance of the African American, neither has the same culture nor speaks the same language and to that Nupe person this is more than enough automatic grounds for exclusion.
The African American on the other hand is thinking “we look the same so there’s no problem” not realising that to a typical African of Ethnicity X you have already been put in the Folder of Outsiders along with whites, asians, latin@s, and OTHER AFRICANS from Ethnicities Y and Z . This is why some Nigerians would rather their child marry a white person than a person from Ethnicity X.
So where am I going with this? The objective is not to transform from being an African American to being an African person. Nine times out of ten this cannot happen because most AAs just cannot undertake the kind of commitment it takes to relearn an entire lifetime of culture, language, and social orientation.
The objective is for both groups to reach a middle ground where they can have a mutually fair and equal relationship where African Americans can gain a sense of belonging to the cultures from which they are descended in a non exploitative manner.
So it’s not about a bunch of elders sitting in a circle and deciding that you belong. You have to WORK for it. Even ethnic Nigerians have to work for it. I speak Igbo fluently but there are some pretty ancient Igbo expressions my grandparents use and every time I get them wrong, my Igbo-ness is questioned. I HATE egusi soup and people have questioned my Igbo-ness because of this. Sorry to mention white people but in my case as a Nigerian, I’ve seen white men that married Nigerian women and not only moved to Nigeria, but within a year or two were speaking their wives languages as best as they could and were fluent in pidgin and behaved appropriately in their wives’ cultures. Some of them even learned to cook Nigerian food and learned the history of their wives’ people and make sure to teach it to their children. They are nowhere near perfect but that takes effort.
I’ve also seen white people that came to Nigeria and didn’t learn shit and were still wandering around being the “Oyibo” and hiding themselves in expatriate enclaves and counting down to the day their visa expires so they can go home.
I’ve seen Black Americans arrive in Nigeria and expect to see people with “Welcome Home” signs at the airport like Nigerians don’t have shit to do. Even full blooded Nigerians have to PROVE every single day that they belong so nobody understands why African Americans just stroll in expecting to belong automatically.
And you CAN learn a language on the Internet. Lots of people have done it and many more will.
And learning languages is not a zero sum equation. It’s not like if you learn Igbo or Yoruba your ability to learn French or Spanish has been diminished (but many Americans act like this).
Most Africans speak at least two or three languages (in fact, most speak THREE at a bare minimum). If you add the languages they UNDERSTAND but don’t speak completely fluently, this figure balloons to five to seven at the least.
It is completely NORMAL for a person to speak five languages or more.
And I suggested language to you and to any other African American looking for a way in because language is the EASIEST way in.
Take my country for example. We all speak and understand English, but there are places that English will NEVER get you, places where only Hausa will open the door, places where only Igbo will convert hostile looks, places where only Yoruba will earn you a welcome. English only sits on the surface, hiding everything else that is below.
Culture will take you FOREVER to learn and you may still never perform it naturally in your life, but language you can learn, and people will quickly accept you and forgive your cultural faux-pas if you speak their language.