BLACKMAN'S BURDEN EASIER IF YOU STAND BY YOUR MAN
By Farouk Martins Aresa
It is the burden of every black man in Africa and in Diaspora to carry his woman and children without any help from others. But some governments have given more help than he needed. Left alone, he had managed his responsibilities very well. That is history today and his main concern is how to move on and learn from the past. He needs to because those who forget history keep on repeating the same mistake and hardly learn.
Africans at home, no matter what, care very much about their children and wives as their main responsibility. Beyond that is the responsibility for relatives and community. These days greed and the fight for dwindling opportunities have turned some of us into reckless beasts for not shouldering our burdens and leaving women alone to cater for our children. It is very un-African to take on more women than you can care for.
Very often scholars wonder if the present crops of African leaders were good students of history, they would be forcing their fellow Africans into economic exile as slaves. Like their predecessors: Prof. Ekeh reminded us of the arrival at slave ports, of African chiefs who had sold their own into slavery that later found themselves in captivity with those they sold earlier. Slaves were transported then in ships, today we buy our own tickets and board the ships and planes voluntarily. Indeed, some of us pay to cross the desert.
As the old captured chiefs during slavery, these corrupt leaders fly overseas with their loot and are rightly booked as common criminal, searched at the airport as drug dealers and profiled because of their color by police. They still have the nerve to protest. History is only repeating itself for those of us who refused to learn. Just as the old slaves were amazed to see their chiefs who sold them in chains from the coast of Africa, some of us complain about the treatment meted out to our VIPs (Vagabonds In Power). Sio!
Africans do not trust or depend on government and their instruments of power. This distrust is universal but the western world has tried to make the police a friendlier force ÔÇô to serve and to protect its citizens. In spite of this distrust of the instrument of power, Africans in the Diaspora are disproportional exposed to the welfare and the correctional systems. Family problem, including pimps or prostitution are not greater within Africans but coward teenage dads terrorizing only African communities necessitate police watch. These were prevented by a strong family tie or by the old extended family in Africa.
Africans in Diaspora who were freed after slave trade and established businesses in their neighborhood with their children's helping hands to grow, are today wondering about what happened to the spirit of entrepreneurship in their community. As factory opens and they moved up North, family ties were dislocated and the community spirit faded. They do not patronize one another anymore and resent the new immigrants establishing businesses as they used to do in their community.
We know that the dislocation of the black family is more rampant in Diaspora. Many Africans recently from home sooner or later reflect that pattern of their African brothers and sister in Diaspora of family separations. By all groups: white, black, yellow or brown; Africans have the highest family dislocation than any other group. There is no doubt that lack of opportunities and financial stability has to do with it, but so it is with the Spanish.
If anyone surrenders his family to the welfare or correctional system thinking that the man would take care of him or the family, he will find himself where the system can afford to put him or where the system thinks he deserves to be. There are not enough missionaries, philanthropists or governments who can deliver us from ourselves. It is the man and woman that must stand by one another to make a solid family cohesive.
Let us face it, we separated and stop trusting one another a long time ago. Some people claim that we are still suffering from the vestiges of slavery. Dumb excuse, others argue. In the days of slavery, a black man finds it very difficult when ordered to stand outside while the man went in to enjoy his wife. A few protested to the point of harming that man but got the worst for it. It was not easy either to watch your husband and father whipped like a kid. So, some of the black men preferred to marry either a freed slave when they become free themselves or marry from another camp.
It was not easy on the women too, who had to surrender their girls to the man as soon as she reached puberty. They could not marry their master even when they had his children. Those children could be sold as any other slave. If the wife of the master became jealous of the relationship of her husband and the slave mistress, she could be sold away easily. Indeed, while the master was away, the black women could be ordered to call her husband in for enjoyment while she stood outside. Neither the husband could resist nor report if he did not want to risk the charge of rape from a white woman.
Some freed black men married poor white women in those days and a few rich white women ran off with black men to Canada. After the end of slavery it became even more dangerous to do so. The children of the masters and black women went with the black woman but it was more difficult for the children of black men to go with white women.
So the tolerance for both type of marriage could not be compared. If a black man could not protect his black woman, he could not protect his white woman.
This may not fully explain the high proportion of dislocated black family nor justify it today in Diaspora. As we grapple with solutions we must not loose sight of history. Black women must learn to stand by their men and black men must make conscious effort to treat their women well. Out of Africa the authority figures are not necessarily black men but some of the most beautiful women are black women, a comparative contradiction.
Stand by your man or woman. The products of our families are the children in Africa or in Diaspora. If we give up on African perseverance, so may our children. No matter what, the images of Africa will always tell on these children wherever they are. Please bear with us.