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“Those Foreigners”

from When the World was Black, Part One

Are you tired of foreigners? Sick of other ethnic groups who don’t like you? Over the years, I’ve heard just about any complaint you can imagine regarding the presence of Arabs, Asians, and Latinos in Black communities. Whether it’s the Vietnamese nail shop, the Pakistani gas station, or the Mexican construction workers, the overall impression seems to be “They don’t like us or respect us, yet they want to take our money. We need to take back our communities.” But this is actually not a “them vs. us” issue.

You see, there’s a lot we don’t understand about immigrants to the U.S. For starters, we need to be honest and consider the fact that Africans who move to the U.S. tend to have the same attitudes towards American blacks. So it’s not just an “Arab/Asian/Mexican” thing. It’s not a perspective specific to one or two groups of people. It’s something widespread, and we need to research why.

Next, we should question how long these people have felt this way. We can look at history to see that the Black and brown world was once very unified. Even as recently as the 1940s, the rest of the world – from India to Japan to Mexico to Iran – were all trying to align with Black America. But then things changed.

So we have to look at the historical and social dynamics that led to the conditions we’re seeing today. For starters, the majority of people who can afford to immigrate to the U.S. are not the poor people of their nations. They’re a little better off, which might mean that they were connected to a politically conservative family who holds pro-American values.

At the very least, they believe in the American Dream. Once they get here, they end up establishing a business where they can afford to: in the poorest communities. Who gives them the loans? White people. White people are the ones who say, “We wouldn’t give this loan to a Black American, but we have no problem giving it to you.”

So when we look at the obvious disparity in the ownership of businesses in the Black community, we have to look at WHO makes that possible. We’ve got to stop looking at things at the surface level and dig deeper. Going back to when they first got to this country, you should also know that most immigrants, including Africans, are told to avoid Blacks and Hispanics. I’m not making this up. They WILL hear it from someone at some point in their naturalization process.

And when these kinds of things are seeded in their mind, together with the images they’re force-fed by the American media, it creates those negative perspectives. But don’t get it twisted. Everybody doesn’t like everybody back in their homeland. But when immigrants from any country come to the U.S., they pool together with others from their ethnic group and collaborate in circles of trust and support – which allows them to thrive financially. They’re able to share a car, a house, an apartment, anything, because they’re still in the collectivist mindsets their people have back home. This is what it takes to keep a business alive. It takes coming together, which is hard to do if you’re not part of that culture.

But don’t think that – just because a few Kenyans and Ugandans can go half on a cargo shipment of designer handbags – that everyone would get along perfectly back home. People have many more things to divide themselves over, back home. But here, it’s survival town. Sink or swim. And you survive by cooperating, because there’s strength in numbers. You see, America forces people to work together or they fail. This is why many foreigners look at Black America as such a puzzle. Immigrants can’t understand why a people who needs so desperately to come together, instead continues to squabble and bicker over the pettiest of differences, sometimes even killing each other over these issues. If only THEY knew the history of what White America did to Black America to make things this way. But they don’t understand that kind of trauma. This was being held hostage and traumatized, physically and psychologically, for centuries. That’s major. And to think, so many have recovered from it!

The bottom line is not to misinterpret these historical dynamics, and walk away thinking that everyone hates you and you should hate them too. It’s deeper than that, especially when you consider how many Black Americans have the same negative perception of Black America. This is the byproduct of miseducation and purposeful division. We’ve been turned against each other to their benefit. Because if you talk to enough immigrants, particularly the ones who came from less conservative backgrounds – and you just randomly say, “White people make me sick” – you’ll see that many of them have plenty to say on that subject. Talk to the dark-skinned Indian store owners and ask them if they’re Black. You might be surprised. Some will be scared to say yes, others will do so proudly. And once you know the history, and I mean the DEEP history – including how all the Black, brown, and yellow people of the world were done the EXACT same way by the exact same people – you’ll have quite a LOT to talk and build about. So keep building with people from other countries, even if things don’t click right away, and learn about their cultures. In turn, perhaps you can teach them what they missed in their miseducation process. You might be the one who closes the gap.

And when that’s done, anything is possible.