A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

The Wife-Beating Culture
By Sowore Omoyele
A few weeks ago, I embarked on independent research regarding what happens to our African cultures once we acclimatize to American life and culture. I asked new immigrants and the older "Americanized" ones, expecting different attitudes towards each of the issues. Conclusion: Africans when new in America strive very hard to look, act and speak American.

Over time, after people realize the hollowness, loneliness and reality of western life, they recognize that parts of African culture are unique and powerful. However, there is one part that must be discredited, abandoned and eradicated. It is the "wife-beating" tradition of some African brothers. They can restrain themselves while they are married to women from other cultures and backgrounds practicing "zero-tolerance" for abuse, but not towards their own.

I have heard stories of men from Africa complaining loudly about how law enforcement agents in the US inhibit them from taking control of their marital destinies and families. I heard stories of men still beating up their wives, who are expected to keep quiet and accept being beaten as the standard practice. Husbands tell stories of how they feel betrayed when their wives call the police or get court restrictions served on them.

All the African men I spoke with had something to say about their "culture". Almost in unison, they all confessed that they love to control thier women without interference. They all want a "house-wife" who can be shielded from liberties enjoyed by other women. They have not come to terms with the fact that women have civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights equal to men or that African women should be treated as equally as the African-American or white womand in the U.S. They claim that African women coming to the west want to be like white women and act like them by imbibing western cultures of independence. The trouble starts here.

Africans, like other cultures, love to live in their own communities. The communities in which some of them live support strong-arm tactics to control the household. For example when a man beats his wife on Staten Island or in an Ethiopian community in Maryland or a Ghanaian community in East Orange, New Jersey, if the woman sustains injuries and calls the police, the man ends up in jail or he is sanctioned by law enforcement agents. But the community blames and ostracicizes the woman.

African women living in the U.S. are therefore afraid to seek legal action because the community tolerates brutality. The structure of community intervention in place back home that would right the wrongs of African "wife-beaters" gets replaced by "chasing the dollar". One wonders why our communities sit on a moral pedestal and blame the female victims of "men's inhumanity to women."

I am not in anyway qualified to discuss wife and husband issues because I have never been married, but my conscience tells me that for too long African men have deliberately retained those cultures from Africa that suit our ability to retain power and control even when we all know that some customs are archaic, old fashioned, and outrageously barbaric.

In one of my conversations with one of the victims, a continental African woman told me that her ex-husband has never laid hands on his new African-American wife or her kids. Is this a case of selective propensity to violence against Continental African women?

Why should the community connive in these acts, either by silence or claiming outright that it is our culture especially when members of these same communities pride themselves as harbingers of modern civilization when they return back to Africa? My inner belief is that African men have deliberately retained those cultures from Africa to keep power and control even when we all collectively know that they are archaic, old fashioned, and outrageously barbaric.

I am a strong supporter of "Africanness." I am committed to a free African continent, and to strong African communities that retain our culture and values. But I will never support an African culture that denigrates the beauty of African culture, or its men and women. I hope the wife-beaters can hear me now.