The University of Arkansas is a multi-cultural university with many groups of people. The African population on campus increases each year as new African students find their way into this diverse community. Interestingly, the Africans and the African-Americans share the same ancestral background hence the name “African” American. It would seem that these two groups of people would be close and share great friendships, however, after careful observation that is not the case.
Despite our common ancestry, our cultures are completely different. Although we share a love for food and strict parents who have no problem with spanking, Africans have a unique culture that includes paying a “bride price”, for example, whereas African-Americans are known for their interesting barbecues and family reunions. The question that we have to ask ourselves is, “Why is there a level of discomfort between Africans and African- Americans?” To further investigate this issue, I asked both Africans and African-Americans some questions:
-How many African or African-American friends do you have?
-What are the cultural differences between African and African-Americans?
-Why do you think Africans and African Americans don’t have a close relationship even though they share the same ancestry?
Tyra Bullock, an African-American student, replied:
“Africans are more practical when it comes to money. They stay around foreign exchange students and most of them are not very outgoing. I don’t think African-Americans reach out to Africans to make them feel welcome and Africans can be somewhat cliquish”.
(View the videos below to watch more of my convo with Tyra.)
Tyana Anderson, an African-American student, answered:
“I have one African friend and I noticed that we eat different kinds of food. I feel like we, as African Americans, can somewhat be judgmental of other cultures, which isn’t right.”
Cassie Richardson is also an African American and she stated:
“I have about two African friends and I think the cultural differences are obvious. Since I have met you, I have learned that we have different family and marriage traditions. The relationship depends on the friends [you choose]: if they are rocking with you then y’all gonna be close.”
Helena is an African from Cameroon. She says:
“I have one African American friend. The cultural differences between Africans and Africans Americans is the same difference with all Americans in general. We do not have the same values and traditions. I think we don’t have a close relationship because most Africans have the stereotype about African-Americans that they are associated with drugs and violence and, vice-versa, a lot of African-Americans either think Africans are bushmen or they resent us for ‘selling them as slaves’ years ago.”
Aubin Mugabe from Rwanda said:
“I have one African-American friend. Apart from greeting each other, we have no cultural similarities, I would say. I think we have different backgrounds and that each one is trying to convince the other to fit exactly into his own world instead of creating a common ground.”
Ipeleng Randome from Botswana offered:
“I don’t have any African-American friends. I didn’t realize that Africans and African-American weren’t that close. I find other Americans to be friendlier. I don’t know why.”
It is interesting to see the different opinions of how African-Americans and Africans think of each other. I moved to America when I was a teenager, and I found it easy to relate to both cultures. We let our cultural differences stop us from building this great bond that we could have. The differences also prevent us from doing activities together on campus so that we could learn about each other.
Listen to more of the conversation:
Eleanor Kitso Sello is a second-year student from Botswana with three siblings: two little sisters and an older brother. Yay, middle child… Read full bio Comments welcome.