Long Reads Opinion

A Black mannequin in the shopping mall of White supremacy

The African bourgeoisie in the West is well accomplished. They left Africa to seek greener pastures and succeeded in their quest. The African middle-class works in various professions, including but not limited to finance, medicine, technology, law, and politics. People within this group are ambitious, financially secure, highly educated, and have successful careers. In their country of residency, the White power structure views them as a model ethnic minority who overcame the odds to enjoy the milk and honey that the West offers. At the same time, many Black people hope to emulate their success. 

This article is an attempt to deconstruct the African bourgeoise living in the West. For this long read, I define the African bourgeoise as middle-class Africans who left the shores of Africa in the last thirty years to take up residence in one of the so-called Five Eyes Western democracies, comprising the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. 

Despite their elevated social and financial status in the West, the present-day African bourgeoisie can be described as a Black mannequin in the shopping mall of White supremacy. The African middle-class living in the Western hemisphere exhibits Stockholm syndrome, suffers from a crisis of identity, manifests historical amnesia, has a messiah complex, and is socio-politically illiterate. Before I explore these traits in the next couple of paragraphs, I would like to point out that I am aware some may take offense to what I have written. Some may consider it an act of betrayal for a fellow African to expose his fellow brethren. However, I have to make it plain by telling what Malcolm X calls the “naked truth, undressed truth, truth that is not dressed up.

I am not stereotyping the African bourgeoisie but making an observation at the group level. For the sake of clarity, I am not suggesting that ALL middle-class Africans in the West exhibit the traits that I will be discussing later. I am aware of some African bourgeoisie who don’t show these traitsI am only describing a characteristic that is common among this socio-economic group.

“For the sake of clarity, I am not suggesting that ALL middle-class Africans in the West exhibit the traits that I will be discussing later”

The African bourgeoisie suffers from Stockholm syndrome, which causes victims to develop a psychological admiration for their oppressors. Even though members of the Black race have been oppressed by Whiteness from ancient times to the present, the African bourgeoise chooses to align with the White power structure. This respect for the White power structure has created a crisis of identity. The African middle-class see themselves more as Westerners than Africans. Even though they look Black, they think White. Sometimes, they try to be more American than the American, more British than the British, and more White than White. Unlike the Black masses who describe the West from the second-person point of view (you/your/yours/yourself,/yourselves) or third person point of view (they/them/their/theirs/themselves), the African bourgeoisie refers to the West in the first-person pronouns: We, us, our, and ourselves. As Malcolm X put it, “He identifies himself with his master so much that when his master says, ‘Our society,’ he says, ‘Yes boss, our society.’ When his master says, ‘Our army, our armed forces,’ or ‘Our astronauts are floating around the earth,’ he says, ‘Yes’.”

“The African bourgeoisie suffers from Stockholm syndrome, which causes victims to develop a psychological admiration for their oppressors. Even though members of the Black race have been oppressed by Whiteness from ancient times to the present, the African bourgeoise chooses to align with the White power structure”

James Baldwin noted (0:42), “It comes as a great shock, around the age of five or six or seven, to discover that Gary Cooper killing off the Indians when you were rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians were you.” As a result of Western propaganda, the African bourgeoisie has been rooting for the “Western Cowboy” when it should be pitching its tent with the “Colored Indian.” How has the African bourgeoisie been rooting for “White Gary Cooper” to the detriment of the “Brown Indian?” It is not usual to see the African bourgeoisie regurgitate White supremacist soundbites and back policies detrimental to Blacks. The African bourgeoisie has a deep disdain for the Black masses who they feel have not taken advantage of the West’s opportunities. They act as cheerleaders to the West’s hostile immigration policies against Black and Brown people. When the Black masses complain about racism in the West, it is not unusual for the African bourgeoisie to say, “Stop playing the race card” or “stop playing the victim,” the same soundbites that the White power structure has been telling Black people since 1619. 

Like turkeys that enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, the African bourgeoisie wants policies detrimental to its race. The African middle-class supports population control policies propagated by the West, which target specifically poor women in Africa without questioning why the West encourages its citizens to procreate. They belong to the school of thought that you do not have a right to reproduce if you are poor and black. Many middle-class Africans support the rollout of the vaccine passport in the West, even though such schemes tend to impact Black and Brown people more due to low vaccine take up in the community. They also see the West as the personification of perfectness and can get defensive when people criticize the West. They see the Commonwealth as a force for good and not a neo-colonial project.

“Like turkeys that enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, the African bourgeoisie wants policies detrimental to its race”

There is a symbiotic relationship between the White power structure and the African bourgeoisie. The African middle-class gets a chance to eat the token crumbs left on the table. At the same time, the White power structure can highlight the token African bourgeoisie as evidence of multiculturalism, racial progress, and laziness on the part of the Black masses. Thus, when the African bourgeoisie lands in the West, she chooses to identify with the White power structure rather than her struggling brothers and sisters. It is not uncommon to see some members of the African bourgeoisie based in the USA, Britain, and Australia looking down on their African Americans, Caribbean, and Aboriginal counterparts. Consequently, these African elites make derogatory statements such as, “African Americans have a chip on their shoulder always blaming racism for their misfortune” or “Caribbean’s are lazy people who do not want to work.” Marcus Garvey was right when he said, “The traitor of other races is generally confined to the mediocre or irresponsible individual, but, unfortunately, the traitors among the Negro race are generally to be found among the men highest placed in education and society.”  

Oliver Luke Taylor, in an article entitled, “It’s coming home? Racism is home” published by Make it Plain, cited a British Icon Index II survey which noted that Kenyans and Nigerians had the highest feelings of positivity for the English Premier League and the second-highest levels of positive sentiment for other British Icons such as the British monarchy, banks, and universities. Therefore, it should be no surprise to see how some African Bourgeoisies got all excited about the Royal Wedding (oblivious to the Royal Family’s role in plundering their fatherland). Some go on TV to take sides on the ongoing Royal soap opera between Prince Williams and Prince Harry. Others have sleepless nights over Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United even though they wouldn’t be caught wearing a Nigerian Super Eagles or Ghanaian Black Star football jersey. As Malcolm X would say, they must have left their mind in Africa.

“Why you left your mind in Africa!”

Malcolm X – Message to the Grassroots – 1963

The only time the African Bourgeoisie is willing to identify with the Black cause is to promote his cause. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, the Western world began some soul searching for its role in perpetuating racism. The African bourgeoisie, which had previously taken a color-blind approach to racism, suddenly found its voice. They became more vocal and started calling for more representation of Black faces in the corporate world. Being the token Black faces in their organizations, they sensed an opportunity to be promoted the Head Negro of their Corporate Plantation.

A key factor for the crisis of identity and Stockholm Syndrome exhibited by the African bourgeoisie is the source that feeds their mind. They look to the BBC, Sky, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc., to help their understanding of the world. Hence, it is not surprising that they sometimes sing from the same hymn sheet as the White supremacist and White liberal. They are quick to dismiss RT, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Nigeria Television Authority, and China Central Television as the propaganda arms of the Russian, Kenyan, Nigerian, and Chinese governments, respectively. Yet, they fail to realize that the media sources where they get their news sources equally serve as the propaganda arm of Western interest.

The African bourgeoisie in the West has an exaggerated sense of its importance. Their messiah complex leads them to believe that because they have studied in Western schools and worked in Western organizations, they are most qualified to solve Africa’s challenges – a clear example of Western exceptionalism in Black face. The African bourgeoisie believes that the home-based Africans don’t have the skills and integrity to map a path for Africa’s future. In reality, it’s the home-based Africans that have a better understanding of the terrain. The notion that the African bourgeoisie in the Western hemisphere can save Africa cannot withstand analysis and is a pseudo-White supremacist construct.

“The African bourgeoisie in the West has an exaggerated sense of its importance… a clear example of Western exceptionalism in Black face”

According to data collated by the Migration Policy Institute from the Census Bureau and American Community Surveys, 40% of African immigrants hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Nigerians are the most highly educated of all groups in the USA, with 61 percent having at least a bachelor’s degree compared with 31 percent of the total foreign-born population and 32 percent of the US-born population. The African bourgeoisie often cites this survey as a badge of honor. It uses it as a stick to knock down the Black masses from other groups as less resilient. However, while the African bourgeoisie is academically, financially, and professionally literate, they are socio-politically illiterate. They are preoccupied with climbing the property, financial, social, and career ladder. Yet, they are indifferent to the ladder of racial justice. If one were to take a tour of the bookshelf of the Africans in the West during the colonial era, one would have seen books written by the likes of Neo-Colonialism by Kwame Nkrumah, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, or The Souls of Black Folk by W.E Du Bois. These sorts of books are conspicuously missing from today’s quintessential Western African bourgeoisie bookshelf and have been replaced with titles like The Millionaire Next DoorThe Simple Path to Wealth, and Think And Grow Rich.

The Western African bourgeoisie has been used as a Black mannequin in the shopping mall of White supremacy because it suffers from historical amnesia. When the so-called middle-class Africans relocate to the West, they refuse to study and appreciate the historical struggles of their melanated brothers and sisters. The longer they stay in the West, the more they ignore the suffering of the Black masses by selling themselves to the White power structure in exchange for a mess of token pottage. A factor in this historical amnesia might be that the African bourgeoisie was taught a whitewashed version of history while schooling in Africa, such as Mungo Park “discovering” River Niger and David Livingstone “discovering” Victoria Falls (real name is Mosi-oa-Tunya). As a result, the Western African bourgeoisie fails to link past manifestations of racism with today’s systematic racism. Because of this historical amnesia, the African bourgeoisie is ignorant that the token gains they obtained in the West result from the struggles and bloodshed by the very people they look down on. If the African Americans had not fought against Jim Crow, middle-class Africans would not have had the opportunity to come to America to study and work. If the Caribbean’s had not stood their ground against the British White supremacists in the ’60s, ’70s, and 80’s, the token gains enjoyed by the British African middle classes would have been none existence. So instead of having a sense of entitlement, the African bourgeoisie should show some humility and acknowledge the struggles of their fellow brothers and sisters that enabled them to thrive in the West.

As much as the African bourgeoisie tries to align with the Western power structure instead of the Black masses, they will always be referenced to their Africanness. They cannot escape where they came from or their skin color, no matter how much they try. It does not matter whether one went to Oxbridge or No Bridge; whether one works in Goldman Sachs or No Sachs; whether one speaks the Queens English or No English; whether one lives in the suburbs or the ghetto – as long as you are Black in the West, you are first judged by the color of your skin and not by the content of your school, work, accent or neighborhood. 

“It does not matter whether one went to Oxbridge or No Bridge; whether one works in Goldman Sachs or No Sachs; whether one speaks the Queens English or No English; whether one lives in the suburbs or the ghetto – as long as you are Black in the West, you are first judged by the color of your skin and not by the content of your school, work, accent or neighborhood”

From the Scriptures, we learn about Moses, an Israelite who grew up in Pharaoh’s palace. Despite being adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, he refused the privileges of the Egyptian royal household. Instead, he identified with his oppressed brothers and sisters. When the time came, he looked the King straight in the eye and told him – “Let my people go.” The African bourgeoisie should cease being a Black mannequin in the shopping mall of White supremacy and become a modern Moses that breaks the pillars of White supremacy.

Selah.

Ahmed Sule is a CFA charter holder, writer,  and social critic. You can find them at: suleaos@gmail.com and @Alatenumo.

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