Back to Africa... for what?

Monday, December 23, 2013    

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Dear Editor,

There are some among us, including Rastafarians and Garveyites, who believe that we Africans in the West should return to Africa. Now, while this call for repatriation may be popular with a lot of people, I don't think it is very popular with a man called "common sense".

This "back to Africa" movement gained a lot of traction during the 1920s, when Marcus Garvey made his call. Rastafarians, since, have also been making the call. One can understand this call during the 1930s and before, as we black people did not "own" anywhere in the West. However, times have changed.

We black people now own these beautiful Caribbean islands. Why should we give them up? Also, even during the 1930s, this repatriation call was impractical. How were we to get so many hundreds of thousands of people back to Africa?

Also, it is not just a problem of the huge number of us going back. I am not convinced that Africans on the continent would be welcoming us with open arms. With all the riff-raffs that would be going back with the rest of us, I have a feeling that our "brothers" in Africa would have a big headache just trying to digest the idea of us coming "home" — as if they don't have enough problems already.

Recognising that it is impractical for us black people to go back to Africa, some want us to go back in a spiritual way. That is, they want us to go back to African culture. However, there are very good reasons to believe that going back to African culture would be a very retrograde move indeed.

I remember when I was searching for black inventors and scientists. Indeed, the relative few that I found weren't really black scientists at all. Sure, they were black in skin colour, but they were educated and raised in the West. My point here is that the African culture that we are being urged to go back to is not very facilitative of the sciences. Indeed, it is science-starved. As such, our "black" scientists could only have made their accomplishments in the West.

The anti-science that is African culture has had grave consequences as well. The greatest manifestation of these is the relative ease with which the West was able to conquer Africa, mainly starting in the 19th century. One clear example is Italy's conquest of Ethiopia in 1936. Though Ethiopia remained only one of a small number of unconquered African countries, her "uncontaminated" culture ensured that she was no match for the West by the 1930s. Ethiopia's defeat in 1936 did not just reveal how outclassed pure African military and technologies were, it also revealed how outclassed our culture was too.

Why should we black people want to go back to a culture that will keep us in a state of backwardness? Throughout the centuries, we have seen that a culture change away from Africa is better. We black people must think forward - not backward.

Perhaps the one good thing about this 'back to Africa' talk is that it is fading. Whether literal or spiritual, there is no good reason why we black people in the West should want to go back to Africa.

Michael A Dingwall





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