“Of stinky West whose day is done,
Who stink and stagger in their dung
Come with us, dark America:
The foam of Europe latte here
Made a fetid swamp seem like a refuge…”
Nearly 60 years after Du Bois’s death, America is still trying to perfume itself to the world as a haven of freedom and progress. But last weekend was a reminder that America is only too happy to tolerate the stench of black death.
On Saturday, an 18-year-old white youth reportedly traveled 200 miles to Buffalo on a genocidal mission to kill as many black people as possible. Wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with an assault weapon, he managed to slaughter 10 people, all black, before being captured alive by the police. His chilling manifesto made explicit references to the grand replacement theory and concerns about immigrants, Jews and non-whites taking power from whites.
Two days after the Buffalo Massacre, I went to Du Bois’s house, which is now a museum. The full text of “Ghana Calls” is painted on a small section of a hallway. There, I reflected on what the white supremacy black asylum really looked like.
It’s hard to take refuge in the political back and forth over the slaughter and who is responsible for mainstream racism in general. Since the shooting, many liberal commentaries have been devoted to blaming Fox News, Tucker Carlson and other GOP apparatchiks who promote racism and the grand replacement theory.
But when it comes to white supremacy, white liberals have long clung to their own dangerously naïve replacement theories — that increasing non-white populations will automatically harm anti-blacks, for example, and that younger generations are automatically less racist than their ancestors. If President Biden’s reactions are to be believed, the temptation is to believe that the cure for America’s racist spasms is a good old-fashioned dose of national unity. This liberal complacency puts us all at risk.
With these national options, it’s no wonder that in recent years there have been more stories of black people yearning elsewhere. The rise of social media communities such as Nomadness Travel Tribe, Travel Noire, and Blaxit Global speaks to a growing realization that black people don’t have to feel trapped in America. “I don’t have to freeze up and worry about my life every time I see a policeman,” a Ghanaian-American friend who has returned to Accra told me.
There is an American exceptionalist idea that the country is so big that black people should be prepared to endure its ills. We hear “stay and fight” all the time from elected leaders, who do little with their power to protect black people when we vote for them. Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Maya Angelou and Nina Simone all left America for Europe and Africa to feel mentally and spiritually free from the psychic violence of white America. Sometimes leaving is the strongest form of resistance.
In recent years, Ghana has tried to capitalize on the desire of African Americans to return to Ghana and escape the brutalities of their country. “You don’t have to stay where you are not wanted forever,” Ghana’s Tourism Minister Barbara Oteng Gyasi said in 2020 at a ceremony in Accra marking the killing of George Floyd . “You have the choice, and Africa is waiting for you.” Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo’s “Year of Return” initiatives have attracted celebrities and social media influencers. In 2019, it gave Ghanaian citizenship to 126 foreign nationals who had been living in the country for many years. Chance the Rapper tweeted that he wanted to take a band with him to Ghana this summer. Stevie Wonder plans to move to Ghana. According to reports, around 5,000 African Americans have moved to Ghana since 2020.
As open racism becomes more common in major Western countries, will “Blaxit” become a larger movement? It is complicated. The feeling of having to leave home for a better life comes with grief, guilt and moving costs. Cultural differences and ignorance on both sides of African and African American history and culture are not easy to overcome. Black people in the Americas will be confronted with the horrible truth that Africans participated in the sale of captured Africans to Europeans. And immigration raises fears of increased gentrification, and that investment and tourism dollars will not benefit average Ghanaians.
Yet the truth remains that black people in the Diaspora must no longer be chained to countries that imprison them, kill them and subject them to horrific hate crimes. To borrow from Maya Angelou, God gave us traveling shoes, and if black people choose to use them, so be it.