In this day and age, and as the world trots towards the El-Dorado of globalization, one grey area which has dominated global discourse is that of migration/immigration. Countries are deciphering how best to manage immigration, social commentators are debating whether migration should become a fundamental human right, and natives (and immigrants) are in a constant discourse on how to engage one another. Sadly, no nation has it all figured out.
Once again, the conversation about the social contract between immigrants and natives dominated the headlines, as Africans and African Americans were engaged in long dialogue on Twitter under the #SecureTheTribe hashtag. Staking their claim, the African-Americans clearly argued that African immigrants in America have done little to advance the black cause. Conversely, Africans believe they do not owe the African-Americans anything.
Who is right? On what grounds are the African-Americans expressing their grievances? Are these grievances justified? Read on as we thoroughly dissect all the cogent points from both sides of the divide.
The African-American Argument: Baseless Xenophobia or Legitimate Concerns?
Using the #SecureTheTribe conversation, African-Americans conveyed their grievances directly to Africans, both home and abroad. The proponents of the African-American perspective—led by Tariq Nasheed—argued that African immigrants are making it difficult for African-Americans to live in a society that recognizes them. They raised concerns that borders around their sociological well-being. What are these concerns?
#1. Diversion of African-American reparations
According to African-Americans, not only are the African immigrants benefiting from the resources that could otherwise serve as reparation for African Americans, but they are also allegedly taking away jobs and other opportunities. This viewpoint is emboldened by a 2015 research by the CIS Institute of Research which concludes that between 2007 and 2015, African-Americans lost 1.5 million jobs to African immigrants.
This is because “Foreign-born blacks are often perceived by whites and even black Americans as different and ‘special’ — as harder-working and more productive citizens than their black American counterparts,” according to Fordham University professor, Christina Greer.
#2. More African Immigrant-centered diversity efforts
Still on the truncation of reparatory benefits, African-Americans believe black spaces reserved for African-Americans are now being given to black immigrants. A 2007 study by the American Journal of Education discovered that immigrants or children of immigrants, while making up 13 percent of America’s black 18- and 19-year-olds, represented 41 percent of blacks in Ivy League schools.
In explaining this phenomenon, Mary Waters, a sociologist at Harvard, offers more insight. “If it’s about getting black faces at Harvard, then you’re doing fine. If it’s about making up for 200 to 500 years of slavery in this country and its aftermath, then you’re not doing well.” African-Americans feel ‘cheated’ that black spaces reserved as appeasement for slavery are being taken up by immigrants.
#3. Perceived sociological inferiority
Furthermore, in terms of racial trauma based on lived experiences in Americans, African-Americans have it far worse. As immigrants are coming from countries where race is a not-so-important problem, they are not as ‘black’ as African-Americans. Even when they find themselves in America, experts say, they are not treated as brashly as their African-American counterparts.
In explaining this, Onoso Imoagene, a Nigerian University of Pennsylvania Professor, theorizes that Nigerians in America are a hyper-selected group. As a better-educated community, law enforcement agents accord African immigrants more respect. This, in turn, leads to a label of inferiority on the black American community.
The African Argument: Dodging Responsibilities or Cogent Rebuttals?
The overwhelming majority of the rhetoric espoused by Africans on the #SecureTheTribe conversations and elsewhere relates to the positive effects of meritocracy and the negative effects of xenophobia. Outlined below are some of their arguments.
#1. Success obtained on merit
Dissecting both arguments of this end of the divide, there is no gainsaying the fact that America—the world’s innovation hub—is the greatest rewarder of merit and qualification. There have been stories of individuals who were society write-offs, who have pulled great comebacks to make something of their lives.
By the same token, Africans argue that the system ultimately rewards the hardest-working, most qualified people, in many cases Africans. America’s capitalist system is an everyday exemplification of Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory, where only the best take the best places. If this happens to be Africans, why not?
#2. Immigrants overcome unfamiliar handicaps
The second leg of the African tripod points to the rigors of immigration. For many, the process of immigrating involves great psychological burdens, humongous amounts of money, and the ultimate need to start afresh, far away from home. Thus, there is a great burden on an immigrant to succeed at all costs (legally).
This need to succeed at all costs breeds an insatiable desire to work hard, leading to financial and professional prosperity. Africans believe that these factors are not in place for the African American, hence, the stakes for success may be lower. This line of thinking has led several Africans into branding the African-Americans as being lazy—a tag they soundly reject.
#3. Immigrants Also Contribute
Perhaps, the best rebuttal to anti-African rhetoric is that African immigrants create jobs. From Tope Awotona to Elon Musk to Nantworks to Orascum Construction, African immigrants and their businesses employ thousands of workers, many of which are African-Americans. As a result, it is contradictory for African-Americans to label African immigrants an enemy group of native-born Americans.
Reactions to the #SecureTheTribe Debates
While the 19-hour long Twitter batte was on, several commentators from both sides took to social media to react. Here are some takes from that debate.
I'm a Ghanaian pursuing my masters in Chicago. I have not seen any Black American in any of my classes though the school is closer to west chicago. All i see is hardworking Nigerians around me. You can't be living street life and work at google. Let's be serious! #SecureTheTribe
— kakap3 (@KillerKakap3) January 27, 2022
— FOUNDATIONAL OSAZ (@Osaz4l) January 27, 2022
Twitter new CEO Parag Agrawal is an immigrant from India 🇮🇳
Rupert Murdoch the CEO and chairman of News Corporation is an immigrant from Australia 🇦🇺
— 🎙OLUOMO OF DERBY 🇳🇬 🇬🇧 (@Oluomoofderby) January 27, 2022
Stay in your countries, work hard there & better your countries. Stop Excepting "Black unity", while in your own countries you have Tribalism(Ethnic) issues.
Stop Escaping your Countries Problems ! Countries don't build themselves, but are built by it's Citizens.#SecureTheTribe
— Kwena Molekwa (@Ruraltarain) January 27, 2022
I officially don’t care for any type of unity with Africans or any other “Black” ethnic group. #SecureTheTribe 🖤🇺🇸🖤
— Savannah 🇺🇸💕 (@Mahoganyy4) January 28, 2022
Africans as a collective are an overly emotional and irresponsible people.
The African Americans are simply asking you to fight colonialism and fix the continent so they can return and identify with their roots.
Not running away like chickens. #SecureTheTribe
— An Uncle named Chike (@Unclechike1) January 28, 2022
The Wider Perspective
Although there are arguments to be made in favor of this kind of conversation, there is an even greater argument for black unity. Many believe that both communities share identical problems, and solutions will not come with division. Rosita Johnson, a retired Philadelphian professor, puts it succinctly,
“It’s a divide-and-conquer tactic. African Americans are Africans. These are our cousins. If you’re African American, you’re related to somebody over there. Unfortunately, because of slavery and colonization, all people of African descent have suffered from racism. I call it a mental illness.”
Both sides of the divide have legitimate concerns as outlined above. We want to hear from you our reader. Do you think the African-Americans’ perspective is superior? Do you think Africans should be more considerate of the African-Americans’ plight? Are you an advocate of unity and an opponent of the #SecureTheTribe movement? Let us know what you think in the comment section.