My first memory of life is a time in pre-kindergarten. Two white students told me that I could not play with them because I was black. I went home and told my mother. In her Ghanaian accent she said, “Remember this, there are some white people who will hate you simply because your skin is pure gold.” I was the only black person in my class, therefore I had to learn quickly how to be “emotionally strong.” I was five years old.
In third grade, we moved to Maryland. For the first time, there were other black children in my class. It was almost surreal seeing other students and teachers who looked like me. One day, during lunch, I asked the teacher to warm up my chicken and waakye. A black student laughed and said, “Dumb African booty scratcher.” Several other students started to laugh while I began to cry. That was the first day I heard the words “African booty scratcher.” That was also the first day I was ever insulted by a black person. It was an indescribable experience. Those words triggered an emotion I had never felt. Naturally, I went back home and told my parents. With tears in their eyes they told me, “There are some black people who will hate you, but we do not know why.”
When my parents came to this country, they knew to expect racist comments from colonizers. They anticipated being called the n-word and a plethora of other racist remarks. The people of Africa are a very accepting and welcoming type of community. Once a black American sets foot in Africa, they typically feel a sense of belonging. Even though it is their first time on the continent, it easily feels like home. Therefore, for another person with the same pure gold skin to call me anything less than human, was confusing. From that moment on, my black peers called me everything from “tar baby” to “dirty African.” They clicked their tongues at me and disrespected my family and culture, not realizing that they were disrespecting themselves.
When the murder of Trayvon Martin happened, black America underwent a cultural shift. It was almost as if the brutal slayings of black Americans brought on an appreciation of African culture. I quickly went from defending Kente, to helping my friends shop for fabric. I saw an influx of people organize vacations to Kenya and Nigeria, while colleges promoted African culture on campus.
This ethnic shift has been further amplified with the premiere of Black Panther. Yes, we know Black Panther is not the first black superhero, however, Spawn, Hancock, Blade and Meteor Man were not royalty. They were not referred to as “King.” For the first time in America’s history, an African man was the most powerful person in the world, the smartest person in the world was a teenage girl with gold skin and the greatest fighter in the world was a black woman. Millions of people saw the beauty of Africa without the consequence of colonization.The week Black Panther premiered felt like the whole country was taking African Culture 101. My roommate texted me and said, “The Ghanaian meatless meatballs were amazing.” Granted he was referring to Karkro, but to even hear him say that warmed my heart. Africans and Africans stolen from Africa have never been so close. African Americans were asking questions that went beyond poverty and slavery. Kids were trading in the Milly rock for Gwara Gwara.
In respect to Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, we saw the gap begin to close during the Black Power movement in the '70s and '80s. Though short lived, it was at least seen as possible for us as a people to be unified. In 2018, we have another opportunity to grow. There is an incredible amount of healing that needs to be happen between us. In the paraphrased words of Paul Mooney, “Everyone loves being black until it is time to be black.”
We are approaching a time where everyone loves to be African until it is time to be African. African people should be embraced as much as their culture. Gain a deeper understanding of Africa and its people, ask questions, travel and collaborate. Africans, step into 2018 with an open heart. Do not associate stolen Africans with Eurocentric placed stereotypes. Ultimately, remember that African Americans did not ask to come America and be subjected through slavery. Now is the time to come together as one.
As for the kids who use to called me African booty scratcher in the third grade? Come to Africa. Come home.