Friday, June 19, 2020 1:44 pm
By Ademola Araoye
The tribe is christened American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS). And they are elites in sections of the black American community. Through this agency, black humanity is up to executing another excruciating cruelty on itself. As often, the enemy, the inimical External Other, in its self serving partisan agenda, is quick to validate this fratricidal inclination of black humanity. It is a game the inimical Other is adroit at playing. That is the troubling emerging scenario in contemporary United States of America where black America is breaking up into tribal enclaves. The ethnicization of black America is coming at a time when a granite solidity of unity of that universally embattled black humanity is critical. Seamless integration of the global black community is an unassailable condition for the success of a now reinvigorated struggle in the open trenches of the battles for holistic emancipation of the black race. An unshakable singular black front is a particularly required imperative, given the progressive shake up of tectonic dimensions in the global temperament. This immense global activist social consciousness would seem to define the immediate post George Floyd era in the history of the struggle for emancipation everywhere black humanity can be found, including in prostrate Africa.
Yet again, at the cusp of a potential breakthrough in the struggle, black humanity is confronted with its historic instinctive self destructive tendencies. These are expressed in the myopic establishment of intra-black imaginary factional identities. These factional identities are, however, motivated by the pursuit of dubious narrowly focused ethnic advantage in securing elusive useless pieces of crumbs. This devolution into factional black identities in the New World consolidates an ugly trend of hyphenated intra black-American sub-identities. They include divisive nomenclatures like Nigerian-American, Haitian-American, Somali-American, etc all vestiges of the internalization of dubious sub-African identities conveniently forged by the External Other. It is a key appliance of subjugation to control and rule over a conquered people. The fossilization, through willing internalization, of this noxious appliance of hegemonic control betrays the people as a community of no serious will of resistance.
The implantation of this centrifugal nature of the peoples Africa outside the home continent in the New World is a regrettable reality. It has been facilitated by deficiencies in the process of integration into black America of all its members, irrespective of their immediate antecedents. The melting pot of black America is often a scathing cauldron. Black America thus inherited the original bane of black humanity abundantly manifest in Africa where at the slightest ambition for narrowly focused advantage, the ethnic or religious or ethno-regional/religious sub-identity is constructed, vehemently ossified and attributed to some ancient history is the order of the day. The card is card is played to exploit the system to the detriment of the corporate good of the community in whole. It is a continental systemic bane. In continental politics, bogus and fictional sovereignty is spurn into dubious protocols that rest on mechanically constructed nationalities and false interests of these identities is that last vetoing joker in apportioning collective good. The idea is to circumscribe objective criteria for the continental racial public good. Either in the domestic setting or in the continental systems, there are no transcendental values or principles or values to advance.
As in Africa, the decayed and decadent homeland of black humanity, Africa-America is adopting the very worst of the debilities in the character of the homeland: the convenient bifurcations of communities and artificial creation and inculcation of factional notions of black identity in the Diaspora. Replicating the challenge of a common race and community, the constructed divisive Africa American tribes are driven by considerations for promised insignificant crumbs from the master’s table. Black America is developing factional autonomous sub-identities very similar to the very useless, empty and retrograde puny sovereignities of the 56 political entities and sheer incongruous spatial nonentities in Africa. As in Africa, support for the balkanization of black America come from Conservatives of the inimical External Other that now coalesces around Trumpism. Anti-immigrants is central to the agenda of the far right. It is also core to the aims of the ADOS tribe.
Meanwhile, the lords of the hegemonic external Order, like France in Africa, are mortally threatened by the potential concretization of the pan African mantra of “One People, One Destiny”. A “One Africa” conscious of the inseparably linked common destiny of all peoples of African descent, and that actively work to translate the radical consciousness into a one global black humanity, would be that real defining game changer in world affairs. It immediately changes the structure of power in the international system and effectively imposes realigned global sensibilities that transform into positive interactive capital for black humanity with the world, everywhere. The structure and pattern of global economy, including its efficiently manicured institutions, and principles governing its operations would be recalibrated. The same would apply in the United States were Africa America to truly find common grounds based on the understanding of a communion and inextricably linked common destiny. That is as much overwhelming threat to the entrenched status quo that the unity of all persons with a drop of black blood poses to the degenerate human order. The unleashing of this potential tsunami of a force would irresistibly impact, be it in America, North or South, Europe, North, West or East, Asia, Australia. The reverberation should be felt even in expanding frontiers of humankind into Space and the galaxies beyond. If only…
Early in the year, the vociferous antagonisms expressed by a few black American actors mobilized under the banner of ADOS against the black English actress Cynthia Onyedinmanasu Chinasaokwu Erivo was alarming. The animosity was to protest the phenomenal success of one of their own. Cynthia Erivo had portrayed the title role in Harriet, a biographical film about iconic American abolitionist Harriet Tubman to universal acclaim. The ADOS animosity to a fellow black was revealing of an embarrassing depth of animus in that black community, even if the episode was limited to a small band of influential people in a specific competitive occupation. For her portrayal of Tubman, Cynthia Erivo, notably versatile and well regarded in the tough firmament, won nominations for two Academy Awards–one for Best Actress and the other for Best Original Song for “Stand Up”.-another production. The laurel suffused career of Cynthia Erivo ordinarily should be cause for celebrations. Rather, it elicited a #boycottharriet hashtag organized by the ADOS. This tribal African American group argues that recent African immigrants to the United States are from elite homes in the home continent and enjoyed privileged statuses that translate into professional excellence. Accordingly, they should be barred, among other things, from institutional arrangements in place in the United States intended to compensate and benefit American descendants of slavery. This was a very typical African perspective on how to drive the best out of the field away and impoverish the system. The sad truth however is that it echoed barely private unfortunate sentiments expressed by some leaders of black America as Senator Barrack Obama coasted to win his first nomination as the candidate of the Democratic Party for the Presidency of the United States of America. ADOS therefore has some closet sympathizers at the leadership of black America.
A search on the internet of American Descendants of Slavery(ADOS) yields the following direct quote: American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) is a lineage-focused political movement that seeks to advocate for people who are descendants of the enslaved Africans in America from its colonial period onward. It focuses on the difference between African Americans whose ancestors were slaves and those whose ancestors were not, calling for the descendants of slaves to be given priority over other African Americans and to have their own racial classification. They believe that the differences are enough to establish different ethnicities between the groups and that descendants of slaves are disadvantaged compared to other African Americans. American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) is a lineage-focused political movement that seeks to advocate for people who are descendants of the enslaved Africans in America from its colonial period onward. It focuses on the difference between African Americans whose ancestors were slaves and those whose ancestors were not, calling for the descendants of slaves to be given priority over other African Americans and to have their own racial classification. They believe that the differences are enough to establish different ethnicities between the groups and that direct descendants of American slavery are disadvantaged compared to other African Americans.
Kevin Cokley, writing in Texas Perspectives, observes that the increasingly bitter debate in the black community about whether African American/black identity should be defined by descendants of slavery or by African ancestry is undermining the spirit of the commonality of Africa America. Cokley advances that ADOS is a political and social movement whose purpose is to advocate for reparations, the idea of compensating those who have been wronged, on behalf of black Americans. However a closer examination of ADOS rhetoric and agenda, he submits, suggests an anti-African, anti-black-immigrant stance that is historically shortsighted. Cokley notes that critics characterize ADOS as having harmful anti-black policies and contend that its leaders do not believe that black Americans can or should have any connection with Africa.
The two key drivers of ADOS would seem to revolve around emotional and sentimental alienation from the African continent and its peoples and locating the ADOS tribe in such a way as to be the sole recipient of some reparations that has been touted from timeless eons ago for slavery. The two drivers are unfortunately familiar. There would seem to be two classic emotional or even sentimental responses of descendants of slaves, whether returnees to the continent or stuck in the Diaspora, in relation to Africa. These two divergent emotions have been pronounced in their manifestations and transformative implications, at least in the first of the responses, for Africa and the community of ex slaves and their descendants. They are the integrationist impulses of returnee slaves from Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, among others, to Lagos in Nigeria and the rejectionist and segregationist attitude of returnee slaves to Liberia under the umbrella of the America Colonization Society.
In the former integrationist attitude, starting from 1830s, many emancipated slaves escaped forced labour and discrimination by their return to Africa. They included Brazillian, Cuban and Trinidadian returnees. The voluntary returnees brought along with them some cultural practices and social sensibilities from their sojourn in Latin America. With skills in carpentry, masonry and bricklaying acquired from their slavery days, they introduced modern architecture to Lagos. Their “Brazilian quarters” in Lagos housing thousands of freed returnee slaves reflected Brazilian models of architecture in Nigeria. The new architectural designs became dominant in Lagos Island by the end of the 19th Century. At the social level, the da Rochas, Fernandezes, Domingos and Shitta-Beys, among many others, were prominent families in Lagos society, in business and in religion. Inter marriage with local Yoruba facilitated full integration in society. While the flavor of the return has been preserved, the returnees have fully assimilated themselves into local society. The outcome of this conscious emotional and spiritual return has been wealth and leadership of that integrated community of returnees in Lagos. Their lineage has been preeminent in the league of the very wealthy and movers of society. The name da Rocha became synonymous with stupendous wealth. Also, Chief Antonio Oladeide Fernandez, reputed as the richest man in Africa in recent times, was born in Lagos, South western Nigeria, into the Fernandez family that originated from Cuba. His family was the first European migrant to Lagos. Oladeinde Fernandez was defined by his immense integrationist impulse in Africa. He was the quintessential African transcending all the contrived divisions on the continent while retaining his firm identity as a Yoruba. He served as Economic advisor to the Angolan government. Also, he was appointed Deputy Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the United Nations. His business empire spread as far as South Africa. Another integrationist in that mold was Shitta-Bey who was born in Sierra Leone to repatriated Yoruba slaves rescued from the high seas by the British West African squadron. His parents later moved to Badagry and later to Lagos in 1852. He was close to the local aristocracy and organized a thriving business into the Delta and Sierra Leone. The integration and consequential assimilation of returnee slaves have had tremendous positive impact on the evolution of Lagos into contemporary economic powerhouse and the leader in social mobilization as well as the avant garde in society. More importantly, their lives exposed the lie in the narrow concept of nationality in Africa.
The rejectionist mold is demonstrated in Liberia where the first returnee slaves from the United States of America landed in Bushrod Island in 1822. Liberia achieved statehood in 1847. From its very beginnings the returnee slaves, Americo Liberians engaged in hostilities with the local population. The segregationist attitude of the returnees characterized Liberia as with less than 5 per cent of the population dominated national life. The most debilitating factor was the palpable contempt for Africa and, almost two centuries post return, continued emotional attachment of the returnees to the United States. The re-return became the social expectation for all Liberian elite. This has implied having a first home in the United States. In local parlance, Liberia is a mere “pepper bush” to be harvested to facilitate a good life in the United States. The illogicality of the pretenses are laid bare, both in Liberia and in the United States. This remains a rejectionist anti Africa posture that bedevils the challenging circumstances of contemporary Liberia. Not even a devastating national conflict, partly fuelled by the incongruence imposed by its history and pervasive deleterious attitudes of the emotionally misaligned elite, has cured the persisting divisions in society. The attitudinal deficits of the elite have now been passed on to the grass roots. Until only now, Liberians remained rejectionist of their African heritage. It is summed up in Liberia’s national sobriquet as “little America.” The analysis of the evolution Liberia’s contemporary situation would include the terrible cost of the rejectionist attitude of Liberia’s elite to its immediate neighbor-citizens, and, by implication, Africa. The exclusivist ADOS perspectives on Africa could as well reflect the mindset of elite Liberians who have returned to the United States and claim legitimacy as part of the lost tribe of descendants of American slavery.
In the different sagas of Brazillian/Cuban/Trinidadian returnees to Lagos and Americo Liberians are embedded and clearly demonstrated the progressive way forward for Africa and its Diaspora. The positive is illustrated in the Lagos model. The rejectionist impulse associated with the Bushrod mentality also highlights the retrogressive path backward for black humanity. In the climate of mass alienation of Africans from their authentic essences and physical defections from Africa at every given opportunity, as distasteful as emergence of ADOS is, it represents a sad indictment of Africa, especially in relation to the false material rehabilitation that are partially implied in the almost ancient discourses on reparation. The search for reparation for slavery is the search for the tokenism of external validation by a defeated people. There can be no reparations for centuries of emotional and spiritual dislocations. This applies to the African Diaspora as well as to the African homeland itself.
Implicit in the reparation debate and who qualifies for it are contesting narratives of the gradation of pain and suffering by which segment of the victims of hegemonic intrusions in Africa. Was the suffering under Apartheid in South Africa more inhuman, painful and degrading of black humanity than in the Congo under King Leopold II of Belgium that wiped out a third of the population and amputated another third for failing to meet work quotas and pay tax? How do both compare with experience of the Herero and the Nama in the first genocide of the 20th Century perpetuated by Germany? And how does the Tuskegee project fit into these horrendous global narratives of black pain and suffering? This odious perceptual barometer of pain and suffering compel comparative harrowing narratives of the undecipherable and unquantifiable pain of each conquered and enslaved people; a broken people. Then questions in retrospect arise. On experiential grounds, the poser may be teased: What was the fate of all the periodic rounds of debt forgiveness extended to Africa? And the aid, before fatigue set in with both the donor and lately some more dignified African recipients? How can ADOS ensure that the reparations, if it ever materializes, would not be at the expense of the residual paltry dignity of black humanity? Wouldn’t reparations be a mere dry bone by the contemptuous master thrown at a perpetually whining dog? ADOS is expressive of the potential divisions in the global black community that reparations may elicit.
Against this background, if the tough take aways from the historic outcomes of the numerous bloody dynamics to liberty, freedom, emancipation, unlimited autonomy of a people to thrive in the essences of their natural organic being must be our guardrails, DEFIANCE, not supplication, is then the singular assured pathway to unfettered holistic emancipation. Waiting for the Godot in reparations is dishonorable enough. May Africa and all its children, in the homeland as well as in the global Diaspora, trudge on to Zion in the courageous path of honor. There is no honor in the shameful clamor for reparations. Perhaps, with such a realization, the scheming tribe of ADOS can go to rest.