In Solange’s album A Seat at the Table, there is a song called “Where Do We Go”. Released in 2016, it is a poignant compilation of personal confessions and meditations on growing up black in America.
“Where Do We Go”, sung in a whisper, talks about a home she no longer recognises and a place where she feels unwanted. A sense of confusion underlies the whole track.
“This used to be home
This used to be what we know
What used to belong
Now good and gone”
As Donald Trump becomes the most powerful man in the world, more than confused, I feel despondent.
Eight years ago I rushed home like a little boy to watch a black man become the leader of the free world. Today I too am asking “Where do we Go” as a known racist takes his place.
This is a very different world from when Obama came to power in 2008. It is a world of Brexit and right-wing populism. A world where experts and politicians have rallied around an angry, white working-class with words of compassion. “What can we do for you, tell us what/who is bothering you?”
I remember watching Trump in front of the cameras giving his victory speech back in November.
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division,” he said from New York City. “To all Republicans, and Democrats, and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
For a few seconds, I confess, I believed him. But for the rest of the day I couldn’t help but feel depressed by the fact that for the next four years I will be faced with images of an individual who has managed to offend Muslims, Latinos, women, and most lately a prominent US civil rights leader. All before he took office.
“Don’t worry, the world is revealing itself to us so we can act accordingly,” my girlfriend texted me.
Lately I have been thinking about our place and that of our yet-to-be-born black children in a society that has told us loud and clear we are not wanted. “Where do we Go.”
Memories of my childhood in Portugal seep in. A childhood which, although idyllic, was marred by comments such as “go back to Africa, n****r.”
Those types of barbs never got to me. With the naivety and resilience of a 12-year-old, I took it on the chin and went about my business. But twenty years later, Brexit and Trump got me thinking: what if we all really went back to Africa?
Britain has been good to me. I came here to get my degree in 2004. To pay the rent I peeled potatoes in a fish & chip shop and waited tables in Nando’s. Today I am a journalist in one of Europe’s biggest broadcasters. From a purely personal standpoint, life is good.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling that the way the world is going – Trump, Brexit, a growing right-wing sentiment across most of western Europe – the opportunities available to me might just not be there for my children. Hell, it seems almost selfish to want to bring a black child into this world.
And so I wonder: what are we, black millennials in Europe and America, with all the knowledge, education, and cultural experiences our parents could only dream of, still doing here? Brexit and Trump ran on an anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism platform – and they won.
Should we spend another generation fighting for room in a system that wasn’t designed for us in the first place? Would you keep on trying to date someone, after she told you on no uncertain terms she isn’t interested?
Ghana has a Right of Abode program that grants permanent residency and dual citizenship to people of African descent. Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia are all emerging economies vying for our attention. If some of us managed to thrive and prosper in a system that was designed to oppress us, imagine what we could do in a place where race isn’t a factor.
The concept of a mass exodus to Africa has been around for a while. Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born Black Nationalist leader, was a proponent of the “Back to Africa” movement in the United States during the early 20th century. A powerful orator, Garvey urged black Americans to be proud of their heritage and preached about a return to their roots. Malcolm X also thought along the same lines. Both men were seen by a significant portion of the black population, and certainly by most white people, as extremists.
However, with the return of racism and bigotry to mainstream politics, we, black and brown people on both sides of the Atlantic should perhaps revisit the idea.
There is a massive piece of land out there that would welcome us with open arms. As western society regresses to the 1930’s, it is only right we “act accordingly.”
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Felipe Araujo is a freelance news journalist based in London. He spent five years at CNN International and covered the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF. He writes about race and minority issues, sports and culture. Twitter: @felipethejourno
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