How Different Are We Really? Part 2

I am African. I am American.  I am Black.

I was born and raised until age 17 on the Continent whose bright blue skies are the most brilliant I've ever seen.  I am a daughter of the sun and marvel at the sunrises and sunsets in Africa. Happiness is infectious and I truly did feel like I had no worries.

I became a woman on a Continent of plenty where you want for nothing. There's never one of just one thing.  Variety is the norm. You can easily become overwhelmed picking out toothpaste, a car seat, a house, you name it.  With all its abundance there is also a harshness in this land that I discovered and no one prepared me for.

I identify fully as both an African and an American. Some would argue that I am the true definition of African-American.  Others would just argue that I'm just black.  I'd argue that I'm just a human being born with an amazing chocolate hue.

I wrote about my experience back in 2006 over  here if you want to read it.

Lately I've made more observations on this and figured a Part 2 was needed.

The harshness, the harshness.

Maybe its because I was a young and very sheltered girl when I first moved here or maybe it is the reality that it is.  Until you travel to other countries, you will never understand just how different communication is done.  While being greeted with, "Wow, you got FAT!" is common where I'm from and might even be considered a term of endearment *insert eye roll here*, it would never fly in the US of A.

While African has that whole blunt, in your face, don't hold anything back thing down pact, it is selective with it and reserve it mostly for your weight, when you'll get married and have kids, and then how to raise said kids.

The American way is more along the lines full disclosure to the point of oversharing.  It's cool if you have grown up this way but for those of us that didn't grow up here, it takes years to get used to.  I can't tell you how much I have learned about people standing in line at the Post Office, while looking for pesto in the grocery store, or just minding my own business on a sunny Atlanta day in the park.

They don't just tell me what they ate for breakfast either! They tell me intimate details about their lives and they are strangers! I've heard about their strung out brothers in rehab for the 5th time, their horrible kids, drunk husbands, popping pills wives, you name it.

I've never forgotten the Interpersonal Communications class I took in college.  Apparently folks feel more comfortable telling strangers intimate details rather than telling people they actually know because you know, that's really hard to do and strangers will judge you but what are the chances that you'll ever see them again?  People you know may throw the judgment in your face all the time and who wants that? Trust me, I get it and it is the American way.

Africans and feelings. Yeah, we don't do that.  Not intimate details anyway. You keep that at home and don't tell your business in the streets. What's funny is you may not tell it but folks will talk about you based on assumptions for years!

My first American boyfriend told me he found out his father was his father one day when he was walking down the street and someone told him in the same way they would have told him that stars filled the sky that the man walking past him was his father. And there's more.  Dude lived down the street! What?????? 

They never did develop a relationship. As far as the ex boyfriend was concerned the man was still just an older man walking down the street and it made no difference to him who he was. Now he could point him out as his father but was uninterested in anything else. He had been fine his whole life without him and would continue on living just like before.  Clearly the father knew that was his kid all along and hadn't made an effort so I doubt a formal introduction would have changed things.


I heard about this back in 1994.  A few years ago, I saw the same scenario play out on TV on Terell Owens reality show.

Recently I was talking to someone and he told me that his Father had many children and with many women. They knew of over 20 children but would not be surprised if there were more.  That alone would have shocked me but thanks to Iyanla and her entire season of Fixing Jay's life with all the children and baby mamas, I was prepared.  The part that gave me pause was when this person told me that he and his brother went to visit their Dad when they were younger and their father asked them to tell his new wife that they were not his sons but his little cousins! What??????????


What I immediately want to do in these situations is get on my high horse and go on and on about things like this only happen in America and this would never happen in Africa and we are so different.  But I thank God that I pull back and I pause and think things all the way through.

We look the same but how different are we really?

Here is the reality.  Yes, it is possible that this scenario may not play out this very way in Africa but we too have scenarios.  Don't mistake it.

Sure African men will gladly claim their children and have them with their wives but they will also blatantly take their very young and impressionable sons to visit their girlfriends with them.  They will leave them with a TV remote or coloring book in the front room while they go handle their business in the back room with their girlfriend.  Or they will visit their kids with these girlfriends and play Daddy and husband then go home to their wives and children.  I especially feel for the children in these cases.  The son who loves his mother fiercely and wants to protect her at all costs but has been unknowingly cast in a story he wants no parts of.  He has to go home with his father and lie to his mother and say they went out to do man stuff and she is none the wiser.  Or the kid born into this and watches his mother be a lifelong side chick.


I ask you, how different are these situations involving fathers and sons in America versus in Africa?  One would argue that the American way is that of avoidance or in your face while the African way is that of secrecy.  Both have lifelong effects that show up in someway.

We have a tendency to think we are better than this group or that group.  We may think it is because of where we were born or how we were raised or the class we fall in.  But I learned very early that no matter what we are all the same.  Our differences make more the same then we'll ever know.  We may think we will never be this way or that way but the truth is that we do not know.  Life is life and it can throw you into a tailspin that makes you do things you never imagined.  The very thing you looked down upon is the same thing you are doing now.

So be kind people. Worry about yourself and stop with all the comparison.  This is life, there will always, always, always be someone better and someone less then you. 

We may look different and have different backgrounds but we are all the human race that just have different approaches to the same things.


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