recently the NY Time posted an article entitled: Ghana's Uneasy Embrace of Slavery's Diaspora "that is sparking some debate among African Americans. Here's a comment I wrote elsewhere:
Well I was going to post a Kwanzaa post on this at GG but it didn't happen. I don't know if what I can say is relevant but I suspect a couple of things at play here:
1) AA's who visit Africa are mostly "obviously" mixed. We assume that because the "one drop rule" applies here, it applies everywhere and are rudely reminded that some of us are *not* black. "What of light skinned Ghanians?" you may say. Well no doubt they are not considered "obruni" but other factors come into play.
2)AA's by and large act just like white tourists when they travel. They are driven around. Few, if any know the language. Few know any of the local customs. Those who try to be "African" often wear the "wrong" stuff. etc. In effect AA's are "cool" white people. This is a particularly hard pill to swallow for many black folk, myself included.
What would have been informative is if the writer had asked what visiting Nigerians are called or visiting Zulu's are called. Are they referred to as Obruni or something else? If they are referred to as some other term then how are they "known?"
For example, I, sondjata am routinely approached by Nigerians due to my license plate. Conversation is quickly ended once I open my mouth, but the fact that I am regularly "mistook" for a Nigerian means that something other than "presentation" is the identifying factor.
Also we need to take into consideration that Obruni may have been a general term describing outsiders that was generally used to refer to white people (Yoruba: Oyimbo) and then came to included AA's and probably "black brits."
3) I think that many AA's are in Ghana to tour, then they are easy to point out. How many Ghanaians are visiting Elmina other than to sell tourist items.
4)Lastly, I think as the article pointed out, that there is an issue of education. It is pretty sad that After Nkrumah that such language is used towards AA's and other "foreign" blacks But I think it does highlight the issues raised by say, Maulana Karenga in terms of Cultural Revolution among blacks of the Diaspora. There also needs to be a cultural education among many Africans on the continent. Some Africans still talk about how we are "Africa's refuse."
I don't think AA's should take the "Obruni" and "Bwana" and "Benzi" to seriously. It is no different then when someone from overseas comes here and we "recognize" that they are "different." it is no different than when I go to Jamaica and am not considered "Jamaican" simply because I lack the "cultural cues." As a Pan-Africanist, I accept the differences and I don't try to be the "African" people expect.
I'll add to this that articles like these appear to undermine arguements that we black folks are African. Instead I would think that this article re-inforces that those of us who consider ourselves conscious should be very careful about the misconceptions that we hold about Africa (and elsewhere).