The contentious relationship between African Americans and Africans can be read between the lines of a lawsuit filed on Friday against an Ethiopia-born celebrity chef.
Campus Johnson, 43, was a bartender at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem from 2016 through March 8. Johnson alleged in his federal civil rights lawsuit that the restaurateur doesn’t like Black bartenders, claiming that he was fired under the “blatantly false and pre-textual” reason of failing to use a jigger when pouring alcohol. Johnson also claimed that Samuelsson owes him wages.
Part of the underlying tension between African Americans and African immigrants stems from ignorance about each other. African Americans see images of Africans in the media that’s dominated by extreme poverty, war and tribalism—very little about the many success stories across the continent. So, there’s sometimes a bewilderment—some Africans say jealousy—when African immigrants become successful in the United States.
Foreign-born Blacks from Africa, in fact, have a higher rate of earning college degrees compared to the overall U.S. population and tend to live in the higher-income brackets. These immigrants find it difficult to understand why African Americans tend not to have the same level of success. The only reason they see is based on stereotypes of African Americans that they saw on TV back in Africa: criminal activity, drug addiction and broken families.
Many Africans don’t know about the systemic racism that African Americans have struggled against for generations, said author Luvvie Ajayi, who is Nigerian. “Africans aren’t taught about the middle passage in school. Or about slavery in the U.S.,” Ajayi stated in a series of tweets back in 2014.
In the lawsuit, Johnson called his former boss’ behavior “shameful, especially in light of the restaurant’s ownership, that African-Americans would be underrepresented and mistreated on the restaurant’s employment team.”
Samuelsson’s attorney dismissed the lawsuit as “wholly without merit,” adding that Johnson was given “every opportunity to succeed.”