Monday, February 18, 2008

Black History Month, Barrack Obama and Sundry Thoughts

I have just read an article in Sunday’s Weekly Trust newspaper about Black History Month and have been turning it in my mind all through yesterday.

Two quotes stand out, one by Morgan Freeman and the other by Mel Watkins and what I find strange is that the two quotes are presented as being antipodes in the philosophy and utility of a Black History Month.

Morgan Freeman is quoted from 2005 saying the concept was ridiculous and that "I don’t want a Black History Month. Black History is American history," Mel Watkins is quoted, "Black History {Month} is necessary because African American History isn’t fully integrated into American History. The irony of it is that we still have a Black History Month to remind people that we have a history."

If these "opposing" quotes represent the general currents of black American thought then the fate of the blacks in America is even more vague than I thought and this especially so in all the noise about Kenyan-American {American-Kenyan? Black American?} Senator Barack Obama.

These guys are talking history within the context of the future. But history cannot be projected into the future. History is the syncretization and exegesis of the past and the present day sociopolitical realities of a superstructure. These guys {who can be said to represent Black Culture and Academia respectively} both want to be American! How in God’s name can they be American without getting a clear sounding of Africa? Every other immigrant stratum of American society, right down to the Hispanics {and even the soon-to-leave Vietnamese} have a sense of where they are coming from, of South America and Asia, they have clear memories of what they are up against and where they are coming from and why they are synthesizing into America. My reading of Black American thought is that Africa is only marginal in contemporary Black American thought and I have heard a lot of reasons to justify this indifference to historical foundation. These reasons range from African having "allowed" their kin to be sold as slaves, to Africa being a land of corrupt Dictators and poverty to simply Africa being an uncivilized place full of monkeys swinging from tree to tree. All these opinions, and many more absurd variations, have been communicated to me by Black Americans in debates over the last half-decade. Gone from Black American thought is the inclusive pan-Africanism of Langston Hughes and Azikiwe and Nkrumah, it doesn’t even remain as a metaphor. There is not even an interest in African history past or contemporary.

Pray, how can a people stumble along the misty paths of an American identity without a firm grounding of the identity they currently posses? How valuable can Black America’s being "fully integrated" into America be if they have disconnected themselves from Africa? Even my writer-in-exile predecessors in the Nigerian literary space have a clear sense of Nigeria and all its flaws. Yet, to the mind of the Black American, who more than anyone else needs Africa, Africa is merely a genetic heritage of a rainbow prism of hues from black to brown to orange and a native ear for rhythm and percussion.

And now they want a Black American president of the United States for myriad reasons as outlined by writers as varied and differentiated, spanning Toni Morrison to Ikhide Ikheloa, and for as many reasons.

I think what they need is historians.

In the same way I ask what Barrack Obama, if he is elected president, would do for Black Americans from the White House when Washington is simply the theatre of a thousand powerful lobbies, I shudder to ask what benefit supporting Obama {as I have} would have to the fortunes of my unhyphenated and never-to-be hyphenated Africa? In the same way that while in the White House, Obama will serve the synthesized interests of a thousand powerful lobbies and special interest groups up and above whatever the vague "Black American interest" is, he will pursue American interests far and above African interests from the White House. Just like Condi Rica and Colin Powel.

And I would simply prefer a Bill Clinton or George Bush not sending troops to Rwanda and Sudan than to have a "Black American" in the White House, without a sense of either adjective, do same.

Consequently, I announce that I wish Senator Obama the very best in the campaign but I am no longer with him. Stuck with my African necessity to affix myself someplace, even in a campaign that in no way affects me, I pitch my camp for the first time in my life with the Republican -John McCain- who has not played any sentimental {color marginalization or feminist} card, who has not even bothered to say anything about Africa. I think he can be lobbied to do the best he can for Africa.

Black America should go and do their history homework so that the next time a Barrack Obama comes along, he will have the force of history behind him.