Note to reader:
This post is a chapter from a current manuscript, hence the references to a book and other chapters.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.
—Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the Souls of Black Folk
Although America is a melting pot of ethnicities, African-Americans are compelled to forego ethnicity; limiting their social significance to race. Hence at the root of African-Americans’ perpetual alien state—a state of being wherein they are neither American or African but rather a homogenized hybrid—is a bastardization, and in extreme cases an unchecked self-hatred, facilitated by their deferred ethnicity. The inception of the Negro was the mechanism by which the slaves were relieved of their African ethnicities, the result of which was twofold; it helped solidify his subhuman assignment—which was the justification for his prolonged enslavement in a free society—and made future generations of Negroes more susceptible to subjugation. Though initially taken from us, to counteract all doubt of our humanity African-Americans must take back our African ethnicity through the realization that humanity is anchored by ethnicity; which at present we continue to deny.
The Myth of Race, the Reality of Racism
For the purpose of this project I define racism (not to be confused with racial bigotry) as the policy of a caste system wherein the significance of persons is predicated on race. Unlike classism which favors the wealthy, racism is beneficial to members of the dominant race across the economic spectrum; affirming the affluent while also esteeming the impoverished by, at a minimum, sparing them the indignity of the subjugated race. White Americans are engendered to believe it is better to be white and poor than black and anything else. This upper hand rationed for whites to the chagrin of so-called minorities is known as white privilege. And such privilege will hardly be relinquished without a fight; or as Dr. King stated in an article entitled Nonviolence and Racial Justice, “Privileged groups rarely give up their privileges without strong resistance.” It is out of the mucky manure of racism that the evergreen grassy blades, rather choking weeds, of white privilege grow.
The myth of race, its initial application, is not all human beings are of the same race (i.e. species), or fully human. The racial ideology of White Supremacy alleges the white race is atop the human hierarchy, with yellow, brown, and red races in the middle, and the black race at its base:
In geography the races were described in conformity with the program of the usual propaganda to engender in whites a race hate of the Negro, and in the Negroes contempt for themselves. A poet of distinction was selected to illustrate the physical features of the white race, a bedecked chief of a tribe those of the red, a proud warrior the brown, a prince the yellow, and a savage with a ring in his nose the black. The Negro, of course, stood at the foot of the social ladder.
The description of the various parts of the world was worked out according to the same Plan. The parts inhabited by the Caucasian were treated in detail. Less attention was given to the yellow people, still less to the red, very little to the brown, and practically none to the black race. Those people who are far removed from the physical characteristics of the Caucasians or who do not materially assist them in the domination or exploitation of others were not mentioned except to be belittled or decried. —Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, Mis-Education of the Negro
This race ideology further states; there is white blood, Negro blood, etc., and thus the blood of a race thought inferior is an impurity to its superior. Reversely, superior blood sanctifies inferior blood. Yet human blood types fall into the following categories of compatibility independent of race; O+/-, A+/-, B+/- and AB+/-. Hence blood banks are not segregated by race. Likewise, compatible organs from black donors could end up in white recipients without fear of racial incompatibility. However for the sake of this discussion I concede to the current application of race, throughout this book, only as a term used to describe a cluster of similar ethnic groups to facilitate grievances of the group to which I am a member. At other times I will use the more suitable term; ethnic genus.
The existence of multiple human races is a myth. But racism is very real; significantly influencing our economic, social, and political realities. According to the Applied Research Center’s Racial Justice Education and Action Manual (July 1, 2004), there are four levels of racism, which I refer to as four “layers” of the micro and macro levels since they interact congruently and are codependent. These layered levels are Internalized (micro level, innermost 1st layer)—individual internalized oppression or privilege, Interpersonal (micro level, 2nd layer)—the prejudice between persons, Institutional (macro level, 3rd layer)—racism perpetuated by power institutions, and Structural (macro level, outermost 4th layer)—racist history and culture which feeds systemic inequality.
Pan-Africanism entered the world’s consciousness as an ideology a century and a half ago. Since that time there has been a few variations of its application globally, which I believe is the primary reason a singular definition of what Pan-Africanism is has been so elusive. But it’s safe to say Pan-Africanism has been highly subjective to local interpretations, that is to say each group within a given society has made Pan-Africanism their own within a given circumstance. And this is okay. Not all ideologies need to be static in definition or application. Yet throughout history, prior to 1970, the most common applications of Pan-Africanism could be more easily simplified into two perspectives; through the eyes of continental Africans and from the imagination of the Diaspora.
Through the eyes of continental Africans Pan-Africanism is the visualization of an “Africa for Africans;” a phrase associated with visionaries like Martin Robinson Delany and Marcus Garvey. Although the direct and more obvious cause for this sentiment may have been opposition to European colonialism and imperialism, African-born Pan-Africanists also see this rally to nationalism as a way to combat the ills of tribalism; a contributing factor of civil war. Still, continental collaboration is the ultimate goal of Pan-Africanism.
From the imagination of the Diaspora Pan-Africanism is the emergence of the African personage and its significance to black people of countries outside the African continent. Thus the ideology of Pan-Africanism subsequently puts black people of the Diaspora into two categories; Negroes and Pan-Africanists. Unlike Negroes who do not require or desire a connection to Africa, because they perceive themselves as something else, early Pan-Africanists had an ultimate goal of returning to Africa symbolically (i.e. mindset) and if possible literally; to emigrate like W.E.B. DuBois.
Pan-Africanism, whether intended or not, has become the cocoon for converting Negroes of the Diaspora into estranged Africans, not proud nationalists of their own countries. Even Malcolm X’s adaptation of Pan-Africanism which he called Black Nationalism was a vision of “a nation within a nation,” independent of America. It is this aspect of Pan-Africanism which puts the Diaspora (the displaced or scattered) at a disadvantage, and fundamental difference of Geo-Africanism.
“Geo” is from the Greek word γη or γαια meaning “earth,” or “ground or land” and is often used to indicate something global. When used as a prefix for Geo-Africanism it indicates a global viewpoint of African ethnicities as opposed to a Diaspora view of black people born into nations outside the African continent. Put another way a person’s lineage, i.e. ethnicity, remains that of his parentage irrespective of country of birth, i.e. nationality. The same is true for the Afrikaans of South Africa, who are Africans, nationally, but still thought of as European ethnically—in instances when African and European are synonymous with black and white, respectively—because they are “white” in appearance and descended from the Dutch.
The primary objective of Geo-Africanism is to esteem African-Americans through full recognition of both their African ancestries and American nationalities; particularly the U.S. African-Americans which are in most need of this paradigm shift. As social beings humans are made of four fundamental elements (discussed at length in the Ancestry and Humanity chapter); Ancestry, Education, Nutrition, and Esteem. At the core of the so-called Negro’s struggle in America is his indoctrinated disdain for Africa, i.e. his ancestry, which fosters in him a subliminal self-hatred. It is also a result of the dehumanization process; the root cause of his deferred ethnicity.
African-Americans with any sense of history know their ancestors came from Africa. But some of them view this link more as folklore rather than a living thing; convinced this connection is no longer relevant. All agree their ancestors were African back then, but now they, for several generations, are no longer African. Affirming African-Americans as ethnic Africans will, in turn, adorn them with the same sense of genetic significance and global presence that Americans of European heritage are privy.
Geo-Africanism qualitatively defines the ethnicity of all non-continental Africans, i.e. the so-called Diaspora, regardless of nationality as African in lieu of a more specific ethnic designation, e.g. the Mandingo of West Africa or Igbo of Nigeria. The human family which is one race, i.e. species, called Homo sapiens, can be rationally divided into 3 (e.g. traced to Noah’s three sons) or as many as 5 ethnic genera—Congoloid (or Negroid), Mongoloid, Caucasoid, Australoid and Capoid; overly simplified into 5 colors—grouped by genetic traits. Each ethnic genus divides further into hundreds of ethnicities. And each ethnicity ties all individuals back to the one human family. Hence, ethnicity is the beacon that, when lit, marks a path back to the human origin of a people.
An individual has but one nationality, i.e. country of birth, yet may be comprised of multiple ethnicities across two or more ethnic genera no matter how remotely. Thus ethnic identity, in this case identifying as African-American, isn’t a matter of exactness—as an individual may be of multiple ethnic ancestry—rather a matter of association. In other words an African-American is black by consensus and therefore has African ethnicity by association.
Geo-Africanism mitigates the African birthright of members of the so-called Diaspora, i.e. persons of African heritage of Europe, Asia, and the Americas—or as I call them Prodigal Sons of Africa. The Prodigal Son is a biblical parable of a young man who left his father’s house and squandered his inheritance in a faraway land, succumbing to the evils and hardship therein. Naturally at no time during this ordeal did the wayward son’s deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) change. So upon returning to his father hoping for nothing more than a job as a servant, the father again embraced him as a son.
When challenged by his eldest son about throwing an extravagant feast for the delinquent son and never so much an luncheon for the eldest, the father reassured the elder son all that the father has will be his, but that, “…a son who was dead and now is alive” is cause for celebration. Likewise Africa belongs to the continental African. Geo-Africanism makes no undue claim to continental property. But just as no division exists in Christ Jesus, there is no Diaspora in Geo-Africanism.
Geo-Africanism is as much about the so-called Negro’s American nationality as his African ethnicity. For generations the Negro has been made to feel unqualified to claim America as his country, both without and within his community. But America is his home. He helped build it. He fought, bled, and died in every major American war for it. Therefore a physical migration to Africa is not only uncalled for, it is absurd. Concurrently the Negro embracing his African ethnicity is paramount to the progression of what Geo-Africanism calls the American African—much like El Hajj Malik El Shabazz’s call for so-called Negroes to make a mental migration to Africa.
Current sociopolitical norms dictate that the heritage of the African-American be defined by the condition of peonage from which he emerged. For this reason some African-Americans vigorously denounce being African. Their self-worth, then, is derived from slavery; a state of inferiority. Geo-Africanism challenges African-Americans to accept themselves as Africans who were enslaved rather than slaves who were emancipated.
Furthermore Geo-Africanism is beneficial to continental Africans both here and abroad. The same forces which influence the character of the young African-American proper in the U.S. do not exist in a vacuum. Hence these forces will eventually infringe upon the children and grandchildren of African immigrants—the new African-Americans. However for immigrants the silver lining in the dark cloud that is the Negro problem, is that they already have a key element of the solution; their African ethnicities. And it is the presence of these additional African ethnicities which have sparked a reunion of Africans in America not anticipated or believed likely two centuries ago.
Just as with Pan-Africanism the ultimate desired of Geo-Africanism is global African solidarity. However allegiance to an African nation is not an imposition. Pilgrimages are encouraged, but not required. Many African-Americans, from Maya Angelou to Malcolm X, visited Ghana in the 1950s and 1960s, and a handful stayed. —Article entitled Ghana wants Once-enslaved Diaspora by Lydia Polgreen, the New York Times December 27, 2005. In more recent times African-American celebrities, Oprah Winfrey for instance, made tremendous contributions to African countries after making a pilgrimage. Each pilgrim would benefit personally from his or her experience, while reciprocally impacting African countries economically in the areas of tourism and philanthropy.
It is time the identity of black people in America come full circle; from enslaved Africans resolved to remember, to Negroes forced to forget, to self-loathing African-Americans clinging in name only to a lost past, and now, by process of inevitability, American Africans—a people realizing the importance of ethnic reconciliation. We live in an era in which African-Americans meet or have married more African-born persons than ever before. More African-Americans have visited an African country, or two, than in any time in history, and yet as a people still fall prey to the myth that all Africans are incredibly dark. And how we speak of Africa in the singular; as if Africa is the world’s poorest country; in spite of the fact SHE is a continent overflowing with nations.
It bears stating that if African-Americans as a whole were to embrace their African ethnicity this would not magically remove the obstacles American society places before them. In fact every ethnic group has an enemy. Whenever there is uneven distribution of wealth, there you will find some cause for division among the people to justify the imbalance; difference will be emphasized and a line drawn—whether that line is drawn along national, ethnic, color or economic differences—in order to maintain the advantage. But I am thoroughly convinced that at the heart of making African-Americans whole is for the community, in the main, to embrace their African ethnicity. And wholeness is necessary for standing as a people against existing or would-be subjugation; as evident with other groups.
The potential for good and evil is ever present; if not as rival spirits within the individual then collectively as two opposing forces amongst the masses. Good and evil are the most opposite of enemies; one’s existence being detrimental to the other; either is like a virus whose desire to live imposes upon the health of its host. Thus it is the prerogative of the majority to impose upon the minority; for the older much larger sibling to on occasion harass the younger smaller sibling for sport, or a mighty nation to raid insignificant neighbors for resources it lacks yet refuses to purchase. And so it shall be with the African-American; he must always be prepared to lawfully defend that which is rightly his.
So long as the best elements of a community do not feel in duty bound to protect and train and care for the weaker members of their group, they leave them to be preyed upon by these swindlers and rascals.
…this is no truer of the South than of the North—of the North than of Europe: in any land, in any country under modern free competition, to lay any class of weak and despised people, be they white, black, or blue, at the political mercy of their stronger, richer, and more resourceful fellows, is a temptation which human nature seldom has withstood and seldom will withstand.
—Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, the Souls of Black Folk
Having lived in the Twin Cities for nearly two Decades I have often heard Professor Mahoud El-Kati author of Hiptionary, either in person or on the radio, say “two things can be true at the same time.” In the case of our identity, which is layered like an onion, three or four things are in fact true at the same time. The layers of our identity could best be described as an inverted pyramid; with the Human Race classification at the top, then Ethnic Genus (often mislabeled as race), Nationality, Ethnicity/Tribe, and Family classifications in the middle, and the Individual classification at the bottom. Starting from the bottom, an individual is part of a family. Each family is part of a tribe or ethnicity. Each ethnicity is a part of a nation, or nationality. People of all nations are members of an ethnic genus. And finally all ethnic genera make up the one human race.
The degree of tangency of each layer aligns with human development. As an infant becomes self-aware he or she first identifies with parents and siblings. Once this individual is able to quantify specific relationships within the family, i.e. which person is the mother, father, sister, etc., he are she recognizes him or herself as a member of a particular family amidst individuals of other families. Through the notion of extended family, i.e. grandparents, aunts and uncles, first through third cousins, etc., ethnicity forms as a natural layer of identity. Nationality (i.e. by birth), a far more superficial layer as these things go, comes later, varies in significance from circumstance to circumstance. And the human identity, intended to unite all mankind, ironically carries the least amount of vested interest for an individual when negotiating with individuals from other groups.
So if African-Americans are to define themselves by a history of slavery, to which I am opposed, then it must be considered a characteristic which distinguish African-Americans from African immigrants within the Ethnicity/Tribe classification not the Ethnic Genus classification. We are indeed of the same ethnic genus—be that black or African—just different ethnicities.
Africans, as with any group, are as different as they are assumed to be similar—contrary to the static image tattooed into the mind of Americans of the very dark-skinned, big lipped, flared nose African. They range in all shades of brown with various lip and nose thickness. One ethnicity cannot possibly represent them all. All are Africans of various countries within the continent. Geo-Africanism argues the existence of Jamaican Africans, American Africans, etc.; Africans born into nations outside the continent.