“Back to Africa”?

In a column in the Washington Post Karen Attiah urges African Americans to consider emigrating to Ghana to escape America’s violence and systemic racism:

It’s hard to find refuge in the political back and forth over the massacre, and over who is responsible for mainstream racism in general. Since the shooting, much liberal commentary has been devoted to blaming Fox News, Tucker Carlson and other race-baiting GOP apparatchiks for promoting racism and the great replacement theory.

But when it comes to white supremacy, White liberals have long held on to dangerously naive replacement theories of their own — that increasing populations of nonwhites will automatically dent anti-Blackness, for instance, and that younger generations are automatically less racist than their forebears. If President Biden’s reactions are anything to go by, the temptation is to believe that the salve for America’s racist spasms is a good ol’ dose of national unity. This liberal complacency puts us all at risk.

With these domestic options, it’s no wonder that in the past several years, there are more stories of Black people yearning for elsewhere. The rise of social media communities such as Nomadness Travel Tribe, Travel Noire and Blaxit Global are a testament to a growing awareness that Black people don’t have to feel trapped in America. “I don’t have to freeze and worry for my life every time I see a police officer,” a Ghanaian American friend who moved back told me in Accra.

I have been waiting for earnest appeals along these lines for some time. I hope that Ms. Attiah is aware of it but the “back to Africa” movement has been active in the United States for more than 200 years, since long before the abolition of slavery. The number of African Americans who have elected to emigrate to Africa has been miniscule. The number is larger today than it was in 1813, of course, but the population is larger than it was then, too. During Ghana’s “Year of Return” in 2017 about 2,000 African Americans left the United States. The number of sub-Saharan Africans who emigrated to the U. S. on the other hand outnumbered them nearly by tenfold. My understanding, based purely on anecdotes is that the emigres are very happy in their new homes. I wish them the best. Most African Americans consider the United States their home and feel no particular affinity for Africa. Ms. Attiah, a dual citizen, was clearly reared in a family in which Africa was considered home.

Probably the wisest thing about mass movements in America was said by the “longshoreman philosopher” Eric Hoffer. It’s probably his most famous statement: “What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation.” The “back to Africa” movement is no exception. Reading up in its history is quite an education.

1 comment… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    These kinds of stories about Americans abroad in impoverished lands are usually about Americans of means enjoying a high relative living standard which removes them the threat of poverty and arbitrary police violence. Ghana’s GDP per capita is 2,300 USD. Police killed protesters last year and closed LGBT support centers.

    I mainly muse on this wondering if there was an African country with a somewhat comparative standard of living and freedoms, whether we would see more than a trickle. I think not, family is too important.

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