Association for Africanist Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Africans’ struggle for acceptance in the USA is complicated by their frequent association with African Americans who, as a community, occupy a low social level. In the migrants’ attempts to distinguish themselves from African Americans, an important part is played by emphasizing cultural differences between the two groups. They serve Africans as a proof of their belonging to a different community; a positive estimation of their own culture contrary to African American supports their claims for a better social status. The source of their cultural distinction from, and superiority over African Americans, the Africans see in history of black people in and outside Africa. Based on field evidence, this paper discusses how Africans in America capitalize on history. Africans stress that, not being descendents of slaves, they do not have inborn “slave mentality”, that they proudly feel natives of independent states while African Americans do not know where they are from. Africans frequently argue that the history of African Americans began only with the slave trade and they do not inherit the greatness of African civilizations. Most Africans believe that if there is any “black history” at all, it is nothing more than history of common sufferings of black people from white. So, the African migrants employ knowledge of history not only for claiming a decent social status in their encounters with the accepting society but also for supporting self-identity and sense of dignity.