Taking advantage of the racial tensions that continue to boil over in the United States, Ghana is encouraging African-Americans to abandon the U.S. to return “home” to the African nation.
The plea is a continuation of Ghana’s “Year of Return” initiative, which officially was launched in September 2018. At the launch, Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, praised African-Americans, asking those with Ghanaian descent to consider a return to the country, ignoring Ghana’s own historical complicity in violence perpetrated against African slaves.
The year 2019 was chosen because it marked 400 years since the first African slaves arrived in the then-English colony of Virginia in 1619.
“We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they [Africans in the diaspora] made to the lives of the Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year — 400 years later — we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices,” Akufo-Addo declared, as reported by Africa Renewal, a magazine published by the United Nations.
On June 5, the Ghanaian Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, echoed the Akufo-Addo words, citing the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose May death in police custody set off a series of violent riots across the country.
Oteng-Gyasi cited Floyd’s death as a reason why Americans of Ghanaian descent should return to their ancestral home.
“Racism in America continues to be a deadly pandemic, for which for more than 400 years now, our brothers and sisters in the United States of America have yearned for a cure. George Floyd was not the first black person to use the phrase ‘I can’t breathe’… The present situation we face today in the year 2020 with the death of George Floyd is going to result in change… One who condones evil is just as evil as the one who perpetrates it. That is why it is right not only for Chauvin to be charged but all his accomplices who, together, [killed George Floyd],” Oteng-Gyasi said, according to The Independent Ghana, a Ghanaian news outlet.
“We continue to open our arms and invite all our brothers and sisters home. Ghana is your home. Africa is your home. We have our arms wide open ready to welcome you home. Please take advantage, come home build a life in Ghana. You do not have to stay where you are not wanted forever. You have a choice and Africa is waiting for you.”
The reality is that those brought as slaves from Africa were not stolen away from their homes by Europeans. They were chained up and sold by fellow Africans.
For nearly 150 years, Ghana was the center of the transatlantic slave trade that sent millions of Africans to the New World. The vast majority of slaves purchased by Europeans in Ghana had been captured in tribal warfare or were simply kidnapped to sell to European slave traders, according to the liberal Tracing Center, an organization that promotes education about the institution of slavery.
Nat Amarteifio, a Ghanaian historian and former mayor of the Ghanaian capital of Accra, noted to the public radio program The World that Ghanaian leaders attempted to rewrite history in their favor, distancing themselves from their nation’s complicated history.
“The chiefs and peoples decided, ‘All right, we will not talk about it,’” Amarteifio said. “They created a mythology that we were innocent bystanders whose land was raped by Europeans.”
Amarteifio said he met African-Americans who visited Ghana during his college years and he and some friends were asked to serve as guides.
“Naturally, we were recruited to take them around to tourist sites. So I remember when they asked us, ‘So, who was sold?’ We said, ‘Only the bad people — thieves and drunkards,’ ” Amarteifio said.
“Especially since the history had never really been taught. And what history was taught was very sanitized. It was a disaster,” Amarteifio told The World. “A lot of African-Americans were very disappointed to find this kind of blasé attitude.”
Americans from both political parties acknowledge the dark history of slavery and other racist policies in America’s past.
The difference is, conservatives also acknowledge that the Civil War, the civil rights movement and many other hard-fought battles have helped provide an immense amount of freedom for African-Americans, and helped the United States live up to its founding promises.
The America of today is far from the America of slavery, and Jim Crow and racism — personal, “systemic” or otherwise — is far down on the list of most important problems affecting the black community.
If African-Americans believe that by returning to Ghana they are abandoning the dark history of slavery and oppression, they are sadly mistaken.
Ghana slave traders were just as guilty as their white European counterparts. But it’s highly doubtful that the American left will be demanding that Ghana pays out reparations any time soon.
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