Why White People Love Africans (But Can’t Stand African-Americans)

Kenya, Laikipia, Lewa Downs. A family on safari game viewing during a game drive at Lewa Downs. (MR)

I grew up surrounded by what little Nigerian community Pittsburgh had to offer. It never failed, at every function, every celebration, every ceremony, every makeshift masquerade, there was a sprinkle of white guests. Never ones to just observe the fun, these white folks were smack dab in the middle of the action. Drenched in traditional garb, being served and waited on hand and foot, seated near whoever the principal guests of the occasion were, making it a “teach white people moment” like only they can. However, the Black American guests, like my mother, were left to dish out their own jollof rice, typically finding companionship amongst each other somewhere off in the shadows.

I’ve been aware of the preferential dynamic between Africans and White Americans for a very long time. It’s something I witnessed all throughout childhood and well into adulthood. It wasn’t a secret that professors at my university showed preferential treatment to African immigrant students, both in instruction and in resources. And it’s not uncommon to hear about preferential hiring and promotional decisions in favor of African employees as opposed to Black Americans in the workplace. I mean it’s cool for Africans and white people to love each other, the problem arises when innocent people are affected by this preferential treatment and biased decision making. It wasn’t until I saw the effects of such treatment played out in my own life that I thought to explore why this dynamic existed. Now these are just my theories, but let’s explore 5 possible reasons why white people love Africans (but can’t stand African Americans).

“All of the Melanin, None of the Guilt”

Slavery is America’s greatest sin. No matter how much white people would have us forget it ever occurred, grab our invisible bootstraps and move on, we know that can never happen. The truth is the residual effects of slavery are sewn into the fabric of this country, making the avoidance of guilt a seemingly impossible feat, especially when you’re still wearing it’s clothing. Not to mention, interfacing with your victims on the daily can get pretty taxing. Of course the white people we see today aren’t the ones who steered the ships and physically chained us, but their willingness to maintain hold of the privileges they inherited through these atrocities lets us know that they’re in no rush to make amends. And because White people feel this unavoidable sense of guilt when it comes to forging on in their ancestors bloody footsteps, their subconscious is always thinking of ways to avoid further persecution. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to avoid who makes you feel guilty about it.

If this observation is accurate, then it only makes sense for white people to prefer Africans immigrants. Not only can they whip out the “I have a friend from Ghana” card, but they also get to avoid the social responsibility, the expectation of ally-ship, the acknowledgment of wrongs, the challenging of old family beliefs, and many other responsibilities that come along with befriending Black Americans. Sure, the Transatlantic Slave Trade began in West Africa but white people don’t see slavery as a crime committed against Africans — at least not directly. So in the context of friendships and intimate partnerships between Africans and White Americans, these topics are easily avoidable. No victim, no crime. No rallies to attend, no protests, no boycotts, just guilt-free fun. The African friend essentially acts as a breath of fresh air to the white conscious.

“Is This Wakanda?”

Now this next sentence may not go over well, but Black Twitter will pretty much tell you all you need to know about Black culture. What we eat, how to cook it, how to season it, what we’re listening to, who we love this week, who we hate, what boycott we’re half-assing, where the cookout is, how to get there, and what kind of raisins to bring for the potato salad. Black people don’t keep much of anything a secret when it comes to Black culture. Nothing is off limits and nothing is too sacred to discuss out in the open. That’s not necessarily something to fault Black Americans over but when has easy access ever made us more appreciative of something? Not to mention that Black American culture derived from the culmination of European influences and whatever remnants of African culture were permitted to remain on the plantation.

White people know Black culture well because they had a huge part in its inception — been there, stole that. In contrast, African culture is a little harder to access. You won’t find nationally televised shows depicting a modern African way of life, there is no continent-wide cookout for us to dish out invitations to, there’s no honorary South African pass for best gwara-gwara dance, and you won’t find Nigerian gele (traditional West African style of headdress) at Forever 21 or Zara. African culture is tied to Africans which means you must go through the people to access it, which white people have proven they have no problem doing. White people cant get enough of things that aren’t made for them and it doesn’t get more F.U.B.U. than African culture.

“Let’s Have a Pity Party”

National Geographic came forward this year and issued an apology for historically racist coverage of Africans and indigenous groups around the world. Shocker. But that apology doesn’t do much to rectify the lasting imagery that their coverage created. The naked African hunting bushmeat in the forest, the bloated belly of a starving African child, the drug fueled African warlord, some of these images are the only images of Africa that many Americans know. Leading some white Americans to see African immigrants as personal charity cases, whether warranted or not. It’s not uncommon for a white person to befriend an African immigrant for the sole purpose of feeling like a do-gooder. Who else would introduce Mbutu to the wonders of pants and forks? The destitute African friend gives White Americans their much needed dose of heroism, which is not the case for the Black American friend. And why is that, you might ask? Black Americans are somewhat destitute in their home country, are they not? The answer to that question is yes, we most certainly are. But it’s a little more difficult for white people to feel sorry for Black Americans because that would require them to acknowledge their participation in keeping Black Americans destitute in the first place. And white people hate feeling guilty, especially when they’re guilty.

“You Are Really Dumb… Forreal.”

Generally speaking, White People are ignorant. And despite all of the free information at our fingertips, many will choose to remain in that state. And it’s probably best they do, simply based on the fact that most of the ideologies, advancements, and innovations that white culture promotes and celebrates were birthed from Black minds, which for many would be too big a blow to their egos.

What we know about white people’s silent inferiority complex is that it’s very important to them to feel in control, in power, and in moral authority, which is hard to do if you’re constantly being called out on your immorality. And while it’s impossible to avoid the very obvious connection between the condition of Black America and its relation to White America, it’s a little easier to glance over Africa’s relation to the West. The truth is that the continent of Africa has been repeatedly pillaged, siphoned and squandered ever since Europeans first decided her resources were profitable. There have been countless documented incidents of war, genocide, group extermination, sterilization, intentional disease outbreaks, famine, child trafficking, molestation and rape at the hands of UN “peacekeepers”, intentional elimination of indigenous spiritual systems and the list goes on, all at the hands of white people. White people aren’t blameless when it comes to the state of Africa and it’s inhabitants, they’re just ignorant.

“He Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly”

White people aren’t afraid of a lot of things they probably should be: each other, wild animals, extreme sports, each other, the sun, illegal drugs, heart disease, cancer, each other, and chronic lower respiratory disease just to name a few. After all, these are a few of the things that pose the greatest statistical threat to white life. You know what’s not on that list, Black folk. That’s right, Black people actually pose an excessively low threat to white lives, (now if only the reverse were true). But you would never guess that with the immense amount of irrational fear white people seem to have when it comes to Black people. A fear they don’t appear to have when it comes to African immigrants. And while many would look at the rate at which American-born Black men are killed by police in comparison to that of African immigrants and attribute that to some instigative behaviors on the part of Black men, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the vastly different representations these two groups possess. Black Americans are portrayed as unpredictable, unhinged, violent, aggressive and irrational. African immigrants, on the other hand, are depicted as docile, overly religious, determined and jovial. The African is harmless. Harmless to the fragile white ego, harmless to white establishments, harmless to the white savior complex, harmless to white sensibilities, just plain ole harmless.

There are a ton of other reasons that could potentially explain why white people prefer Africans. One being that African immigrants, having nationalities that don’t reject them, are less tied to racial classifications than Black Americans and therefore are less likely to see their race as an inhibitor. White people love that. Another reason could be that Africans are more willing to capitulate, quickly denouncing culture, language, tradition and birth name in order to blend into white society and corporate culture. A third reason could possibly be that Africans are often more willing to overlook the racist and bigoted comments and beliefs their white friends hold, not having the same historical attachment to various words and references. Whatever the reason, white friendship has never been and will never be the prize. And we should all beware of any white people who think making exceptions for a few “safe” Black people makes them any less racist or prejudice. It doesn’t. And whatever we call it, tokenism, favoritism, nepotism or a classic case of divide and conquer, the only thing I know for sure is that we should all be skeptical as hell.

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