There’s a disappointing interview circulating featuring Akon, who has created extensive wealth for himself through his musical career and entrepreneurial efforts.
The Grammy nominee is also heralded as someone who delights in his African pride as a native of Senegal. Earlier this year he was afforded a $6 billion grant to build a futuristic, African city near the capital of Dakar, that would cover 2,000 acres powered by cyrptocurrency.
But even with all of his wealth, success and commitment to bettering his community, in a recent interview with VLAD, the musician resorted to harmful rhetoric that gave no particular nuance to the Black experience in America.
To be clear, the interview started off shaky when VLAD creator Vladimir Lyubovny, a white former DJ, who launched the platform in 2008, began pontificating on how the Seneglese community feels about slavery, adding that different African countries helped capture slaves for the European colonizers. This is also a decisive way to frame this, which aims to place the evils of slavery on African shoulders. It does not account for the fact that once money and capitalism entered the chat, the notion of community was forever tainted which is a thread that runs through Africa and our communities in the Americas and abroad.
“In Senegal, we’ve kind of overcome the thought of slavery, we don’t even think about it,” Akon began. “The only time we think about it, honestly, is when we’re doing tours at Goree Island. Outside of that, people have lived and moved way beyond the slavery concept and idea and mind state.”
Vlad added that Senegelese were able to maintain their pride, while Black communities in America have struggled. I’m not necessarily sure how true that is being that Senegal was largely colonized by France, hence why a large majority of its inhabitants speak French.
“I think it’s the art of just letting the past go and moving towards the future,” he continued. “And I think, in the U.S., they have this stigma of just not letting go of the past and blaming the past on every mishap or, you know, disappointment. I think as long as you hold onto that past, there’s a lot of weight that you carry with you everywhere you go. It’s hard to move forward and move fast when you got a weight on your back. You just gotta let it go.”
Vlad then says that it may be hard to get past slavery because in America, Black communities have yet to receive reparations. Akon’s answer was that Black communities in America should let that notion go as well.
“Yea but, unfortunately man, It’s not like America is going to take the initiative to do it. I mean otherwise, they would have done it already. Indians got reparations, the Jews got reparations for the Holocaust and it wasn’t even done in America. Italians got reparations, the Japanese got reparations,” he continued.
Now this is also problematic and not fully fleshed out because it totally dismounts the argument against voicing your civil liberties, protesting and demonstrating. If Black Americans waited for America, a system built on the backs of our labor, to take initiative to free us, we would still be chained in chattel slavery!
But Akon claims that the way out and through is to return to Africa because the soil that we live on is not ours. One, we are in the middle of a pandemic where for the sake of public health, individuals have been discouraged from flying domestically and abroad, not to mention the several bans countries have instituted globally against us, being that we are the epicenter of the coronavirus.
“It’s to the point now where African-Americans have to really understand their worth and realize that America was never or intended to ever consult or even, make up for any of that. They’re not sorry. They don’t care. It’s obvious,” he said. “Do you want to stay here and continued to be treated this way? Or just go back home, where you’re not no longer the minority. You actually are the majority, and you control your destiny, your future, and your land … They just need to go … America did a good job at brainwashing. The moment you mention Africa, they start shaking. They don’t even know why.”
Akon’s notion of “just get over it” and, a “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” to buy a $1200 ticket (at minimum) round trip to Africa, completely negates the health disparities we face as the virus continues to ravage our communities and the economic inequities that have kept us in poverty, where Black families continue to make below the national average for median housing income. It also frames it as if descendants of the Transatlantic slave trade in the Americas were unable to form their own customs, and should walk away from the very homes that raised them, from the country that we gave culture to.
It’s also rings eeringly similar to false stereotypes and pretenses touted by current administration and their supporters. While its important for Black people across the globe to hold space for their particular experience, it has to be said that white supremacy a belief system held up by Americans. And its wholly unfair and quite frankly ignorant to belittle a community that still suffers from the ramifications of 400 years of a system that was founded to strip us of our humanity.