In a welcome return, Media Diversified columnist Ada Vidal discusses the diaspora wars that often rage on Black Twitter and whether the debates are as harmless as they first seem
Diaspora Wars have been around since the beginning of… well actually I don’t know when it started to be honest. The earliest ones that I ever heard of were on the Windrush as it was bringing the Caribbeans that we now refer to as ‘The First Generation’ to the UK shores. Responding to the calls of ‘Your Motherland Needs You’ they were heading to the UK to help rebuild after the war and to also help establish the National Health Service. They were optimistic and brimming with excitement about what they would find when they arrived. Well we all know what they found but many remained and now the Caribbean community have spawned three generations in this country.
I had a Dominican Uncle that travelled to the UK by boat. Not on the famous Windrush but on another vessel. When I asked him what it was like he could hardly keep the disgust out of his voice. He spoke
about how the Jamaicans thought they were in charge of everybody and how loud they were. He said he spent most of his time with those from the smaller islands (Smallies as Jamaicans like to call us.) But those divisions soon melted away when they had to band together when faced with the virulent racism in the UK. Tired of attacks both verbal and physical from the police and the public they joined forces to protect the Caribbean community from racist groups such as the Teddy boys.
The resulting violence led to the 1958 Notting Hill Riots and out of that The Notting Hill Carnival was born. When you look at early Black leaders such as The Mangrove Nine, they came from all over the Caribbean. The late great Darcus Howe was from Trinidad. And members were from Grenada, and Guyana amongst other places. Inter-island rivalry that I remember consisted mostly of Jamaicans vs. the rest of us. Everybody would gather and gently tease one another about who made the best rice and peas and if we should use gungo peas or kidney beans. We would argue about who made the best Saturday soup or compare rum. The tone was humorous and fun. Not these days.
“A lot believe that Black immigrants to the US from the Caribbean and Africa are making their lives
harder, taking their jobs and benefits whilst simultaneously mocking them.”
Recently Black Twitter was on fire for days as a group referring to themselves as Foundational Black Americans (FBAs) emerged into our collective consciousness. They are a group of people that no longer want to be referred to as African Americans citing their heritage as a reason. Many believe that they are not only descended from the African slaves kidnapped from the continent and sold into slavery, but also from indigenous people from America who were Black and were mixed with the kidnapped people and reclassified as Black.
A lot believe that Black immigrants to the US from the Caribbean and Africa are making their lives
harder, taking their jobs and benefits whilst simultaneously mocking them. They believe that they need to concentrate on putting themselves first and build up their communities for themselves and the most important way to do this is to campaign for reparations.
There are many arguments that they make which are valid. But too many of the spaces got extremely ugly. Some of the group were saying that none of these people should be allowed in America and should build their countries rather than ‘coming over here and “stealing our jobs”.’ Many were oblivious to the fact that U.S imperialism was the reason that many of those people weren’t able to stay home and build. It’s hard to build when U.S installed puppet governments have their boots on your neck, whilst simultaneously bombs rain down on your head. Immigrants were harming Black people in America and unless they stayed ‘on code’ and fell in line they were not to be welcomed.
There were even calls to ‘round them up’ from more aggressive outliers. All I could hear was a lack of understanding of a) Each other’s struggles and b) How far reaching and all consuming white
supremacy actually is, as too many of the insults are borne out of it. Laughing about Africans being primitive and living in mud huts, accusing Caribbean people of having a ‘babymother culture’ or calling African American people stupid and uneducated isn’t the scoring points you think it is.
“I don’t know if it’s the Internet that has made people extra brave. Maybe we don’t take the time to get enough to know about each other and so modern diaspora wars don’t seem funny to me.”
I have seen gentle discussions about who has the best food descending into madness where people are laughing about Black people being shot by the police in the US and young Black people being stabbed to death on the streets of London. What the hell?! Ash confirms what I have seen and tells me, “Over the years I have been part of cross-diaspora wars that were between 3rd generation British Caribbean kids beefing African Americans. Often the wars start with offhanded jokes and then the affected group goes for the jugular.”
I don’t know if it’s the Internet that has made people extra brave. Maybe we don’t take the time to get enough to know each other and so modern diaspora wars don’t seem funny to me. In a Twitter Space I created and hosted called ‘Beware of False Prophets – Tariq Nasheed Won’t Get You To The Promised Land’ the man himself generously showed up. He has long been a divisive figure in the African American community, seen as a leader in the FBA movement and his debating style could be considered as disruptive to say the least. He was a major figure in a lot of the discussions being held and a lot of people, particularly those from Africa took great offence at some of the comments made by him and his cohorts.
Nasheed has written a book called ‘Foundational Black American Race Baiter’ and I asked him why he thought it was OK to refer to ‘janky phones and cake soap’, constantly when debating with people from the African Continent? He rejected my comparison to white supremacy saying that when those kind of jokes are made by other Black people they come from a different place entirely. He likened it more to banter between friends.
The issue was that those on the receiving end aren’t laughing. They feel insulted and hurt. All Black people have been and continue to be hurt by white supremacy. I think the problem can be best explained by drawing a parallel with the LGBT community (and yes I am well aware that some people sit on the intersection of both.) Homophobia stings more when it is from your own family mem. It’s one thing to have to deal with that level of abuse from strangers but when you come home and close that door you want to have safety and peace. And we Black people are a family – albeit a very dysfunctional one.
Ava Vidal is a stand-up comedian, journalist and author. She has appeared on TV and radio including shows such as Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, BBC Radio 4′ s News Quiz and BBC Two’s Mock the Week. Follow Ava on Twitter
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