New York Times Article Strikes Minor Chord With Student

Last week, I ran across a shockingly bold, inappropriate and feeble attempt to cover the news of the black community. The Feb. 21, 2005 article, titled “More Africans Enter U.S. Than in Days of Slavery” by Samuel Roberts, seems to further complicate the not-so-distant relationship between black people who consider themselves American and those who consider themselves Africans. In other words, the idea that African-born people come to America is not a newfound occurrence. Moreover, the article lacks timeliness and newsworthiness.

Because there are several qualms I have with this article, I will cite specific portions:

The lede: "For the first time, more blacks are coming to the United States from Africa than during the slave trade."

This implies that all blacks are from Africa. What about those from the Caribbean and South America, for example? And are we, as Americans with African ancestry, not closely related, if not the same as, other African-born people?

"… more have arrived voluntarily than the total who disembarked in chains…"

The wording of this sentence is finely crafted; however, it is inaccurate and deceiving. It makes it appear that back in the day Africans just shackled themselves up voluntarily to get on a boat to the New World to bust their tails for no rights, racism and unhappiness. Disembark literally means to go ashore out of a ship, to get out of a vehicle or craft. Is this what our slave ancestors did? Wow, that sounds so simplistically easy and economical.

"…before the United States outlawed international slave trafficking in 1807."

I don’t claim to be a history expert but didn’t slave trafficking cease sometime way after 1807? Just because it was outlawed doesn’t mean it ceased to exist.

The most salient question that came to mind after reading this article is: What’s the point? The article doesn’t fully explore the many reasons a foreign-born native would want to seek "haven" in the United States. It could be for reasons as simple as a vacation, change of scenery, working here to go back to the Motherland later.

Rather the article pontificates on the mundane, belaboring an inaccurate view that Africans flock to America because the life they can lead here is far better than what they have at home. More people of color are in the United States than 10, 15, 20, 100, 500 years ago-true. But so what?

This next quote almost saves the article because it attempts to clarify the writer’s point and also begins to explore a more educated conjecture on the subject.

"Basically, people are coming to reclaim the wealth that’s been taken from their countries," said Howard Dodson, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem, which has just inaugurated an exhibition, Web site and book, titled "In Motion," to commemorate the African diaspora."

Finally, a person who promotes the idea that people of African descent still think of ways to relieve the pangs of slavery and it makes sense. That is refreshing.

"The influx has other potential implications, from recalibrating the largely monolithic way white America views blacks to raising concerns that American-born blacks will again be left behind."

Does this mean I’m supposed to hate and resent a Nigerian classmate, for example, because he /she is seemingly coming to take away what should be mine as an American African? What is the author trying to say? Are African-born people that much different from African Americans?

In the media’s quest to cover the issues of the black community, news judgment should still be administered. Is it happening now? Why is it happening? Why is this news? As a concerned person of color and a member of the media, I expect the stories I read in the newspaper to deliver fair, accurate and unbiased news. They simply must have a purpose other than serving as a way to get more pictures of people of color on the front page. News must not simply tickle the surface but rather delve deep into these deeper issues.