3 Things African Americans Misunderstand About Africans

3 Things African Americans Misunderstand About Africans
01 Oct 2014

A few weeks ago, I was at lunch with a new business contact—an older African American woman—discussing a project we would be collaborating on. When we met, she only knew my first name. From the start of the conversation, I could tell there were going to be some challenges. She kept questioning how much I really knew about the project and how to best implement it, even though she was aware of my track record.

Admittedly, I look younger than my 15 years of experience as a professional brand consultant. Often, when working with someone new, I’m conscious of the fact that my expertise is in question because of how young I look. I get that, but I keep it moving. What I found amusing when I gave the lady my business card, was her reaction to my ancestry.

She looked at my card and then looked back at me. Immediately, I felt a shift in her attitude. And then…

“Your last name, where is it from?”

“I’m originally from Uganda,” I responded.

“Ohhhh…you’re African.” She said it like she was accusing me of having an incurable disease. It wasn't the first time I'd gotten that reaction.

I have grown up with a very keen awareness of the tensions that sometimes run deep between Africans and African Americans—the majority of which are founded on misinformation, miscommunication, and negative media. Generally, many African Americans believe one of three things about Africans:

  1. That we sold them into slavery and so we’re traitors.

  2. That we’re all poor, starving, sick and illiterate, etc.

  3. and/or That we’re stuck up and think we’re better than them.

I can almost guarantee my colleague had one of those thoughts running through her mind once she found out I was African. So I’m going to take a minute to clear up a few things:

  1. Your disdain for my ancestry means your disregard of your own.
    That's because if you're Black, you've got blood from the Motherland running through your veins. Just ask all the celebrities (Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Lamman Rucker, Taraji P. Henson, India.Arie, Isaiah Washington, etc.) who’ve traced their roots back to a specific African country through DNA testing.

  2. I did not sell you into slavery.
    Neither did my father or my grandfather, or my great-grandfather. They were too busy fighting or recovering from colonialism. I cannot speak for my ancestors beyond that, as history shows that Africans did indeed sell other Africans into slavery, but understand that I had nothing to do with that.

  3. We’re not all stuck up.
    Many of us, like myself, have studied or read up on African American history and are grateful to our brothers and sisters on this side of the Atlantic for continuing to fight for the opportunities we have today. But make no mistake, those struggles have been parallel to those on the continent. That’s what Nelson Mandela, and others who believed in equality, were willing to die for.

We have more in common than we think. Let’s not to allow misinformation to continue to perpetuate the misconceptions we have of one another. We have a history of collaboration that we should be building upon. Maya, Malcolm, W.E.B. Dubois and Whitney Young all understood that. Isn’t it about time we did too? Because at the end of the day, whether you say you're African or African American, society just sees us all as Black. And to me, Black will always be beautiful.

What are some of the misconceptions you have found within the African Diaspora and how have you dealt with them?

photo © Gregd


Julian B. Kiganda

I hope you enjoyed this post! A little about me: I’m the founder of Bold & Fearless and a Transformational Brand Strategist. My gifting is in helping purpose-driven women transform and build million-dollar brands. I’m also an author, transformational speaker and multi-passionate entrepreneur. In 2014, I published my first highly-acclaimed book co-authored with my sister: Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be available on Barnes & Noble and Amazon. To learn more about how you can connect or work with me, visit www.julianbkiganda.com.


  1. Thank you Kimberly! It starts with each of us doing our part to open the lines of communication and change those unfortunate stereotypes.

  2. BEAUTIFUL!! As someone who was born and raised in the US, you are often spoon fed these idiotic notions about our kinfolk from Africa just as many of them are fed some of the same garbage. Thank you for this wonderful, and much needed message! Peace and blessings!

  3. "We have more in common than we think. Let’s not to allow misinformation to continue to perpetuate the misconceptions we have of one another" …."Because at the end of the day, whether you say you're African or African American, society just sees us all as Black. And to me, Black will always be beautiful"

    I am originally from African but spent most of my life in the United States and I know the tensions exist from personal experiences.

    This article highlights the issues that we need to address with open and honest communications.

    It also provides key ingredients to help us educate each other, which will lead to peace and harmony.

    • Julian B. Kiganda Says: December 26, 2014 at 10:15 pm

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, we have so much to talk about as people of African descent, and it starts with each of us as individuals. I hope this post helps to continue the dialogue. The more we learn to understand one another and lift each other up, the more successful we will be.

  4. Well said and probably needs to be said louder.

    • Julian B. Kiganda Says: October 11, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      Thanks! We have to start somewhere. The more we air out the issue and address it, the less power it will have to keep us divided.

  5. Julian B. Kiganda Says: October 9, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    I agree with you 100% Mel. Thanks for weighing in!

  6. Melvin Foote Says: October 9, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I think that we spend too much time dividing ourselves up and not enough time promoting the unity amongst us. If you are Black in the United States, you are "an American of African descent" period!

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