African American or an African in America

10 Min Read

Participants, some carrying American flags, marching in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a daily basis, I work in Wall Street as a doorman during the day. On the weekend, I work at a nursing home. I work everyday. I cannot afford to rest. I am an African immigrant. I am supposed to work hard. Besides, one day off will have a profound repercussion on my survival.

But, you know, I made it to Wall Street. While growing up I dreamed of this place. The media and Hollywood portrayed it as the center of the American dream. Now, I am here. I work among all those fancy and extravagant people.

Wall Street is exceptional. The land is full of scrapers. Roads are everywhere. The neighborhoods are clean. Jobs, well-paying jobs are in abundance. The cars are fancy. The citizens are civil and educated. I do not know what goes on the top, but I can tell you for a doorman with a low salary everything is perfect.

Every week at six, it is time to go home. On my way home, I find myself slowly walking away from America; the America that I knew while growing up in Africa. The Wall Street America. I am going to the other America; the one that I call home now.

Anyway, it reminds me of home. The roads are dirty, with no fancy cars, and loud music is ubiquitous. People are struggling and yelling at each other. Homeless people are on the street. Young adults with their pants down are acting all ‘gangsta.’ In this part of America that I belong to now, people are not civil and exceptional. It is not the America that gave me hope. It only deprived me of it.

I made it here ten years ago. It has been a long journey. I have no clue how many jobs I’ve worked over the last few years. I stopped counting. I just need to survive because my family counts on me. Any job is better than no job. All my credentials and the diplomas that I obtained in Africa are lost in my closet. Nobody cares about them. With a doorman job, I am stuck in this constant cycle of survival.

I am a broken man who is nearing the end of his journey. I dreamed of America, but my life in America has been far from a dream. My African identity and memories were the only thing that I had left to cherish. But now, America has taken that away from me. America has redefined me. I am no longer an African. I am black. I am an African-American.

Aside from my thick accent, nothing makes me African anymore for them. To become properly integrated, I accepted my new identity. No other month reminds me of this more than February, or as they call it, ‘Black History Month’. I embrace the month, but I refuse to take part in its festivities.

On my way out of work yesterday, one of the only black executives walked with me to the train station. He was heading to the museum to celebrate the month. His family migrated here during the slave trade, and has been here for generations. I listened passionately as we spoke. We spoke about our history; the one that we have in common: made up of pain, struggle and suffering.

Unfortunately, all of our reciting of historical events was so grounded in the Civil Rights Era, colonization, and slavery. It is as if black people came into existence only during their years of resistance or exploitation.

Regrettably, I realized that the history of black people obsessively focuses on colonization, slavery, and the Civil Rights Era and its leaders. Too many pages and lines are forgotten. It is a distorted history. The work of the leaders of these different movements is appreciated.

Sadly, by celebrating simply a few leaders in certain eras, we are teaching folks to lionize people, and not ideas. The slavery of Africans, the colonization of Africa, and the Civil Rights movement together form a history of struggle, faith and perseverance. But, it is also a reactionary history; one that portrayed blacks as a passive and not an active contributor to human progress.

The history of blacks does not start and stop at one era. It is not always a reactionary or defensive contribution. It is an active one; the one at the core of human progress. It is the history of Nubia and Ancient Egypt; the place where religion originated.

In Stolen Legacy, James George reminds us the ancient Egyptians had developed a very complex religious system, called the Mysteries, which was also the first system of salvation. Later on, this theory salvation will become a fundamental aspect of Greek philosophy and Christianity. In addition, the practice of teaching the doctrines of religion to people under the guise of myths originated from the Egyptians.

This vibrant civilization was also the storehouse of ancient culture, great libraries and temples. As a prime and developed civilization, the brightest sought admission into the different Egyptian Mystery or wisdom system. It was the Harvard University of the time.

No wonder why many of the pre-Socratic Greeks philosophers received their education from the Egyptians. For example, Pythagoras received his training in Egypt before returning to his native land Samos. Thales, known as the founder of geometry and physics by Aristotle also received his education in Egypt.

Unfortunately, Alexander the ‘great’ with his dumbfounded political aspiration will forever destroy this vibrant civilization and gain possession of the land, the different temples and libraries. In the 8th century A.D., the Moors, natives of Mauritania in North Africa with the invasion of Spain will remind people of the remnants of this once vibrant civilization.

The contribution of religion and philosophy to the progress of humanity is unquantifiable. No civilization has ever occurred without the presence of religion. In addition, many existential questions to life would have never been answered without the help of philosophers.

Consequently, much of the progress seen in this modern world originated in Africa and would have never occurred without the active contribution of black people. This is the legacy of the African Continent to the nations of the world. It is at the source of the cultural foundations of modern progress.

The continuous presentation of black history in a passive and reactionary manner continuously perpetuates racial superiority and inferiority among young people. By narrowing it down to the most egregious era of humanity, we are depriving many of the truth.

In reality, the history of blacks is not only a history of struggle. It is the history of the cradle of philosophy, religion and most importantly, humanity. The history of black civilization must a necessary part of our educational system. One can hope that a change in belief or mentality will be followed by a corresponding change in behavior. We all played an important and active role in the progress of humanity.

With the depletion of economic opportunities, and the expansion of neo-liberal policies, I will never fulfill my American dream. I’ve realized over time that race is always a factor in America’s way of life. I accept many of the peculiar norms of this country, but for me to celebrate this month as ‘black history’ is not acceptable.

We need to realize that the purpose of teaching our human history is ‘first to make a people aware of their contribution to civilization; and the second lesson is to teach them about other civilizations’ as would say James George.

As a young boy, America was presented to me as a single story or reality from one distorted point of view; leading me to live a dream of life and not a dream life. The presentation of the history of black people as a single story will only deprive us of our humanity and dignity.

Post by : Ahmadou Balde 

Contact :

Share This Article