Lately, I have been seriously contemplating a move to Africa. I haven’t selected the nation to consider my future home, but I have wondered if returning to my ancestral roots would be the “cherry on top.” I’d like to say that my desire to leave the US was borne solely from my need to reconnect to my pre-slavery African heritage, but Trump’s election in 2016 made me reevaluate my assumptions about America.
I have always been aware of the US's complicated past with people of color. America began by stealing land from indigenous populations (This includes land from Mexico). She denied citizenship to people from Asia to Africa but called herself the land of the free and the home of the brave. America was built on the principals of white superiority and hypocrisy so why should any of us be surprised at the deep-seated racism that continues to plague our nation.
Watching and reading the news means constantly hearing a new story of a black man dying at the hands of police officers who think their vow to protect and serve does not include black men. I'm tired of hearing stories of black men being police-murdered both in the streets and in the comfort of their own homes. I can also do without another story of the police being called because someone was living, eating, talking, standing or being while black. Over three hundred years in this country and we are still fighting for a seat at the table.
This is why I'm considering my own Back-to-Africa Movement.
In the 1800's, Alexander Crummell argued for pan-Africanism and encouraged American blacks to return to and invest in Africa. Unfortunately, his message found little favor. One hundred years later, however, when Marcus Garvey started the United Negro Improvement Association, the Back-to-Africa message resonated with blacks from Canada to the Caribbean and from Africa to the Americas. Obviously, the yearning to return to a place that many of us didn't choose to leave is a desire that plenty of blacks feel across the diaspora. Watching America move backward philosophically only highlights the need to rethink the idea of American exceptionalism.
Don't get me wrong. I love the diversity that is my country. But more than that, I've inherited an incredible legacy. I come from strong stock that withstood capture in Africa, the death ships of the Middle Passage, chattel enslavement in the US, and the debilitating experience of segregation. America has never allowed its black citizens to freely pursue the American dream, but we have still managed to help create an American identity. More than that, we forged a way where there was none so why would any of us want to leave America behind. Why would any of us want to leave the country built on our sweat and blood? Why, indeed?
I think when Alexander Crummell asked for American blacks to return to Africa, the thought was overwhelming. There was no Internet to combat the stereotypes that abounded about the African continent. But now the world is a much smaller place. There are ways for blacks in the diaspora to reconnect to the motherland that we didn't have decades ago. Honestly, I think we all should take at least one trip back to our native lands. And there is no time better than the present.
What America is becoming is a nation that is both familiar and new. This is the America that existed through Native American land wars, boarding schools and the Trail of Tears. This is the America that enslaved and segregated Africans, incarcerated Japanese-Americans, and denied Haitians political asylum. I know this America, but I also don't know this America. I don't recognized this country that elected Governor George Wallace fifty years after the 1960's rejected his message of race hatred. I just don't understand how the country that I love elected Donald Trump as its representative. And that is why it's time to reassess my loyalty to the land of my birth.
I am an American, African by ancestry, but I must acknowledge that my nation is deeply flawed and has always been flawed. And this leads me to understand that as much as I love my birth country, America is just one other choice in the many nations that I can call home.