Who is an African?

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In my neck of the woods, as a young adult I was part of a loosely connected local counter cultural community. All of the same age range, we had folks from a diverse range of backgrounds, including a guy from the USA, who would have baulked at the idea of being described as an “African American”. In more recent times, public figures such as Whoopi Goldberg and Smokey Robinson have stated in the public domain that they don’t wish to categorised as in this way, so it is reasonable to suggest that the appellation is not appealing to everyone of Black American heritage.

The first I heard of the fellow in question was when a friend and associate described him as “the Black guy with a quiff”. This description seemed unusual to me at the time, because those of us who are of direct African heritage tend not to grow hair to a length that would make such a hairstyle achievable.

Eventually I met this guy and we didn’t have much in common, beyond the fact that we were both “of colour” and somehow affiliated to the same social circle. Most of our encounters were uncomfortable and veering towards antagonistic, which was a source of confusion to me at the time.

In retrospect, I guess I must have been naive in thinking that the visions expressed by Black political leaders and activists about people of African descent pooling resources together were anything other than ideas, notions or dreams.

Later in life, I spent time in both North and South America and came to understand that each person goes around with his or her own personal baggage and should be engaged with on a case by case basis.