"Black Americans have long been oppressed, so it was startling to me that they would ever be the source of dismissive attitudes toward another black community. However, what I had completely forgotten is that black Americans are still Americans, a nation firm in its resolve that no person or thing on this planet -- or in the heavens -- matters as much as they do. Undoubtedly, it is that fundamental belief that has led them to be the global force that they are, regardless of how skewed that belief structure may be."
I read this article on theRoot by Alyson Renaldo titled "Black Canadian Like Me". In it she discussed the influence and importance of her West Indian heritage as she grew up in Canada. I relate to this so well for this is also my story. It reflects my experience and existence here in Canada.
What was also right on point was her experiences in the USA with Black American attitudes. Growing up in Toronto, I made a number of visits to Buffalo, New York and Springfield Mass., to hang out with friends and family. When I lived in Windsor, right across the river from Detroit, I spent a lot more time in the USA. Not only in Detroit, but I visited places in Maryland, Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada. For the most part, I have had positive experiences and made some close African-American friendships.
Interestingly, in the interactions with my Black American brothers and sisters, both real life and online experiences, it is evident that I have a different perspective and attitude towards life. What I have come to clearly realize (and accept) is the fact that, as the authour states above, "Black Americans are still Americans". It was quite revealing reading the comments section of this article. I understand that no-one likes to be criticized (especially Americans), and the reactions to the article by the Black American readers were so... "American". Some people dismissed the authour and the article, claiming that she was jealous of the accomplishments of Black Americans. Some claimed she was just ignorant of America and the article was of no value. Some even implied that Black Canadians and/or those of West Indian heritage didn't comprehend slavery!
I am cognizant of the fact that I am neither American nor "African-American", so my thinking, attitudes and perspectives are not restricted or shaped by their prejudices or world view. We are all products of our environment and African-American attitudes are rooted in American attitudes, which are rooted in a foundation of White/European superiority... hence the truth of the above statement. Needless to say, I have my own prejudices and perspectives shaped by my own experiences, being born in England, growing up in Jamaica, living in Canada and travelling within the Americas, Caribbean and Africa.
One of the primary factors I believe which differentiates those of us from the West Indies (and Africa) from Black Americans, is that being in the majority in our countries, we were able to fight and win political independence from our slave/colonial masters and formed our own governments. From that foundation we have travelled the world as independent minded, culturally and socially conscious people. Jamaicans such as Marcus Garvey to Bob Marley for example, embodied this spirit of independence, as well as cultural and social consciousness. I find in this way we are more similar in attitudes to Africans than African-Americans.
At the end of the day it doesn't make us better or worse, just different... and through our differences, we have much to offer each other... if we care enough to invest in the effort to listen and learn about each others' cultures and perspectives.