by Lema Abeng-Nsah (Twitter: @LemaNsah)
Well, this is one of those testy topics that I am sure you will either agree with or think of as ‘utterly senseless’, but the truth is that since Dunia Magazine provides the platform for cross cultural discussions, I thought to ‘lay it out on the table’. By confronting and discussing these things, we may actually begin to break the ice … that I am sure you agree often exists between Africans and African Americans.
In as much as my intention is not to generalize or stereotype, I am writing this article based on real life experiences and events.
Earlier this year, I believe in January, a client walked into my office, his name JD (I am sure he is going to read this article). For the record, JD is an African American male and I am an African female. He was a first time client, so we began to chit chat as I worked on his papers. We talked about travels and different people we had met; the conversation turned to marriage as I was obviously wearing my wedding ring; he asked if I was married to an African, I said “Yes, of course,” then he asked if my husband was a doctor. I answered ‘No’, laughing. Oh well, he says quite a few African men he knows are doctors … ha,ha,ha. That’s when he asked me why it is so uncommon to find African women who date or marry outside their culture, especially to African American men. I thought about this for a few seconds … I kinda agreed – African women do marry outside their race and culture, but it’s more common to find them married to Caucasian men. Personally, I only know a handful of girls from Africa who are married to black American men.
So, wanting to know what my friends thought, I posted this question on my Facebook page:
One of my clients, an African American male asked me an interesting question the other day: “WHY IS IT THAT IN THE U.S. ESPECIALLY, YOU DON’T OFTEN FIND AFRICAN WOMEN WHO MARRY OUTSIDE THEIR CULTURE, ESPECIALLY TO BLACK AMERICAN MALES? …”
There were quite a few comments left, most of them by African females; unscripted, they show real undiluted thoughts that run in our community. I will summarize them into the following points:
The ‘devil’ I know
African women prefer to deal with the guys they know; in line with the popular saying, “I’ll rather deal with the devil I know, than an angel I don’t.”
African American men do not often ask African women out. A couple of girls felt that the African Americans tend to think that they are superior to Africans, showing less respect for them than the Caucasians who are more open to learning about different cultures.
African women tend to believe that African American men are ‘playas’, out looking for nothing but a good time. It was stated that those who do ask African women out are not usually looking for serious long term relationships and African ‘sistas’ out here in the diaspora are often very much aware of their ticking biological clocks; they have no time to waste playing around.
Not much in common
Fundamental cultural differences serve as a huge divide between both groups; they do not share the same values for the most part. Most folks “tend to be comfortable with the culture they can identify with”, Anthony said.
Not enough interaction
Diane kind of hit the nail on the head when she wrote: “On my part, I think both parties have bought into the stereotypes. Reality is we don’t interact enough with one another. Only by so doing and gaining adequate knowledge/understanding of what angles we are all coming from will the demystification process begin …”
In a few words …
Lisa summed it up when she wrote: “… seriously good points all around. Stereotypes, cultural differences, a natural wariness of the unfamiliar and other complexities – let’s admit a fair number of Africans feel superior to African Americans – all play a role. The question is, are these perceptions justified or not? Some African sisters are happily married to African American men. I think the same rules should apply for cross-cultural/mixed race relationships as for any other: does he/she love, respect, and value you and the relationship? Is he/she a morally upright and responsible person? But given the low degree of interaction between both communities, it’s little wonder few ever get past first base and these all important questions never even come up.”
I would say, having lived in the United States for almost 10 years, I have had the opportunity to work with African Americans on a regular basis, and have gotten close to many who are now like family. Personally, I believe that there are huge walls of ignorant stereotypes between us when we first meet, but once these begin to be broken down (which happens especially when both groups have no choice but to get along), we find that we really have a lot more in common.
Unfortunately, like Lisa said, most Africans and African Americans never really ever get pass ‘first base’. It’s our hope at Dunia Magazine to begin to bridge these divides.
Looking forward to hearing from you, please leave an honest comment.
Photo by BrinsImage Photography
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