In my analysis of the current situation in Gaza and Israel, it’s clear that the black community’s stance is not uniform. There are three distinct perspectives: those who are actively supporting the cause, those who are unaware or indifferent to the events, and those who may lean towards a pro-Israel viewpoint.
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My personal interest in this topic is deeply rooted in my African heritage, which offers a unique perspective shaped by my upbringing. I was raised among diplomats, including a late uncle who served in Saudi Arabia, providing me with a nuanced understanding of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, I was in close contact with individuals committed to the anti-apartheid movement. To describe these individuals candidly, they were akin to spies—intelligence agents working with the ANC to dismantle apartheid and support the struggle for independence in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
The political environment extended beyond my immediate surroundings. Neighboring Angola was embroiled in a civil war, presenting additional complexities. Furthermore, Southwest Africa, which later became Namibia, faced its own set of challenges, including territorial disputes in the Caprivi Strip.
My fascination with geopolitics has grown from observing the political struggles, the remnants of colonialism, and the proxy wars waged by the former Soviet Union and the United States. These experiences, coupled with witnessing a newly liberated country reneging on agreements within its protectorate territories, have significantly impacted my worldview.
A common perception is that Africa has been marred by incompetence, a sentiment that unfortunately some Africans share. This colonial mindset insinuates a detachment from civilization. However, I contend that this issue is not exclusive to Africa, as Arab nations have experienced similar prejudices.
The insights I gained from those around me during my formative years prompted me to delve into these complexities, which were often overlooked or unexplained. This journey fostered a distinct mindset that frames my interpretation of unfolding events.
Colonial powers established educational systems designed to maintain administrative control over their territories. This resulted in a populace conditioned not to think critically but to ascend within a given framework, making them effective yet unwitting instruments of colonial rule. This was evidenced by the restriction of certain academic subjects to black individuals.
I surmise that the Arab states under colonial rule likely encountered comparable circumstances, where education served the colonizers’ agenda rather than fostering independent thought.
In considering the dynamics within America, it is observed that individuals from former colonial nations—be they from Arab regions, the Indian subcontinent, or African countries—often arrive with a colonial mindset. This mindset is shaped by an education system rooted in the colonial curriculum of their respective former rulers, such as the British or the French. Their socialization processes have led them to view the world through the lens of their colonizers.
Such individuals tend to equate higher education with civilization and superiority over the uneducated. There is also a tendency among people from these ‘brown colonies’—referring to Arab, Indian, and some Asian states—to regard those with darker skin as inferior, mirroring the discriminatory perspectives of their colonial past.
The paradigm in the United States is distinct. With its unique curriculum and historical legacy, the United States provided a different foundation for the Pan-African movement, which significantly influenced African attitudes through the lens of American struggle, resulting in a divergent mindset and historical understanding.
As a consequence, there is friction among the diaspora from colonial countries. Upon arriving in America—a nation marketed as the land of opportunity and global power—they often view those not reflecting societal ideals, particularly within the black community, as inferior. This has led to tension between African immigrants and African Americans, as well as hostility from other diaspora communities who look down upon African Americans, fostering resentment and fractious relationships.
For example, Arab immigrants who arrive in America as refugees or asylum seekers are often afforded educational opportunities and career establishment programs. They are categorized as Caucasian, a significant label in the context of America’s legacy of racial categorization. However, many fail to recognize the unique challenges and systemic oppression faced by African Americans.
“Honestly, I heard it my whole life,” Vernon said. “I was called abeed so many times I never thought anything of it until a Somali friend, who speaks Arabic, explained to me, ‘No, they are calling us slaves.’ I have even heard it from 11-year-old kids.”The divisiveness that permeates Detroit’s communities of color
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This reflection arose from my observations during a number of debates on X over the Israel-Palestine issue, where many African Americans expressed staunch support for Israel. This was a curious stance that prompted further investigation. It is well-known that there is a long history of Arab-African slavery, which I initially thought might influence these opinions. However, it became clear that interactions between African Americans and Arabs in America also significantly shape perspectives—though it is crucial to note this does not apply to all Arabs.
The conflicts between America and various Arab states, alongside the caricatured association of terrorism with Arab identity, have exacerbated misunderstandings. The term ‘terrorist’ has, in recent times, been conflated with Muslim appearance, overshadowing the history of other groups who were similarly labeled, such as the IRA in Ireland or the militant branch of the ANC in Africa, who were also freedom fighters in their contexts.
I observed these complexities further when a man expressed his fear of Hamas influence in the United States, illustrating his point with an evocative image of fear tied to traditional Saudi attire. Such stereotypes create barriers to understanding, leading to mutual views of oppression and terrorism between African Americans and Arabs.
Dr. Umar Johnson, a charismatic Pan-Africanist, vocalizes this tension. He was questioned about his platform’s silence on the call for a ceasefire in the Palestine-Israel conflict. In a passionate response, he outlined his stance: while condemning the violence, he emphasized the importance of focusing on Pan-African and African American issues. He questioned the Arab world’s support for African struggles, including the plight of black Yemenis, the tensions in West Africa with France, and the atrocities in South Sudan.
Dr. Johnson’s argument extends to the historical context of Arab involvement in African American history, particularly in the slave trade, suggesting a lack of contribution to the emancipation and advancement of African Americans. This history underpins his decision to prioritize his platform for African-centered issues, questioning the benefit of advocating for the Palestinian cause.
This has provided me with a clearer understanding of the positions certain individuals take, especially within the African American community. Specifically, those who either support Israel or choose to remain silent on the matter, their perspectives are understandable. I recognize the attitudes, particularly of those from former colonies — whether they are from the brown populations of Arab countries or the Indian subcontinent. Notably, it was individuals from the Indian subcontinent who were sent to British colonies in Africa to serve as administrators due to a lack of British settlers.
However, there is an untold history regarding the contributions that Arab nations have made to the struggle of many African countries. Arab nations have played a significant, albeit often unseen, role in these struggles against oppression. Take, for example, Nelson Mandela, who was unapologetically in support of Palestine and a friend of Yasser Arafat, or Colonel Gaddafi, who was disapproved of by the West. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein provided oil free of charge to countries that were fighting against apartheid and striving for freedom in Southern Africa. These facts are seldom heard or acknowledged.
The dichotomy within these post-colonial states and the attitudes that manifest can be aptly illustrated by comparing it to the movie “Django Unchained.” This film is not merely a story based on American history; it’s a reflective tale. The plantation, known as Candyland, symbolizes the colonizer, the oppressor. Django represents those tied to their roots and striving for self-determination, navigating the complex power structures. Between Candyland and Django, you find the oppressed slaves, but among them, there is Stephen — a slave who attempts to be as close to his master as possible, often being more brutal to his own people than any master could be.
This narrative is vividly portrayed throughout “Django Unchained.” Many African Americans see Stephen as akin to the “house Negro.” The film depicts the master of Candyland developing a degreee of respect for Django, not for his savagery but for his will and determination, even allowing Django to sit at his table.
In contrast, Stephen is depicted as someone who is offended and seeks to undermine Django, who he views as savage and unworthy of such a position. This is not merely an American story but a colonial one, reflecting the desire of some to emulate their colonizers, distancing themselves from their own people, and often viewing those with darker skin with even greater disdain.
It should be noted that not all Arabs have a colonized mindset; rather, there are those who have been indoctrinated and serve as tools for the colonizers. Others, like Django, share a similar need for self-determination, but they are less visible because their recognition would inspire others.
The situation in the Middle East mirrors these dynamics, where a class of people see themselves as civilized in the manner of their colonizers. This creates a challenge because you have individuals akin to Stephen — for instance, the Palestinian Authority, which is perceived to yield to the European Union and Israel, failing to take significant action for their people.
In contrast, groups like Hamas in Gaza are labeled terrorists and barbarians, echoing the portrayal of Django — fighting for self-determination, willing to go to great lengths for their cause. The struggle in Palestine has been prolonged in part because of the presence of many with a colonized mindset who acquiesce to their “masters.”
I make this observation from my experience among those fighting for freedom in South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). There, the individuals in the diaspora were determined, organizing without the benefit of social media. This level of organization is not as visible among Palestinians, where mobilization is often seen only in times of tragedy.
This has deepened my understanding of certain stances within predominantly African American communities, particularly those supporting Israel or choosing to abstain. Their position is understandable, given the historical context. Particularly for those from colonized nations, the attitudes of silence or support are often adopted for comfort and recognition rather than confrontation.
Despite the ongoing conflict, many influential Palestinians in the diaspora, including DJ Khalid, remain silent. They fail to use their platforms to educate a vast number of African Americans and mobilize support against the oppression of their people. Instead, he continues to promote commercial products, seemingly disregarding his roots and the plight of his people, who are derogatorily labeled as ‘animals’ by some Israelis. His remarkable success in the USA is seen not as a triumph of a Palestinian but rather as that of an elite American. At the conflict’s onset, hip-hop journalist DJ Vlad, who commands a significant audience in hip-hop culture, invited him to speak out. Even a simple request for a ceasefire would have been significant.
This silence shapes the perceptions of many in America, contrasting with the historical support Jewish Americans have shown to African Americans, more so than any Arab involvement. This distinction is not to conflate Arabs with Islam, but rather to address the influence of a colonized paradigm where accolades and titles are prioritized over the struggle for one’s people.
The issue is broad and requires innovative approaches, not just awareness of oppression but also a reevaluation of domestic relations within the United States. A change in understanding is necessary, starting with an awareness that the curriculum and socialization in colonial countries were designed to produce subservient tools.
Consider Saudi Arabia, a country of immense wealth yet marked by conspicuous consumption. The opulence of cars and palaces there reflects a colonial mindset that equates material possessions with civilization and superiority. This is not the mindset of innovation or forward-thinking but rather one that obeys basic instincts for recognition and ego.
Despite their financial resources, Arab countries have not significantly contributed to global civil society or technological innovation, not since colonization. Contrast this with Colonel Gaddafi, who, despite criticism, was innovative with the wealth from his oil, creating his own car and advancing desert irrigation—thinking beyond the colonial mindset.
Understanding and shifting our paradigms are crucial. It’s essential to recognize our intrinsic value, not through brand labels but by being the brand. Many rely on external validation, from professional accolades to branded attire, a tendency not exclusive to post-colonial countries—America, too, has its colonial hangovers.
This fixation on entertainment and sports, to the exclusion of deeper societal engagement, serves as a distraction from more pressing issues. The ongoing conflicts and tragedies in places like Gaza, Ukraine, and South Sudan are manifestations of a global ignorance, a neglect that persists unless it serves the interests of the powerful.
I must underscore that not all Arabs, or any group for that matter, are monolithic. There are those among them, like Django, who seek the same freedom from oppression. Unfortunately, they are often overlooked, as the privileged few in the diaspora overshadow the struggle of those truly fighting for their rights.
Those who have supported African causes, including some from Saudi Arabia, may be few, but they have been present. However, today’s leaders in these regions seem more aligned with Western interests, often to the detriment of their people’s well-being.
Yet, there remain steadfast individuals who have endured subjugation and discrimination, who continue to fight for their rightful place. These are the ones labeled “barbarians”, the ones with the legitimate right to their land. Through our actions and support, we can demonstrate true character, which isn’t built on empty rhetoric of peace but through genuine engagement and aid to those who are rightfully fighting for their land and dignity.
America, once a colony, still harbors a colonial mindset. Its citizens often show greater knowledge in sports trivia than in substantial societal issues. This obsession with entertainment does little to foster personal development or societal progress, reflecting the shallow manner in which many Americans engage with one another. This behavior exacerbates societal divides along lines of class, gender, race, and religion, leading to a national identity crisis with singular ideas of what it is to be American or at the very least a decent human being with the “self” truths devoid of the realties of the world.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is not merely a political or historical issue, but is also hindered by colonized minds that impede progress. As someone from Southern Africa, I see parallels in the colonial legacies that pervade many African minds, some of whom view Israel through a distorted lens.
In the end, it’s the Arab ‘Djangos,’ the unsung heroes who stood with African causes, that we must never forget. The Saudi leadership, groveling at the feet of the West, is a stark contrast. Meanwhile, America, that self-proclaimed bastion of liberty, should be ashamed. Its streets are drenched in the blood of those who fought for what it stands for—freedoms carved out by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, a supposed guiding light for civil rights worldwide. Yet, here we are, witnessing America’s principles crumble, its soul being recolonized. These so-called ‘Barbarians,’ wrongfully smeared and marginalized, they’re the ones who truly embody the American spirit. They are the ones we must fiercely support in their fight to reclaim their land and their rights.
True character is built not on accolades but on genuine actions towards peace and justice—a stark contrast to the empty rhetoric often heard on global stages. The collective ignorance of these issues contributes to the problems we witness today.