Although the U.S. is recognized as a melting pot country, the Black community, specifically, is associated with a narrative that everyone who identifies as Black shares the same culture. In the context of the U.S., we tend to look at Blackness as a single story instead of multiple stories with each one having a unique perspective. Due to this illusion that all Black people are the same, we use the terms “Black people” and “African-Americans” interchangeably. But “Black people” is a broad term used to acknowledge all people with a dark skin pigmentation and ancestry that comes from Africa, while “African-American” is only supposed to refer to people with a dark skin pigmentation who have lived in the U.S. for generations.
One of the major problems with associating all Black People with the term “African-American” is that it erases the experiences that Black people from other regions of the world have. When it comes to Afro-Latinx and Afro-Caribbean people, they were colonized by different European peoples than African-Americans, which played a pivotal role in the development of their language and culture. When it comes to people from countries in Africa, they are still more connected to their original culture and language, unlike African-Americans. Due to slavery, African-Americans lost all ties to their original culture and language, but sprouted a new culture in the process. Consequently, with that culture comes systematic oppression that Black people from other regions cannot fully understand, which is not to take away their Blackness, but instead to highlight the difference. For example, when it comes to the word “nigga,” African-Americans were dehumanized with this word, so naturally they would hold some hostility towards it. People from African countries, on the other hand, did not face this type of hatred and therefore are not as affected by the word.
Again, this is not to take away the experience of Black people from other regions in the world, considering they also faced colonization and imperialism, but it is rather to show that Blackness comes with a multitude of experiences. Please also note that the reason I said “people from countries in Africa” instead of “Africans” is because we tend to group them all together as if Africa is a country. Hardly. Africa is composed of dozens of countries with hundreds of different languages and cultures. And since the purpose of this article is to represent the different forms of Blackness, it would be wrong to introduce a continent with such diversity as homogenous.
Some might argue that it doesn’t matter because we are all Black and we all experience oppression, but it does matter when we oppress each other. Too often do we see African-Americans try and determine if a person is “Black enough” because they are mixed race or Afro-Latinx, or if they are coming from other countries and “stealing our jobs,” as many African-Americans accuse people from African countries of doing. We have to show where we differ because only then we can acknowledge the unique oppressions that Black people from other regions face, which recently includes immigration policies as the Trump administration has more than doubled the deportation of people from African countries last year alone. We could also talk about how Black people from other regions may come to the U.S. for a better education, asylum seeking, etc., but are not only pushed down by white people but also African-Americans. We have put our oppression on a pedestal and refuse to see any other form of oppression as our equal. If we were truly all the same, then we would give every Black experience a platform and not just the African-American rhetoric that is constantly shown throughout media.
In order to understand each other, we need representation from Black people from other regions of the world through politics, media, music, etc. We need to understand, respect, and accept that every experience is valid and there shouldn’t be one that reigns supreme over the others. Blackness encompasses many stories, and it’s our job to recognize each story and make sure it is appreciated.