Zemedey: I See Myself in You, Regarding African Immigration (Part 2)

Mariyam-Ifteam Y. Rufael

e as Black psychologists must address the immigration question from our own perspec­tive. We should not be dragged into the racialized immigration drama being played out in the wider society.

While the recent African im­migrant community has gone through cultural bastardiza­tion under white supremacy (so much so that it’s difficult to discern between African culture and European interference), the same psychological alien and anti-self disorder can be found within the African American community. Both communities have been called and have called each other derogatory names like “African booty scratcher”, “Mandingo” “starving Afri­can” and at times being told that members of the other commu­nity are more or less black.

The reasons each community gives for not getting along with the other, loudly echoes white thought. Recent African immi­grants seem to have their minds made up about the African- American community because they believe the narrative that is fed to them by Western media.

America’s depiction of its people of color, specifically Black folk, has been one that has sent the message that we are lazy, unintelligent, unattractive, violent etc. and Black people all over the world believe this nar­rative and try to set themselves apart so that they don’t share the same fate or reputation.

These stereotypes are not ones that were thought up by Black folks, but instead are perpetuat­ed by a false narrative spread by mainstream media reflecting the views of white supremacy. Simi­larly, the Western media depicts an equally derogatory image of the African immigrant as poor, living in huts, starving, primi­tive, naïve, violent and void of morals.

White supremacy seeks to conquer by convincing non-whites that they are less than and that whiteness is the stan­dard to which one is to aspire. The political strategy of “divide and conquer” fits perfectly here. However, the Black psychologi­cal term of “psychic terrorism” immobilizes our ability to see ourselves in each other and con­vinces one Black community that all the others are somehow deficient. Having done so, it is easier to psychologically domi­nate each community through equally infecting both with the false narrative of Black inferior­ity and White superiority.

ABPsi is a professional inter­national organization dedicated to understanding and creating principles and practices for Af­rican (both diasporic and conti­nental) human functioning. The ABPsi brings together members of the Black community from all over the world to look at what mental health and healing looks like through our African-ness.

Its mission is to return to look­ing at the world the way our an­cestors did and through the de­velopment of Black Psychology to heal the psychological dam­age done to our communities. There are also other efforts like the Afro Urban Society, founded by Nkeiruka Oruche, artistic director, that is committed to promoting the various cultural identities of people of African descent through artistic expres­sion,

What our collective African community (our community consisting of every black per­son on earth), doesn’t see is that the beliefs we have about one another’s communities is a part of social warfare that seeks to eliminate blackness. It is the re­sponsibility of every black per­son in the world to educate our­selves around the ways of white supremacy and how it affects us.

In full awareness of the diabol­ical ways that white supremacy continues to cause mental harm to people of African Ancestry, the ABPsi, the Afro Urban Soci­ety and other organizations have made it part of their institutional mandate and mission to restore Black health, wellness and wholeness. As part of the res­toration, many of us from both communities are aware of the necessity of truly seeing one an­other because when we can see one another’s perspective, then we can understand our common struggle.

Zemedey. I See Myself in You

We are all created from the same genetic beginnings and carry the continent in our blood, made of its earth and nourished by its spirit. The word “ze­medey”, in my native Tigrigna, means “my relative” and all us black folks around the world are exactly that, relatives, fam­ily, members of the same com­munity with the most beautiful variations.

As Black folks, our mental health would be greatly served by promoting this sense of fam­ily which would foster an un­breakable responsibility for one another,. My intention is not to harshly criticize anyone, but to use my voice, observations and thoughts, as a Black men­tal health practitioner, to create “courageous healing conversa­tions” around how we can focus on our commonalities, wellness, and wholeness.

I see you, Zemedey. I see my­self in you.

This article is part of a monthly series on Black Mental Health Issues written by mem­bers of the Bay Area Chapter of the Association of Black Psy­chologists. Readers are invited to join with chapter members at our monthly meeting every third Saturday of each month at the West Oakland Youth Cen­ter

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