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How I Learned That Being West Indian Didn't Make Me Better Than African Americans

CurlyNiquee

Well-Known Member
How I Learned That Being West Indian Didn't Make Me Better Than African Americans

by Lisa Jean Francois – January 18, 2016
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Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I learned very early on that being Haitian wasn’t exactly the thing to be. When my family moved to a new town, my older brother and I simply hid it. Nobody asked, so we didn’t tell. Then it all began to unravel. My third grader teacher assigned a family tree diagram which forced me to reveal our heritage I recall coming home from school that day feeling dread as I told my older brother (by two years) that the jig was up. The tears came quickly, from both us, as we understood all too well what it would mean to reveal that we were Haitian. The teasing would be brutal, but tolerable. Feeling ostracized was what we feared the most.

But then we grew up, and like most people, the very thing we were teased about as children became the thing we cherished with the upmost pride. We embraced our heritage, and slowly the larger West-Indian community began to accept us. Gaining this acceptance, however, came at a price. While I had always heard family members speak with disdain about Black Americans, it wasn’t until I was a teenager when I learned that this us vs. them mentality spanned across West-Indian cultures. When I’d hear West-Indians attributing certain stereotypes to Black Americans, I found myself nodding in agreement. We were different, I insisted. We were educated. Our children were better behaved. We were hard-working. Our food tasted better. African Americans gave us all a bad name, and while we would befriend them in public, in private, we’d deride them for being stereotypical.

I carried this belief with me to college. I was even proud when white people would praise me for being different from what they’d imagined. My French last name was also a crowd-pleaser. I ate it all up with a spoon. My false pride, however, came to an abrupt halt towards the end of my freshman year when one of my white dorm-mates told me to, “Go back to Africa.” I was stunned. Surely, she couldn’t mean me? I had the perfectly straight hair. I dressed well. I made the Dean’s list. I spoke properly. How could she, in a moment of anger, reduce me to being a black face just like any other? I was different. Wasn’t I? It was a hard lesson, but she woke me up good and proper. I’ve never been the same and I’m proud that I did not go into adulthood carrying that load of self-hatred with me.

Recently, Huffington Post writer Nadege Seppou, who is of Cameroonian heritage, penned an open letter to African immigrants, urging them to not fall victim to the same belief system. She writes:

White Americans will say you are better than American blacks, but please do not fall for this trap. You will be told you behave better, work harder, and are more educated than American blacks. You will be tempted to agree and will sometimes want to shout, “YES, I’M NOT LIKE THEM, WE AFRICANS ARE DIFFERENT!” Just don’t…don’t even think it.

The praise of your acquired characteristic and culture becomes a justification for white Americans to perpetuate discriminatory treatments towards American blacks. These statements of praise have an underlying message of, “If Africans can do so well then surely racism has nothing to do with anything, therefore, American Blacks are to be blamed for their condition in America”. This problematic line of reasoning sustains cultural racism. I beg of you, refrain from nodding in agreement when you receive such faulty praise.

Indeed, West Indians, like the African immigrants described in Seppou’s letter, are guilty of the same misdeeds. In wanting to carve out a place for ourselves in a society where being black places you on the bottom rung, we have perpetuated the belief that we are better than our African American counterparts.

Caribbean culture and African culture are different than African American culture. But when we celebrate our uniqueness, it should never be to shame African American culture.

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CurlyNiquee

Well-Known Member
I have noticed a certain superiority among some foreign Blacks. I've always been highly offended at the thought that they might think they're better than us. But then later realized that it is very much about divide and conquer. Only difference between West Indians and us is a boat stop. White people use their ignorance of American history against them.
 

Kranbery

Well-Known Member


Uh huh...
 

Ganjababy

Well-Known Member
This sense of superiority and disrespect while you benefitting from the struggles of black Americans and all they have achieved which has enabled you to have a piece of the "American pie" while you live in their country is mind boggling to me (that they built, may I add)...

This is a disgusting and ignorant and delusional attitude that i have seen in the WI and African community personally. Not all of us think like that, thankfully.
 
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sharifeh

Well-Known Member
well good for her for admitting that and overcoming it
i think the story with the white dorm mate was just to prove a point, wouldn't be surprised if that never happened

my family is half west indian and while they always emphasize how different the culture is, they were not critical and i never got the feeling that they thought they were better, which I'm thankful for
 

Kiowa

Well-Known Member
This sense of superiority and disrespect while you benefitting from the struggles of black Americans and all they have achieved which has enabled you to have a piece of the "American pie" while you live in their country is mind boggling to me (that they built, may I add)...

This is a disgusting and ignorant and delusional attitude that i have seen in the WI and African community personally. Not all of us think like that, thankfully.

This..
 

ag00

Well-Known Member
Being Haitian myself, this article is a bit strange to me. My family came from Haiti to the U.S. in the late 70s after the Duvalier regime and emphasized the importance of keeping God first, hard work, and education to make something of yourself. And that's what we did and nearly all the second and third generation of our families graduated from college with bachelor's or master's, has a professional career, their own homes, etc. Our story is no different than other immigrants like Nigerians and Jamaicans.

I don't think any of us think we're better than African-Americans. We are all a part of the African diaspora. I think it's sometimes the excuses that are made in the AA community for why one cannot succeed that is foreign to the traditional mentality of an immigrant. Another thing is, we don't see whites as enemies but friends and associates with resources that can help us move up the economic ladder.
 

Keen

Well-Known Member
Major side eye to the author. I went to school with many Haitians who were ashamed to be Haitians until people like Wyclef Jean and Garcelle Beauvais became popular. Now they are all up on Facebook talking about how proud they are too be Haitian. Roll eyes..

The author would have never thought she was better than AA if she didn't have self esteem issue. These type of people always feel like they have to be better than someone else to have any self value.
 

Honey Bee

Well-Known Member
Being Haitian myself, this article is a bit strange to me. My family came from Haiti to the U.S. in the late 70s after the Duvalier regime and emphasized the importance of keeping God first, hard work, and education to make something of yourself. And that's what we did and nearly all the second and third generation of our families graduated from college with bachelor's or master's, has a professional career, their own homes, etc. Our story is no different than other immigrants like Nigerians and Jamaicans.

I don't think any of us think we're better than African-Americans. We are all a part of the African diaspora. I think it's sometimes the excuses that are made in the AA community for why one cannot succeed that is foreign to the traditional mentality of an immigrant. Another thing is, we don't see whites as enemies but friends and associates with resources that can help us move up the economic ladder.
Thank you for providing an example of the behavior in the op. I was wondering when the 'Yeah, but...' would start.
 

curlicarib

Lovin'' All of Me
As a first generation American of Caribbean descent, I say bullsh*t. Everybody in my family had 10 jobs each and was too busy trying to get a piece of the American pie to worry about if anyone was better than anyone else. This sounds like an individual and personal problem to me.
 

Christina Dior

Well-Known Member
Being Haitian myself, this article is a bit strange to me. My family came from Haiti to the U.S. in the late 70s after the Duvalier regime and emphasized the importance of keeping God first, hard work, and education to make something of yourself. And that's what we did and nearly all the second and third generation of our families graduated from college with bachelor's or master's, has a professional career, their own homes, etc. Our story is no different than other immigrants like Nigerians and Jamaicans.

I don't think any of us think we're better than African-Americans. We are all a part of the African diaspora. I think it's sometimes the excuses that are made in the AA community for why one cannot succeed that is foreign to the traditional mentality of an immigrant. Another thing is, we don't see whites as enemies but friends and associates with resources that can help us move up the economic ladder.

I here this a lot from west Indians ....the counter argument is black immigrants are favored more than AA's
 

Virtuosa

Well-Known Member
The real truth is that our people are so deeply intertwined that it's insane to entertain this separatist nonsense. There are too many Malcolm X's and Harrisons in our history.

I think the diversity acorss the diaspora is a sort of cultural advantage but I can't expound on that right now.
 

isioma85

Well-Known Member
I have Nigerian friends that think and behave this way. I derive great pleasure when their bubbles of superiority burst and they crash to the ground :giggle:

If African Americans didn't fight for all the rights they did, we wouldn't even be able to come here to attend these schools. I call that **** out as soon as I see it, especially in younger Nigerians. The older ones are too stuck in their ways so they will die in their prejudice :lol:
 

locabouthair

Well-Known Member
This sense of superiority and disrespect while you benefitting from the struggles of black Americans and all they have achieved which has enabled you to have a piece of the "American pie" while you live in their country is mind boggling to me (that they built, may I add)...

This is a disgusting and ignorant and delusional attitude that i have seen in the WI and African community personally. Not all of us think like that, thankfully.

As someone of WI descent I agree. I've had relatives who had that mentality and I'm like well you're in this country and your future generations will be American so are you going to look down on them too?
 
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