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9:16 PM / Thursday May 13, 2021

9 Apr 2021

Alawfultruth: The caste system within

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April 9, 2021 Category: Commentary Posted by:

In the United States, Black and brown people are usually placed into the lowest caste, which often means that anything good or excellent as it applies to us is null and void.

In the United States, Black and brown people are usually placed into the lowest caste, which often means that anything good or excellent as it applies to us is null and void.

This has been going on since slavery began hundreds of years ago and as a direct result, even amongst ourselves, we have created our own caste system.

For example, there are the Black and brown people who have designated themselves as members of a higher caste through their skin tone and have taken to likening whether they were darker than a brown paper bag. 

We have heard stories of hurt and trauma from dark-skinned children who became adults that married light-skinned people so they could have children of a lighter hue who may not have to suffer the way they did.      

We have seen Black and brown people distinguish themselves through education and move on to live in big, beautiful homes — often far away from where they grew up.     

However, what many of these people have come to realize, especially in the last year with riots, uprisings and an insurrection is this — no matter how accomplished we are as a people, there are certain rights and conditions that are just not available to Black and brown people as we fight against the constant stereotypes. Even then, we may still lose our lives with impunity.

So then, it befuddles the mind that within the Black and brown community exists an an even deeper divide — the one between those that are descendants of African slaves born and raised in the United States and those who are immigrants from the Caribbean islands and the continent of Africa.     

One does not have to search far to hear the assumptions and stereotypes that are made of each group. If we are to be honest, there are many people from the Continent and the Caribbean who were taught that African Americans are lazy and not ambitious. 

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The immigrants are confused on how they could come to the United States and thrive while Black people born and raised here are often unable to. Some immigrants even go so far as to say that they are not Black and proudly name the country they are from to distinguish themselves so that they are not subject to the caste system designation that has been assigned to the Black and brown people born in the United States.     

Then there are the African Americans who believe wholeheartedly at times that the immigrants arrive at the country to take their jobs and to look on them with disdain. The distrust is palpable and is something we must tackle and embrace if we are to come to one common value that is our lives.

It takes education and a careful reading of history to unlearn the things that we were taught from watching the news and what we were told by family members in order to fully begin grasping that we are so much more alike than we are different.

The history of this country is designed to keep Black and brown people in their places from the time they take their first breath outside of their mothers’ womb and as such, the messaging is rife with contradictions, while the proverbial knee of structural racism is kept on its Black and brown citizens with harrowing results yet to be fully calculated in our epigenetic DNA. For those who are immigrants, we must be mindful about the judgments and the assumptions that we are making of Black and brown people born in America. Unless you lived their daily traumas, you  have  no  room  to  judge, in the same way you do not want to be judged about your clothing, language etc.     

Quite frankly, if we were paying attention, we would notice that the biased messaging is being given to us purposefully and is designed to keep us at each other’s throats. When will we learn?     

Both a concerned immigrant and an African American have some good ideas about how to repair this breach.     

Nyamal Tutdeal is an immigrant from South Sudan. I asked her what she thought the disconnect was between our people.“The disconnect between Africans and the descendants of Africa and African Americans is that we are a family that do not know each other well!” she said. “We have not had the “family” meeting where we can get to know about each other and learn about our similarities and differences. We only know of what the common denominator the (colonizers) have told us about ourselves.” 

“Our disconnect comes from us believing what the media has perpetrated as our reality,” Tutdeal continued. “Many Africans and African Americans have bought into the stories and therefore we have the disconnect. We are not sitting and listening to each other’s stories so that we can see that we are ALL in this together as a people, a Black African people, regardless of whether your family came here over 400 years ago or a year ago.”

Nadira Branch is an African American who became fascinated with the diaspora as a young student at Imhotep Charter High School in Philadelphia and began traveling extensively to learn more. She spent months at a time living in different countries in Africa and wanted to address the disturbing discussions she listens to from both sides. 

She recently received a federal grant to begin a series of discussions with African Americans and immigrants from the continent and the Caribbean to address the disconnect. 

 Branch’s series is entitled, “Through the Eyes of Black Folks,” and as more information emerges on how to participate in these discussions, it is her hope that we can begin to build bridges that connect rather than  keep us divided.

     We sorely need it.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.

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