Racism isn't something Africans really understand until they leave Africa. It's always that strange way of treating others (non-Europeans) they see in the news and frown. However, many Africans don't actually relate tribalism to racism. They see no link between these two discriminatory forms even when they know they are all based on assumed sense of superiority, and exclusion.
However, it's crucial to understand why Africans don't see similarities or even 'sameness' between the two. In a sense, there are many reasons. One is the fact that discriminatory parameters or practices that come from 'us' are usually things we assume from birth; so that they are bad isn't something Africans think deeply about. We turn to overplay others' bad deeds but justify our own. The second reason is the manner in which racism is rationalized and critiqued by the media and in the academia, especially in America. That it's a nonscientific, social construct like no any other. The third reason is that Africans leave Africa only to realize that their internal continental or tribal differences pale in the face of discrimination based on race.
A magical, voluntary brotherhood/sisterhood unifies Africans as Racism displaces Tribalism. A Nigerian, an Angolan or a Ugandan, are 'inferiorized', placed in the same compartment, and then colored like chicken and goats.
So Race has been placed and critiqued as this unique, monstrous discriminatory exclusiveness with a universal ideology behind it. G. M. Fredrickson's, Racism: A Short History, underscores this idea.
Even when Africans know that they discriminate against one another using tribe as a discriminatory parameter, they still see racism as not only unrelated to tribalism, they also see tribalism as a lesser evil than racism. These new realities make Africans forget about some African realities and embrace the new realities. They now have one fight against the 'white man.' Luo vs. Kikuyu; Jieeng vs. Nuer, Yoruba vs. Igbo...all become irrelevant as they [Africans] become 'black!' and in the same boat.
One of these realities, which worries me the most, is the manner in which Africans fall into an ironic conformity. And this conformity is the transition from being a cultured human being to a colored phenomenon (entity - BLACK) whose virtuous realities are either nonexistent, inconveniencing or irrelevant. What makes this conformity very sad is the fact that it's followed by complaints that "we've been forced to conform." However, one gets to wonder: If everyone finds it expedient to conform to socially constructed realities in Europe and the Americas, then who's supposed to help change things?
A Nigerian, Ghanaian, Sudanese, Togolese, for example, simply become 'black' in North America. Instead of resisting this coloring of people's identities, Africans find it expedient to conform to this 'blackening' of their cultural identities. However, the most exacerbated thing is that they still complain that they've been forced to become black. Why would you conform and complain about conformity? Why do Africans always consider themselves powerless, victims, even when they have a capacity?
There are those who say "Forget about being African, you're 'black' here baby!" But can society force us to be what we aren't and don't want to be if we resist? We are given identities that are denigrating and we accept them. But then we complain that we've been given constructed identities when we accept them and even defend them.
When people say "well, they control everything what can we do?" I ask myself if there's ANY ONE PERSON who controls mental production. Socially constructed ideas, while they need monetary and political power to disseminate, it's true to say that no one can force things into your mind. It's easy to be discriminated against if you can easily be controlled. And conformity is an effective tool in racial discrimination as it helps the discriminators effect their programs.
Let's remember that conformity is part and parcel of racialization machinery!