Kevin Cokley on Don’t Pit Slavery Descendants Against Black Immigrants. Racism Doesn’t Know the Difference.

Should African American/black identity be defined by descendants of slavery, or by African ancestry? This increasingly bitter debate in the black community is undermining the spirit of Black History Month.

At the center of the conflict is the social movement referred to as ADOS, or the American Descendants of Slavery. Co-founded in 2016, ADOS is a political and social movement whose purpose is to advocate for reparations — compensating those who have been wronged — on behalf of black Americans. The group argues that reparations for slavery are economically and morally justified.

The concept of reparations, albeit controversial, is not new and dates to 1672. However, it is not the advocacy for reparations that has thrust ADOS into the national spotlight. Instead, it is the emphasis on distinguishing black American descendants of slavery from black immigrants, a focus that essentially pits black Americans against black immigrants.

It is understandable why proponents of ADOS seek to highlight the contrast. There are real and consequential differences in our lived experiences. For example, black immigrants are better educated and have higher median incomes than black Americans.

Dividing black community shortsighted

Although this fight for economic and social justice for black Americans is commendable, a closer examination of its rhetoric and agenda suggests an anti-African, anti-black-immigrant stance that is historically shortsighted. Critics characterize ADOS as having harmful anti-black policies and contend that its leaders do not believe black Americans can or should have any connection with Africa.

As a professor of African and African diaspora studies and a racial identity scholar, I teach a class called the Politics of Black Identity that examines the diverse and divided black community and highlights the tensions that sometimes exist among African Americans, Africans and Afro-Caribbean people. While it is important to acknowledge the differences among these groups, my goal is to critically analyze the behaviors, attitudes and philosophies of black leaders and movements that ultimately undermine or advance progress for all black people.

In a thoughtful yet provocative piece, ADOS co-founder Antonio Moore argues that recent immigrants from Africa seek a “solidarity of sameness,” yet do not have the history or lived experience to be considered in any claims for reparations.

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Source: USA Today