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black.woman_.beautiful
When I was 10 or so, my father won an all-expense paid trip to Senegal. “We’re going to Africa!” my mother gleefully exclaimed. So we took the Amtrak train to New York to fly out of JFK and ignored the warnings of a pending Nor’easter, thinking the sheer and desperate determination of three Black Americans to make it to Africa would hold off the worst of the snow until we were airborne.

It didn’t. New York City was shut down for three days, and by the time the airports opened, it didn’t make sense to fly out. We pushed the trip back indefinitely, and never made it. And so began my obsession with Africa, the place my even-tempered mother spoke of like it was some sort of Disneyland for Black people.

Some Black Americans, and I’m referring mostly to those that call Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina their “Old Country,” tend to be awe-struck at the idea Africa, like Nas at the end of Belly. Once we get a full picture beyond what we’re taught in school, where the largest continent and birthplace of all mankind is reduced to being the starting point for the Atlantic Slave Trade, there becomes an eagerness to migrate back across the Atlantic. The yearning is not unlike some immigrants who seek entrance to American shores. Except we’re not seeking the opportunities and streets of gold that Fievel and his family expected; we’re seeking the “home” that the Middle Passage erased.

I get why. For many American Blacks, the overall American experience has never really felt like a place where you can kick up your feet and recline all the way back. You get moments where that happens, of course, but then you also get a startling awakening— like when people are surprised you don’t have any children out-of-wedlock, or you happen to be “so articulate,” or despite carrying a purse while you shop, you find yourself explaining “No, no, actually I don’t work here.” Those things remind you not to get too comfy. America is home in the sense of being the devil you know, a bit like a stereotypical step-child, the one you tolerate but don’t really love like your own.

In recent weeks those feelings have surfaced again for many who struggle to make sense of the injustice of Trayvon Martin’s killer walking around freely, the ignorance displayed in conservative columnist John Derbyshire’s piece for The National Review where he wrote of advising his children to avoid Black folk, and the obnoxiousness of those Twitter-racists who found outrage in a sympathetic book character being Black or Awkward Black Girl landing the Shorty Award for best web-series. I find, similar to Cinderella, we dream of an escape to a place where we fit, like a glass slipper on the correct foot. For me, that place was Africa, any country, any part.

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143 Comments

  1. Excuse me?! You are going to generalize/judge a whole continent, based on your ONE South African experience. The tittle should have read, not African enough in South Africa!

    The lady that spoke to you with “disdain” only did so, because a lot of kids are now embracing the English language, foregoing their mother tongue. In essence, forgetting their culture and seemingly embracing the West. The roll of eyes was coming from a good place oo!———-> and no, I was not in her head to know exactly what she was thinking, BUT you will get a lot of those-

    I would roll my eyes too if I read this! It drips of uppitiness. When in Rome do as the Romans do-it ain’t that hard!

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    • Guest

      Mami I normally agree with everything you say but i guess we have to have disimilarities somewhere(I am crying-I call you my long lost twin sister) .
      I think what she is saying is that she expected to feel a sort of coming-home feeling in arfrica but did not, and not not in a snobby “i’m generalizing and i cant be bothered with primitive africa” kind of way, but in a “hmm: this a moment to dispel some myths” way.

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    • @ Guest

      Do you go by another name?! Or did you ever?! Feel like I may know you…….

      She is indefensible at this point in time-

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    • Whatever

      “The tittle should have read, not African enough in South Africa!”

      THANK YOU.

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    • @African Mami, I agree with some of what you said.I’m also tired of the generalising, indeed the title should be “Not African enough in South Africa”! Africa is a continent not a country!

      I feel she displayed a bit of naivete by assuming she would feel at home just because the people there look like her. However, I don’t blame her for wanting to feel at home in Africa because there are many experiences in the U.S. that would a black person NOT feel like they belong. But I do think African Americans should approach Africa just like they would Greece, China or any other country, with a sense of curiosity and a desire to learn something new. Even though their ancestors came from Africa, slavery and the oppression that followed served to erase their heritage, the U.S. is in fact their home!

      Just because the lady responded with disdain does not mean that she should not explore other African countries. FYI,sometimes Africans experience the same thing in their own countries! Anyone who has lived abroad will also attest to feeling a little out of place when they go back home. It’s okay to want to belong, to be proud of your country and culture but really we are all citizens of the world.

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    • Funny, if we treated a South Africans like this in America it would be an issue right? We would be the snobby and rude Americans!

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  2. This “aticle” is ridiculous. What was the point really? Did you expect to be made a queen mother? Maybe you were feeling ou of place and so FOUND a way to be made to feel out of place with her “disdain”. “my American-ness was announced long before I opened my mouth.” Uppity Syndrome. “the way I dressed” WHAT were you wearing tha they have never seen? ugh. I typically like your work but when it comes to foreign matters you end to act like “i’m so cultured” but really, going to brunch, essence festival and studying abroad isn’t culture. You may have stamps in your passport but far from cultured.

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    • I just read your comment and started singing.

      *Jesus is the answer for the world today, above there is no other.*………..>random, I know!

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    • African Mami, lol Jesus take the wheel! Well, we know you’re lost worshiping Jesus! Jesus means Zeus! Zeus is a white God!

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    • Djuobah

      PREACH!!! “going to brunch, essence festival and studying abroad isn’t culture. You may have stamps in your passport but far from cultured”…I will have to use that on many of my “cultured” friends. SMDH.

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    • Wow, as an African American woman, these hateful bitter comments are really opening my eyes of the jealousy of other black women from other cultures. It’s very sad and pathetic on their part….oh well if I was them I would be mad too! Stay mad B$tches. I had the same problem in the Bahamas! Bunch of angry birds mad because we’re from the States! But if you we treated them the same way here they would be crying injustice! smh

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    • Kayla

      You all have really missed the message of this article because of your own ignorance.

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    • I’ll take being ignoant-we all are sometimes. I was born inGhana and moved to America at ten. Went back and lived for four years of highschool. I’ve goten the ” you are not Ghanaian” “Your wi is not correct” etc but I woulde NEVER say any of it was said with disdain. I say I am Ghanaian but I KNOW my short stint doesnt culturally MAKE me Ghanaian.Define who/what you are don’t think because you stepped foot somewhere you will be looked at as ” Oh look at this open minded American. She is one of our own” I have a white girlfriend who was interested in visiting africa but wanted the full experience–no brunch and typical tourist trips. What did she do? She STAYED with a Ghanian family, she cooked, cleanded, washed like the “average” African. Belle went to Sa and talked about how Brooklyn, Miami SA was..ha! on her first few days she complained about lack of power/cell phone/technology. When I travel I want to EXPERIENCE LIFE. I can eat brunch in DC, skype in DC why do that while away?

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    • To be made a Queen? Wow is that what you got out of the article? It seems many of you are prejudice against African Americans and are reaching and misinterpreting things in order to express your hatred for us! This makes you no different than those crackers! All of you can go to hell, hating ass b$tches! We should start treating them same way they treat us when we visit their country, see how they like that!

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  3. this was so short-sighted and ignorant. 3 weeks in south africa of all places and you feel qualified to speak on not being “african” enough. seriously? so now dude from a spike lee movie has the final word? how about you travel extensively first? how about you focus on connecting to the place? africa is not panacea for those of us who are of the diaspora but you experience can be what you make it. adjust your attitude and your expectations. tell the women dishing out disdain not to assume you speak her language but ask if her she cares to share the name and to learn about black people from outside her world. geez.

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    • ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^THHHHHHHHHHHHHISSSSS!!!!!

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    • Gloray! People really think stepping on foreign soil for a monh gives them the authority to speak foolishly. She went and drank mimosas, took pictures and ate seafood but has so much o say about her “experience”. Try again, Miss Lucas.

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    • Djuobah

      +1.

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    • Yeahright2011

      I like Western Europe for traveling. You’re treated like an American. Well you have to say so in France, Greece, and Italy for they’ll think you’re a hooker. Once they realize you’re American its a good time though. Closet I’ve been to Africa is the Canaries and the only African country I want to see, if any, is Cape Verde. If you want a West African experience just go to DC or NY. Why fly half way around the world when you can get treated like crap by Africans right here in the US and for a lot less money.

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  4. Tarupiwa Of Zimbabwe.

    Fortunately I am in Africa right now. Never come to Africa with an attitude. We have had enough attitudes from whites who came, colonised us and tried to treat us with disdain, with all their racist tendencies. We fought the white and everything that has to do with them. We stand very tall and equal to whites including their cultures. So, when one of our kind comes here with a whitish hangover – we take serious exception. Our kids, because of media and tv are franticaly trying to be more western cultured than the west. When next you visit Africa be human and humble, be friendly and accomodating. We are still in Africa here. We were robbed not only of our dignity, integrity and rights to self determination and actualisation. Yes, we have pleanty of work to do, building ourselves and countries in the face of a global economy and its dictates. Come to Zimbabwe, we will give you your own farm and probably a diamond mine. We simply lack capital but we are spirited enough to take our destiny into our own hands. And, we never apologise we are Africans; very proud and very capable. If you come next – we can take you hunting, sleeping in the bush with lions roaring – thats Africa. And, we are the people. Africa was partioned, shared amongst Europen countries. Sons and daughters taken as slaves to the Americas. So when you come back , you are one of us. But, never give us your erstwhile slavemasters’ attitude. [email protected]

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    • Just Me

      Great comment. Very interesting perspective.

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    • Socially Maladjusted

      Beautiful!

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  5. apple

    Because you are American, only of African descendant,that’s why you don’t fit in. As much as I would love to live elsewhere I know I’m more American then my desire to leave for good. And you never realize how american you are, til you leave . However if you with go the expectation that you are going to become a native just because you have old roots or look like a group of people there ,you will be disappointed.

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