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The Top 10 Fears of African Diaspora About Africa
April 28, 2013 3:09 AM   Subscribe

They wash dishes in restaurants, clean toilets and look after elderly incontinent people in the West. That makes the majority of the 30 million who have emigrated from Africa. Some are much luckier, they work in subaltern management positions in corporate America or in public institution in Europe. Few are real stars, successful with high pay and social status. Regardless of their current fate, they all share one thing in common: most of them want to return to Africa. The recent medias’ drumbeat about “Africa is Rising” is making them restless and hopeful because most of them have quite a petty life in the West. They are constantly harassed by the state police, crushed by daily racism from their neighbors and strangers, economically and politically isolated, and with very little hope for a near-future improvement. Unfortunately their dream to return home is painfully held back by deep fears and unanswered questions. Here are the top 10 fears of the African diaspora about Africa, and also the top 10 questions most of them are confronted with.
posted by infini (20 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
These sound pretty similar to other diaspora experiences. I don't know a lot of desis who don't have connections "back home," though. I find that particular fear interesting.
posted by bardophile at 3:56 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have seen signs of it, I think it varies from culture to culture, quite randomly. Witness the Philipinos...
posted by infini at 4:12 AM on April 28, 2013


I've heard #8 from members of the American diaspora in Europe.
posted by acb at 4:15 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Numbers 6, 8, 9 and 10 of "Top 10 Fears" are ones that I'd have about returning to America from Japan. Especially #8, health insurance.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:07 AM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know few people who have returned by failed, and had to come back to Europe.

Usually I can figure out a mistyped sentence, but this time I ain't got nothing.
posted by crapmatic at 6:23 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure it was meant to be, "I know a few people who have returned [to Africa] but failed, and had to come back to Europe."
posted by taz at 6:26 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


A lot of those fears would translate well to other diaspora. How do you fit in when both you and you country have changed whilst you've been away?
posted by arcticseal at 6:32 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting post. Every emigrant wants to return home as a success.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:35 AM on April 28, 2013


How do you fit in when both you and you country have changed whilst you've been away?

A good friend of mine calls this problem "me-lag."
posted by bardophile at 7:01 AM on April 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


I vote they they should stay where they emigrated and contribute to racial/ethnic heterogeneity despite hardships, especially if they can cook and have business skill. By all means, come to Houston and start an ethnic restaurant. There's no good Njera bread for miles around me....

Also, the devil you know beats the devil you don't.
posted by Renoroc at 7:09 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every emigrant wants to return home as a success.

That's a pretty interesting statement. In the US, at least, the dominant story that's told is that immigrants see what is great in America, and therefore they want to come to America and be American. They are going to show up eager to melt into that "Melting Pot," and, while of course they will keep some of their amusing and curious folkways*, they mostly want to be American the way we are American.

In reality, of course, people do this for all sorts of reasons, and many immigrants to the US don't really want to assimilate; they want to do their time, make some money, and head home, as KokuRyu says, a success. I wonder how much of this disjunction is that the nature of immigration has changed -- even in these financially strained times, international travel is not out of most people's occasional reach, and communication with home is much easier than a century ago. For example, when the peaks of immigration from Ireland and Italy were happening, in the late 19th and early 20th C, the people who were coming to the US were making one way trips -- it was a gamble to come at all, and the possibility that they could do well enough to return home later was not on the table for the people forced in to that decision. A century and a half later, the idea that the diaspora is temporary must be much more prevalent.

*what they cook for Sunday dinner, fore example, or what the kids will later recount bitterly resenting finding in their school lunch bags rather than their classmates' PB&Js in the dry-but-amusing memoir piece that will show up 20+ years later in a slightly tonier magazine/website-with-literary-pretensions)
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:34 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear -- the dominant story addressed above is the one that is told generally by Americans, not by actually immigrants, part of the national myth. I wonder how much of that is informed by the experience of earlier waves of immigrants, especially those who were more able to assimilate by "becoming white" in a way that is not possible for everyone. Additionally, I have no idea how European countries, which do not have the same national myth (nor the same distance to travel) deal with this issue (although I want to hear about it).
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:38 AM on April 28, 2013


I think typically first generation immigrants rarely assimilate in a vastly different culture. The driving factors for moving to the west are normally economic, and generally immigrants, once in the west, associate with people in a similar situation (other immigrants).

The magic that makes worldwide immigration work is that those immigrants have children. Second generation immigrants are very much western, and often feel no need to return "home" to their parent's country.
posted by leo_r at 8:21 AM on April 28, 2013


Every emigrant wants to return home as a success.

I emigrated to Canada from the US and have no interest in ever, ever "returning home" and would have renounced my US citizenship if it weren't such a convoluted process and I didn't fear that I'd somehow be denied entry to the US to visit my family or whatever.

But I do like being SEEN as a "success" and encourage Americans to join me in emigrating. Which is precisely what I see among many immigrants in Canada- they don't want to return home except to encourage friends/family to join them.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:27 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also know there are plenty of Irish Americans, Native Americans, Italian Americans, Mexican Americans, etc... whose families have been here for at least a hundred years and are American as anyone else who would tell you exactly where you could take that comment about "amusing and curious folkways" and shove it.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:43 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh ethno, you are really really making me want to move my family to Canada. Damn I miss that place.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:14 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


A good friend of mine calls this problem "me-lag."

Perfect, just perfect.

9. I don’t have local connections anymore. My friends are now here. I’ll feel alone and isolated there. How to rebuild my social network locally before moving back?

This is a common feeling in Indian communities as well; while you'll always have relatives perhaps, fact is, for a certain generation, a lot of friends have indeed moved out of hometowns, or to the suburbs; Indian metros except Kolkata (which was always thus) have become vast sprawls with massive snarls, so it can easily take 2-3 hours to travel distances that you'd have earlier covered in 30- 45 minutes. Basically, the social nucleus has indeed changed considerably; social isolation can be a reality even if you haven't moved out of the country.
posted by the cydonian at 7:26 PM on April 28, 2013


they work in subaltern management positions

Ha! subaltern is one of the fanciest ways to spell 'peasant'.

Bet you have to go to the best schools to learn to talk in that code.
posted by Twang at 8:19 PM on April 28, 2013


In reality, of course, people do this for all sorts of reasons, and many immigrants to the US don't really want to assimilate; they want to do their time, make some money, and head home, as KokuRyu says, a success. I wonder how much of this disjunction is that the nature of immigration has changed -- even in these financially strained times, international travel is not out of most people's occasional reach, and communication with home is much easier than a century ago. For example, when the peaks of immigration from Ireland and Italy were happening, in the late 19th and early 20th C, the people who were coming to the US were making one way trips -- it was a gamble to come at all, and the possibility that they could do well enough to return home later was not on the table for the people forced in to that decision. A century and a half later, the idea that the diaspora is temporary must be much more prevalent.


I'm not sure that this is true. I seem to recall hearing from a history lecturer in school that the majority of 19th century immigrants in certain ethnic groups --- Italians and Irish, i think --- were young single men and did return home after making money for a few years. The reason American tend to believe in the Golden Dream mythos is that our ancestors were, quite obviously, all part of the minority who stayed. I'll try and dig up some cites for this...
posted by Diablevert at 4:07 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


In reality, of course, people do this for all sorts of reasons, and many immigrants to the US don't really want to assimilate; they want to do their time, make some money, and head home,

When I lived in the US, people just automatically assumed I'd be there for life, and expected me to buy a house, take out car loans, etc. When I told people I was just planing on staying for a few years, they'd do a double take, and be like "why????".

Truth is, I have a better standard of living, etc., here in Chile than I ever did in the US.

The US is awesome if you're rich, and much better than most places if you're poor, but for a middle class Chilean, not so much.
posted by signal at 5:19 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


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