Division in the Diaspora Part II – A Post-Discussion Commentary

Yesterday at Hueman Bookstore, the Male Book Club (possible name change pending) had a discussion of Continental Drift: The African African-American Experience by Fitzgerald C. Ajoku. The book is about the life experiences of Ajoku, and his outlook on being a Nigerian-American. In addition to telling his story, he also raises the acrimony that too often typifies relations between Africans and African-Americans. Having read the book over the weekend, I can say that it was written in an accessible style. It is a quick and worthy read, and the author stresses the point in the book that those of African descent really need to come together. The attendees, hailing from places such as Senegal, Ghana, Jamaica, France, Cuba, Dominican Republic and right here in NYC(myself), the diversity within the Diaspora was well represented. In the spirit of coming together to understand the culture of one another, things began in earnest with everyone stating how they identify themselves.

The conversation began with many lead thought questions, and people responding to what everyone feels are common stereotypes about both Africans and African-Americans.  Here is where things began to get somewhat spirited.  While Mr. Ajoku along with the moderator did the best they could to ensure all were heard,  some things that were not dealt with, even though it was spoken on from the floor.

One quick point. Speaking as a Black American, I must say that there are times when I have heard of African immigrants unthinkingly repeat an assertion that African-Americans have a low work ethic. This is not a new stereotype, it is an age old one, that actually has its roots in slavery. From the floor I raised a question on it. Speaking personally, with parents of Southern heritage, I grew up hearing that you have to be “Twice As Good” as a white person to be considered even adequate in this society. That phrase comes from the lived experiences of Black Americans with us knowing that we have to go much, much harder than everyone and damn near over-prove yourself. I asked, if there is such a deficiency in the work ethic of African-Americans, then where does that phrase come from? That question was only partially dealt with, but not fully addressed in yesterday’s discussion. My point in saying this, is that work ethic is not something that is exclusive to African immigrants.

In any conversation, there are things that get sidelined. In my previous post on the issue, I talked about how we need to address these things. Yesterday was a great start. But I have to speak honestly, that when the discussion turned towards issues of interracial relationships, the whole thing went left. Often times, it can be counter-productive to bring up such an issue if the conversation is focused on how those in the Diaspora can bridge the gaps in understanding between each other. It’s an important topic, but in some cases, it can do more to incite than to provide needed insight on relations between those of African descent. Those who wish to follow up on that argument are welcome to do so, but that’s not something I will engage here. (Psst! Its called passing on the drama!)

Once a semblance of respectful exchange was gained towards the end, Mr. Ajoku helped the audience recognize that as African people, we are all in this together. I recommend this book to anyone with a sincere interest in bridging the cultural and linguistic gaps between those of African descent. I truly feel as though we have to work through our divisions, so we can move forward in a world that is changing all around us.

Marc W. Polite

African by way of South Carolina

For more, visit The Website of Fitzgerald C. Ajoku

P.S. If you feel like I mis-characterized the discussion and what took place, get at me.


  1. Sounds like an interesting read and interesting convo (I would’ve been in the midst of the drama LOL). As a Black American who is often mistaken for being either African or Caribbean, it’s a topic that definitely interests me. Being called an “African booty scratcher” (stop laughing Marc) by American children and a dummy by African children who felt they were smarter, I would’ve loved if they had actually answered you question. It seems we all have these negative attitudes toward each other and negate helping one another out! Sad, really! Again, nice post, someone bagin’ em out! 🙂


  2. It was an interesting convo indeed! I have to say that I as well am often mistaken for Caribbean or African as well, especially with my last name. I would really like an answer to my question as well, but maybe folks felt too threatened by it. Oh well. And Kelli, I wouldn’t laugh at that, I got called worse. I ain’t exactly a light skinned dude myself. Back in the day, someone said I looked like a Midnight Marauder. I was like, did this Negro just call me a Tribe Called Quest album? I have been the recipient of more dark jokes than I care to recant right now. I would keep you here all night if I did that.

  3. Not for nothing, but growing up mixed wasn’t a bed of roses either. I was ostracized for not being “black enough” and where I grew up there weren’t enough second generation African-Americans for me to feel like I belonged to any community. Because I certainly didn’t belong to the white one and I had a hard time fitting into the black one. Instead of being called “African booty scratcher” I got “Oreo” and “Uncle Tom”.

    Growing up the way I did, I think one of the reasons I love New York is that there is so much diversity that there’s no room for anyone to be singled out for being different.

  4. All I gotta say is, WOW!

    As in the indelible damage Global White Supremacy has wrought on our people… We cannot simply accept and respect our differences without having to give one another an explanation! It is a travesty…

  5. Sounds like it was a great event. Often, I feel like we black people feel this need to be homogenous in order to progress.
    This notion is intensely flawed, we all have different perspectives on life, and we can’t share the same experiences of prejudice or anything else for that matter.
    Why the event sounds progressive, is because it seems like there was a real debate, rather than animosity toward any black man/woman who may have a different opinion.

    Thanks for the recommendation, shall add this one to my wishlist.

  6. It definitely was a great event. We as Black people need to realize that there is a wealth of culture and diversity within the Diaspora, and that we should appreciate it. You’re welcome MsAfropolitan.

  7. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. At times Black people can mistreat bi-racial people, not realizing that we are the least able people to be making purity claims.

  8. Great post Marc! I know that going up as a child was not really easy for me. I was not accepted by the people of color in my neighborhood, but I was embraced by the Latin community. I was called “oreo”, “nun”, and there was a notion that I was trying to “act white” because I talked proper and received good grades in school as an honor student. However, despite the above, I was still respected.

    For many years, I have traveled with a sense of “racelessness”due to my feelings of non-acceptance from both the white and black communities (with a few exceptions of course). It’s important to understand how those in the diaspora carry the psychological scars from slavery, and the considerable damage it does to impede progress among all peoples of color.

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