Do we know why our Morgans disown motherland Africa?

What Morgan Freeman, the great Hollywood icon, said the other day about being unhappy with the term African-American is interesting.

He was not saying that he was unhappy with the African thing in the characterisation, only the way it is put, I gathered, and I think everyone has the right to express the way they feel about what they are called.

And, it is true that the Black people in America have seen many mutations in the way they are called, from the days of “Negros” through “Afro-Americans” and such other epithets through the ages. I tend to think the term used is received differently depending on the tone in which it is used, and whether the person addressed or being talked about thinks it is offered in good part or otherwise.

For instance, there are circumstances in which the term “ni***r” is used so liberally you would cringe, only to realise it is used among Black people themselves, and the impression is that they would not let any other person try it.

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Which reminds me that the word “mzungu”is actually an insult, if one knows what it means. In classical Kiswahili, “mzungu”means a phantasm, a mirage, a fib, a lie, a hoax and such other things, which must have been the reaction of people on the Swahili coast when they heard of the appearance of the creatures who had put anchor in their shores.


If someone owed you money and was always talking himself out of repaying, you would tell him, “Leo nataka pesa yangu, na sitaki unipangie tena mizungu yako ya kila siku.”

“Mzungu” is singular , and its plural is “mizungu.” The difference here is that because a “mzungu” was eventually adjudged to be a person of high value, the word acquired a totally new, and opposite, meaning.

For our brothers and sisters who were kidnapped and conveyed to the so-called New World five centuries ago, I am sure things happened completely differently.

Pushed off the slave boats totally broken, in body and in spirit, having been abused in every possible way, from their capture until then; having been packed in dingy boats, crammed like sardines; displayed on arrival as cheap merchandise to be disposed of to the right buyer; made to undergo unnatural examinations before they were given to new owners…

“Negro” was such a hurtful term, even though in other circumstances it should only mean Black, and no more. With the passage of time the term was abandoned by “polite society” to be used only when the user was spoiling for a fight and thus ready to inflict the deepest hurt.

Such are the incomprehensible inanities of some societies that, in an attempt to place themselves above people they want to despise to enhance their self-worth, they coin nonsensical lables whose meaning they cannot even begin to understand.

It is thus that the ignorant Boer, eager to denigrate the Xhosa, Zulu or Ndebele tribesman, whose land he coveted and wanted to steal, branded every Black person a “Ka***r,’ wrongly pronounced “Kefa” instead of “Kaffeer,” an infidel for Muslims.

These are constructs bandied around communities of ignoramuses for the purpose of obtaining some advantage or other, and which can arouse mass violence in combustible communities, such as we have often seen in xenophobic South Africa.

Terms like “makwerekwere” are so annoying to people who value their languages as much as South Africans value theirs and should not be used on people who stood with the South Africans in their hour of need.

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But then one has to reckon, if one thinks a little, that the problem lies in the “education” that the “Boers” gave to the “Ka***rs”, which taught Africans that all the “makwerekwere” north of the Limpopo were dying to live under Apartheid, because this was the best government in the best of all possible worlds, and that whoever does not know that (the freedom fighters) is a Communist and a Russian agent!

When such an “education” system has succeeded — in less than a century — in manufacturing these brilliant xenophobes, what can help people who have been in the grip of American Apartheid for 500 years when they feel uneasy about being identified with Africa?

Malcolm X brought this point up from time to time, urging the Black people of America to know and respect where they came from and their culture as descendants of that heritage. He kept reminding them that though they said they had left nothing in Africa, in fact, they had left their soul in Africa.

Now, all this is tough and it may not be easy to explain to the Morgans of this world. They have made it big in the entertainment industry — and the mega bucks it generates — so please easy on that African thing of yours; people might hear that my ancestors were from there.

Plus, the Africa of today is not covering itself in glory, with all these thieving rulers in our government houses.

There is little we do that can inspire our Morgans to be proud of their continent of origin.

Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]

Source:  The East African

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