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USAfrica: Dynamics and Dilemma of African Cultures in America. By Sam Kanu

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By SAM KANz, Ph.D., P.E.

Exclusive commentary for usafricaonline.com — USAfrica magazine, Houston

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Culture embodies a way of life of a group of people in relationship to time and history. While it includes the many facets of a communal life that are learned, acquired, and practiced daily; it defines a pattern of lifestyle or behavior of a distinct group of people. This is so because the culture of a people is what sets them apart from other human societies in the community of humanity.

In the days of old, the African continent was characterized by immeasurable cultural diversity to the extent that traditional beliefs and behaviors were systematically passed down from generation to generation.

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In their seeming uncivilized world, contented Africans enjoyed undiluted culture, knew no adventitious ideological conflicts, viewed foreign interruption with suspicion, and respected diversity and unity within its cultural enclave.

This fact further emphasizes that prior to the advent of colonialism, the African man held his poise and could not compromise his culture and eternal beliefs, regardless of the circumstances. 

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However, the throes of colonialism slowly infused unhealthy contradictions in his way of life by unconsciously instigating uncharitable gifts of conflicting ideologies with inherently insidious fault lines that sought to break the strength of ethnic diversity within this noble group.

Simply put – colonialism brought about alien ideologies that introduced a destabilizing psychological environment that set African core beliefs not only in opposing directions, but in variance and conflict. 

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Regrettably, the concept of culture and tradition has begun to lose the trend of its virtue and purpose, even within the African domain – finding itself not seasoned enough to withstand the rigors of international challenges.

This probably explains my shock when I first arrived in the United States in the early 1990s.  

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A good number of Africans could hardly identify with their native African origin but would rather claim to be Americans. They viewed with indignant aversion any attempt at redirection and would without compunction proceed in bizarre trajectory. 

This also explains away the reason some of us pretend to stand for freedom of expression while discounting what they define as ‘hateful speech’. This may probably point to the self-conflicting struggle of cultural values ‘within thebeing of the African man’.

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Similarly, some of us heartily oppose abortion on account that human life is supreme and sacred, but on the other hand endorse death penalty for a convicted murderer. 

These instances sincerely portend a dangerous trend – quite frankly.

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Undoubtedly, contradicting beliefs such as these not only clash with our core cultural principles but violate our own ‘protected values’. Thus the age-long cultural battle which has virtually subsumed the psychology of the African man in the western world, particularly in the United States has transgressed from considerably physical to a somewhat subtle mental war, for the reason that a great number of African immigrants have been severely brainwashed.

Regardless of where the wind of life takes humanity, or to be more specific, an African, the minimum expectation is ‘to carry your credo along’. Mahatma Gandhi put it even more eloquently when he noted that “a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

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Our mixed cultural tendencies whereby most of our children can barely speak or understand our native language is consistent with (Lakshmi, V.N et al, 2019) which upholds that “myth, religion, culture and language are inseparable”; not to talk of our relentless efforts to borrow or fake the American styled accent to mock away what some of us ascribe as ‘funny African accent’. These are sad trends in the moments of our culture. When people allow their own to be so worthlessly treated what quality of reaction could that elicit from the rest of the world?

Colonialism is bad news to Africa and Africans because its aftermath has left a sore taste in the originality of the African cultural content, which has continued to tag along the immigrant African. Consequently, significant loss of the African cultural values in the inter-continental arena has continued to instigate uncomfortable social clash and adulterated tradition within the African community in the diaspora.

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No wonder, a typical African graciously adopts the American culture while being reluctant or rather ashamed to identify with the noble African culture. Barack Obama pointed to this societal malady quite succinctly in his book, “Dreams from My father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, where he echoed that “the worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past.” My reaction to this sentiment is simple: “A people that dons unconditional value for their culture and tradition are like crusaders with iron-clad mental armor that can hardly be conquered.”

The great Anthropologist, Ruth Benedict holds a similar view: “what really binds men together is their culture, the ideas and the standards they have in common.” This infers that any attempt to tamper with whatever binds humanity together will ignite contra-indications with attendant cultural clashes.

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Sadly, Africans have lost a sense of direction because their core values by way of culture and tradition have been severely compromised and inversely twisted. It has been sold out for want of the so called ‘better life’ by allowing the western world and particularly the Americans to set the base lines in almost every aspect of life: economy, politics, fashion, music, education, research, language and accent, media, immigration, to name but a few.

Finally, even though slavery was later abolished in 1865 its rudiments and voids remain; and have continued to pollute the mental make-up of the newcomers until date.

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The ultimate consequence is that African culture has been severely battered from the harming effects of its values within the shores of the United States, and the dangerous trend has continued down the hills.

Until Africans begin to re-write the dangerous trend of conspiring with their borrowed lifestyle to do away with their own ancestral values; until they restructure their cultural mindset and self-worth to resist these inimical contradictions; until they learn unity and integrity even in the face of staring need; until they are bold enough to put their globally recognized seasoned professionals in charge of their own affairs, they will ever lack the will power to recapture the real essence of the innate superiority of the African culture, tradition and race.

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An African picture bereft of in-fighting and self-antagonism; the African landscape in repentance of sabotage and corruption but reinforced with a sense of unity rooted in cultural restoration, will soon transform the present cultural and economic predicament to a success story. Black is beautiful; Africa is worthy, but culture is the binding force!

Dr. Kanu, contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com, is an Environmental Engineer. He is the author of a novel, Bonding With my Ancestors, out in February 2021.

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