African Identity Crisis: There Appears to Be an Identity Crisis in Some Sectors of the African Community in the UK. Some Members of the Community Are Comfortable with Being Described as "Black", Which in My View, Is Pretty Meaningless, Writes Awula Serwah

New African, August-September 2011 | Go to article overview

African Identity Crisis: There Appears to Be an Identity Crisis in Some Sectors of the African Community in the UK. Some Members of the Community Are Comfortable with Being Described as "Black", Which in My View, Is Pretty Meaningless, Writes Awula Serwah


FOR DECADES IN THE UK, THE political "Black" generally meant non-white British people, and was made up of Africans from the continent and the diaspora, and politically aware Asians. Even the discriminated-against Irish population could come under the "Black" tag. At the time, there was solidarity against racism which affected non-whites and the Irish in varying degrees.

But recently, a new tag has been gaining currency--BAME, which stands for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic. Within the community and statutory sectors, there are organisations that describe themselves as Black and Asian organisations. But our Asian brothers have claimed a separate identity, whilst the Africans appear happy to remain "Black".

However, when it comes to funding for Black History Month, which in the UK is observed every October, some of our Asian brothers are strategic, and describe themselves as Black. But the rest of the time, they are Asian.

The Asians can claim their identity by connecting to Asia. For those Africans who appear comfortable to be described as Black, but are not keen on claiming their African identity, it is perhaps worth pointing out to them that there is no continent or country called Black! My view is that we should identify ourselves as Africans, whether we come from the continent or the diaspora.

I am in no way advocating a wholesale ban on the word "Black". For example, I appreciate the concept of Black Power, which was popularised by the likes of Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael). It is about African pride, and Africans coming together to form a political force and articulating their needs. Interestingly, Stokely Carmichael changed his name to Kwame Toure, to assert his African identity.

We should ask ourselves why some of us are reluctant to describe ourselves as African. Some of our brothers and sisters from the Caribbean are happy to talk about having Scottish, Welsh or Spanish blood, but do not appear as keen to acknowledge that they have African blood.

Some of the reluctance in associating with Africa has its roots in enslavement, colonialism, and the dehumanisation of the African. In order to justify the cruel treatment of enslaved Africans, and the fact that they were denied fundamental human rights, the enslavers sought to convince their countrymen and the enslaved Africans that Africans were sub-human savages, who did not have any human rights whatsoever.

Through centuries of brutality, they succeeded in enslaving not only the bodies, but more importantly the minds of some of our brothers, who ended up hating themselves, and anyone who looked like them.

Marrying out

Today the chains are gone, but in some cases, our minds are still enslaved, and we have accepted the myth of the superiority of the European. To this day, some Africans bleach their skin, others give more respect to Europeans and lighter-skinned Africans, and some think that being in a relationship with a European (regardless of the background of the European) improves their social standing.

Some of our men think that white is all that is beautiful. Is it surprising that Dr Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, recently claimed in a study report that "Black women are ... far less attractive than white, Asian, and Native American women".

Rather than dignify such ill-informed comments with a response, we should perhaps take a good look at the way some of us behave. …

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African Identity Crisis: There Appears to Be an Identity Crisis in Some Sectors of the African Community in the UK. Some Members of the Community Are Comfortable with Being Described as "Black", Which in My View, Is Pretty Meaningless, Writes Awula Serwah
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