More American than African


June 25, 1992|By KEN HAMBLIN

DENVER. — Denver -- Recently, a soul brother -- or maybe it was a soul sister -- determined that I needed to be reeled back into the racial fold and so he or she decided to help by sending me a free subscription to the Final Call, the official newspaper of the Nation of Islam and the Black Muslims.

Whoever you are, thank you. I have been reading the publication from cover to cover every month. A short clip in the June 15 edition got my attention this week. The story said, ''Neither international law, moral outrage, complaints from lawmakers, nor threatened lawsuits have stopped President Bush from ordering Haitian refugees back home.''

As an American who has visited Haiti and seen the Haitian plight up close, I am not inclined to make light of the desperation felt by those poor men, women and children. Were I Haitian, I too would be willing to risk all -- including my life -- to throw myself upon these American shores.

Still, I thought the story in Final Call a bit ironic. The Black Muslims are among this country's biggest detractors. Under a heading titled ''The Muslim Program,'' the organization has published a list of demands calling for, ''Full and complete freedom; equal justice under the law; and a separate territory of their own established inside the United States.''

I am wondering why the Muslims would champion the struggle of black Haitians trying to escape to this nation, which they obviously feel is full of black oppression. If we are to believe the claims, accusations and complaints of the Muslims, along with black-quota activists, ghetto politicians and rap artists constantly carping about the raw deal they are getting in America, one would think this is the last country in the world to which they would encourage anyone to flee.

An interesting perspective on this issue turned up recently in the Los Angeles Times, which chronicled the ordeal in South Africa of a black American named Lydia Hannibal. She was so overcome upon landing in the mother continent that she knelt to kiss African soil. But after nine months in the land of her ancestors Ms. Hannibal discovered a startling truth -- as do most blacks when they travel -- that she was more American than African.

Ms. Hannibal found sexism in Africa. ''Black men,'' she said, ''feel it's their right just to touch you. They've come up to me and said I want you, and then just grabbed me.'' She also said she felt spurned by South Africans, both black and white, who treated her like a foreigner and an ugly American. Black Americans who are accustomed to bartering for position or using the color of their skin to explain away their failings don't fare well in countries where religion, geography or tribe are measures of one's worth.

Very often Americans like Linda Hannibal return to the United States with their tails tucked firmly between their legs, ashamed and embarrassed about how comfortable their lives are compared to those of the thousands of people who are struggling to come to America. Unlike people who are dying in the streets of Sarajevo and Port-Au-Prince, black Americans -- no matter what they are told -- don't need a shooting war to challenge the political structure or the law of this land.

Instead of rushing into the streets killing people and burning down their own neighborhoods, I suggest on Election Day in November they exercise their American right to take their bitterness and rebellion to the ballot box. And while they are at it, they might consider voting for some new faces.

Ken Hamblin is a Denver columnist and radio personality.

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