Over the years, while writing at Refugee Resettlement Watch, an article would come my way that hinted at the problems within the African “community” between the new African immigrants and our own African-Americans.
(Resettlement contractors loved to place the new Africans in predominantly African-American neighborhoods with, I suppose, the naive notion that since they are all blacks they would love and embrace each other!)
If there were tensions, it was always just hinted (or immediately swept under the rug if a reporter dared mention it) and I suspect that is because it goes against the narrative—how is it possible for a black immigrant to be bigoted against another black person?
Everyone knows only white people can be racists and bigots, right?
Much to my surprise here is an opinion piece at MinnPost published a few days ago by second generation Ethiopian immigrant Eskender A. Yousuf.
It took me a few minutes of reading and rereading to understand that he is basically saying that the new immigrant Africans look upon African-Americans, who have been here for generations, as riff-raff, inferior to the real Africans newly arrived.
What is going on, two big admissions in the space of a week about problems in the Minnesota immigrant “community.”
Don’t miss my post at RRW about how Somali culture dictates that women can be treated with abuse.
A call to address anti-Blackness within African immigrant communities
“I was on a recent conference call helping an organization put a statement together and this Sudanese brother says, ‘I don’t understand this Black Lives Matter stuff, I have never felt racism in this country.’
You know, I’m just letting people have it now … we [African-Americans] can sniff out anti-Blackness right when we step in the room, wherever we are. … I have never felt welcomed or comfortable in any African immigrant establishment in Minnesota.”
These words come from a recent conversation I had with a close connection of mine.
This was nothing short of our regular conversations and check-ins; however, this time it felt different. With the wake of the current racial uprisings, it provoked me to publicly call attention this issue.
As a second-generation Ethiopian immigrant who is ethnically Oromo, I was born and raised in the Twin Cities. I never imagined that the place I call home would become the epicenter of historic racial uprisings and protests that sparked a fire across the world.
Stood in solidarity
Amongst the sea of protesters that stood in solidarity in the streets of Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd’s death were 1.5 and second-generation African immigrants (1.5 generation immigrants refer to those who came to America before they reached 12 years old; second-generation immigrants refer to those who were born in America).
Minneapolis, in fact, is home to a diverse population of racially Black individuals and a large fraction of them are African immigrants and refugees. We have the largest population of Somali immigrants, a vast number of Ethiopians, as well as immigrants from other African countries like Eritrea, Sudan, Liberia, and Nigeria. While African immigrant communities showed up in large numbers to protest police brutality and racial injustices, an oft-neglected nuance is the prevalence of anti-Blackness within these very communities.
The support for the Black Lives Matter movement from the African immigrant community demands that we address and correct the racist practices within our own community that are often left unquestioned.
For us to truly support the call for racial injustice, we must take the step eradicate anti-Blackness within our own communities.
Growing up in the Twin Cities, I have witnessed countless anti-Black sentiments, expressions, attitudes, and practices from close relatives and community members. Some examples include: looking down on marrying African-Americans, addressing and treating African-Americans and their communities by negative racialized stereotypes (i.e. lazy, not hardworking, criminals) and our perpetual disassociation with the African-American community in order to distinctly identify ourselves as African immigrants and not “Black/African-American.”
This identification process has been heavily documented and proved as a mechanism for us to distance ourselves from African-American communities for various reasons, including social stratification.
I didn’t want to post the whole thing, but there is more good stuff, so continue reading here.
Wouldn’t it be great if the politically incorrect Mr. Yousuf and the Sudanese “brother” he quotes made it to cable TV news. I can dream can’t I!