“Africans must get on with the business of creating a different kind of civilisation – a humane and accessible civilisation which benefits all of humanity. This is not just in the field of science, but everywhere where humanity is served, including politics.”
Xhanti Payi for the Daily Maverick (reference)
As a well-to-do Black South African in South Africa and, collectively, as Black Africans in Africa, we are confronted with the idea that colonialism was good for Africa. We have to face that colonialism is Africa’s history. As the more socially conscious (stay woke) and somewhat privileged of our society, it is uncomfortable to have to rationalize one’s standing on this matter simply because you enjoy running water and have a proclivity for posting your lunch on social media. This argument, when said by liberal white people (liberal white? Get out of here!), rings truer because it isn’t normally used to offend.
The first thing to recognize is that the gross violation of human rights is never a blessing. Colonialism isn’t made right by having a really cool condominium. Enjoying the perks of modern life does not devoid historical atrocities of their evils.
Much of this “post-colonial” progress is not prevalent in the daily lives of the African Black majority. Since many people in Africa, or even in the Caribbean or Americas, are neither afforded nor do they enjoy life as prescribed by some white-normative datum, you can easily reject the savior mentality behind colonialism. In a world that portrays Africa – and, inadvertently, Blackness – as a lesser continent and general disposition, the very conversation and narrative about Africa by the Western world should arouse no association to the modern amenities that would warrant European intervention in Africa even marginally beneficial.
Blackness exists in many hues, cultures, countries and languages. The ideal that there exists some utopian United State of Blackness is both presumptuous and takes away from the multiplicity of it. I do, however, think there should be some paradigm shift in addressing outside confrontation, particularly that from liberal white society. The proverbial colonial chip on our shoulder pushes us to legitimize and validate the achievements and sufficiencies of precolonial Africa, as opposed to creating a “new” and less white-centered narrative for Africans moving forward. Some cross-boundary interaction is not only necessary, but may even be vital in the healthy inclusive evolution of different Black groups.
Colonialism is not Africa’s history. It is the history of conquest-hungry Europe whose urge to spread some educational “order” was propagated and transgressed by the ability to travel. Slavery is not the history of Black Americans nor Caribbean Black folk. It is the history of their removal from their homes and families, culture and languages. Some can trace their history to a certain people, their origin from some genetic lineage, and their family to some location. But the truth is, for many this has been lost.
We are our own new origin story. You, the Black that is not African on paper but is addressed as African-American, are the history of the American Black.
With a shaky history, the only affirming lifeline still extant for the African diaspora – specifically, but not limited to, the American and Caribbean Black – is recent and still under construction to some degree. We are our own new origin story. You, the Black that is not African on paper but is addressed as African-American, are the history of the American Black.
You are valid and active in the construction of the story of your people. You are your people. Your ideas and your art, your nine-to-five and your freelance gigs, your English classes and your music subscriptions, your friendship circle and your latest dance moves, your rap lyrics and your music-video choreography, your barber shop frescoes and your lumo-colored box braids, these are your voice in the narrative of your history. Write it as you would have liked to have read it.