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Diaspora is one of the leading features of globalization and its principal meaning refers to a people who are not in their homeland. The etymology of this word means “scattering”, and as we see in Jacqueline Brown’s article, the “black other” has a different meaning.
There is a second home, a second country, although in the new context, people in a Diaspora seemed lost, lost In geographic location, and perhaps, have lost their own identity. Jayne Ifekwunigwe defined the new African Diasporas as the clandestine movement of Africans – in whatever way – so they could get away from the impoverished urban centers to economically advanced places in Europe, or what Harding (qtd. in Ifekwunigwe 207) called ‘European metropoles’. It is known as the African migration for economic purposes, but whether they attain their goals when they reached their destination is a big question.
Ifekwunigwe’s thesis and contention refer to present and ongoing African Diasporas; these are African migrations to Europe, some of which are not legal but it refers to trafficking and smuggling of men and women from West and North Africa by way of Morocco, and then Europe (Harding, qtd. in Ifekwunigwe 207). Nigerian women were illegally brought to Italy to become sex workers, but there were also voluntary Diasporas to Ireland from Nigeria.
Even pregnant women left West Africa to give birth in Spain and Ireland which created debate and controversy over their citizenship. Nigerian sex workers are aplenty in Italy, and Ifekwunigwe relates this reality to black sexuality, referring to Sharpley-Whiting’s work “Black Venus”. Black women became victims because of poverty. Albanian men were also smuggled along with women. The Diasporas were done in desperation mostly because of poverty.
West African migrants were promised of higher European Union wages, many times higher. Black men were preferred by EU businesses. Migrant men and women were brought to one destination but with different destinies; the women were to become sex workers, or for domestic work.
Early Diasporas: Liverpool
There are other black men in different parts of Europe and the United States. In the 1920s to 1930s, Africans were used as cheap labor in Britain, which is synonymous with slaves. Black identity in the Liverpool area was the opposite of the English and British identity. Jacqueline Brown’s investigation centred on the difference between black Liverpool and black America over two periods in history – the period immediately after the war and the time of the U.S. civil rights movement. (Brown 75)
Brown made her differentiation of the “black other” on two geographical areas – black Liverpool and black America. In the mid-nineteenth century up to the 1970s, Liverpool was an international seaport which grew largely because of the services of African slaves who were hired by shipping companies. Even if the industry died down, African sailors continued to flock and contribute to what they call the Liverpudlian identity which constituted the black Liverpool.
For lack of marriageable black women, African sailors were profoundly originators of interracial marriage when they courted English and Irish women in Liverpool’s port, and they started a new community called black Liverpool. But when black women were becoming available for marriage, the black men would not consider even courting them. The black men said that they considered the black women as kin, so they did not have a sexual desire for them. (Brown 75-76)
The African seamen had access to different cultures, particularly American culture. They brought with them American music to Liverpool. Traditional black music, whether African or American, reached Liverpool because of the African seamen. During World War II, American servicemen were assigned in the different parts of Britain, particularly Liverpool.
Black GIs came and intermingled with the black Liverpool population. Black Americans spoke harsh of the black Liverpudlians, calling them “jungle men” and other racist innuendos about Africans, when in fact these two groups were from African ancestry.
Which are the “other black”? These are the black Liverpudlians who have settled in Liverpool, and who black Americans had little regard about and called them “jungle men”. Black women in Liverpool married black Americans and were able to migrate to America. Because of the interracial marriage, there was a growing animosity between black Americans and Liverpool’s black men.
In Liverpool, the black Americans brought with them what were considered classy and extravagant – big cars and clothes only actors and actresses wore. But Africans didn’t have direct link to Africa except through America. Black women from Liverpool migrated to the United States and expanded the “blackness” of Liverpool.
Most Black Liverpudlians now have relatives in the United States. But black men didn’t like it – the migration of their sisters to America. The black men’s migration from Africa to Britain was devoid of comments from black women but the men expressed their bad feelings with the women’s migration.
There was a ‘gendering of travel’. This refers to the return of black seafarers and black women to Liverpool. Upon the seafarers’ return, they were greeted with parties, the African style. The women’s arrival, on the other hand, was criticized by men. The men chided the women for pursuing their dream of going to America and their return to Liverpool was considered a failure. (Brown 89)
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The Canadian Context
There is another kind of “blackness Diaspora” and that is in Canada, America’s neighbour in the northern side. The elements of this Diaspora were American fugitive slaves who fled America to find freedom. Canada was seen as a place where they could be free, but there was racism in Canada – even up to this day (Pabst 113).
Canada was never safe for black people. An example is Mary Ann Shadd Cary, an active nineteenth century black feminist who lived for fifteen years in Canada but later went back to the United States because of the prevailing racism in Canada. There were many others, writers, sportsmen, politicians, who “walked” to Canada and fled.
Canada is a well developed country, with a “cultural mosaic”, and an institutionalized policy of accepting people of diverse cultures. In spite of these, there is an existing Canadian racism. It was the journalist Margaret Cannon (qtd. in Pabst 114) who coined the term “invisible empire”, referring to Canada’s racism which looks like invisible, pervasive, yet formidable.
Slavery is no stranger to Canada – for two centuries, black people endured it, although it is not as large as in the United States and in a different form. Slavery in Canada is reformed and reformatted, like it never happened because of the fact that the country also accepts fugitive slaves in the form of cheap labor.
When black slaves were emancipated in the United States, they were received by Canada to become labourers, but soon they would leave Canada to return to their loved ones in the U.S. to escape Canadian racism. But since there was opportunity for blacks in Canada in the form of cheap labor, African Americans continued to migrate there. (Pabst 114)
Globalization has transformed African Americans. There is a distinct definition for American blackness. Worldwide, the definition of black subjects is influenced by the African American struggle for political and civil rights. It might be similar with Canada although Canada has sometimes escaped the writings about or against black people. (Pabst 117)
“Black Canada” and “black America” are somewhat related, or when we talk of one, we refer to the other. The reason behind could be the proximity and historical ties of black people of the two countries. Despite Canada’s racism, Canada recognizes the origin and heritage of people with different cultures.
Canada does not look at the color of skin, yet it is called the “great white north” (Pabst 118). Black people are regarded as foreigners or aliens in Canada. Canadian blacks are addressed as coming from some island. The Canadian belief is that black people are new to Canada, or they just arrived after World War II, but contrary to this, they have lived in Canada as early as the 1600s.
The multiculturalism policy is not a policy to benefit black people because it looks at black people as simply non-Canadian, or immigrants. This is different from the case of black Americans or Asian Americans. Asian Americans are immigrants because they just arrived in America. But the other black people in Canada are seen as immigrants even if they have been in Canada centuries ago. Pabst states that if black Canadians are not considered authentic Canadian, they are cast out of their being black.
Womanism or Feminism
Womanism has a special place in African America that seems like giving freedom to African Americans. Black American feminists are good at articulating their race and gender. Blackness that is not recognized from whence it came from is often seen as American black (Pabst 119). There are other blacks in Canada, Liverpool, and in many parts of the world, who have to be recognized according to their roots and legacy.
Diasporas are global in scope but their impact can be felt in a localized setting. Some Americans have their own Diasporas as they travelled to the different parts of the world to exercise power. They would not have enjoyed it if they remained in their own states. Black Americans lived and left their homeland, in what they call the “black America”.
“Black other” also refers to other black people who may be Africans or non-Africans and have made their own Diasporas. They settle in Europe or in the United States but whether they live peacefully and contentedly cannot be answered straight here. It is reasonable to state that they leave their homeland to scatter in many places to seek for economic opportunity.
Men and women migrate to Europe and the United States or to wherever they find themselves in a suitable situation. This is a continuing human activity, a phenomenon that needs further study and focus. Black men and black women have been emphasised here because it is this group of people who are in a continuous Diaspora because of poverty.
Brown, Jacqueline. “Diaspora and Desire: Gendering ‘Black America’ in Black Liverpool.” Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Ed. Kamari Maxine Clarke and Deborah Thomas. United States of America: Duke University Press, 2006. 73-92. Print.
Ifekwunigwe, Jayne. “Recasting ‘Black Venus’ in the ‘New’ African Diaspora.” Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Ed. Kamari Maxine Clarke and Deborah Thomas. United States of America: Duke University Press, 2006. 206-225. Print.
Pabst, Naomi. “‘Mama, I’m Walking to Canada’: Black Geopolitics and Invisible Empires.” Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Ed. Kamari Maxine Clarke and Deborah Thomas. United States of America: Duke University Press, 2006. 112-132. Print.