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On Tribalism

I declare:

There is nothing wrong with tribalism. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that it is natural.

The flow of an individual's place in human groups (by size) is as follows:

Individual > Nuclear Family > Extended Family > Clan > Tribe (Ethnicity) > Race > Nationality > Religion (ex. people from multiple nations/nationalities can share a religion)


Individual > Nuclear Family > Extended Family > Clan > Tribe (Ethnicity) > Race > Religion > Nationality (several religions can be found within a nation/nationality).


Denotatively, tribalism is defined by Merriam-Webster as "tribal consciousness and loyalty" or "strong in-group loyalty". There is a negative connotation associated with the word as well. Oxford Languages gives this definition for when the term is used derogatorily: "The behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one's own tribe or social group."

So, technically, we can see that a "tribe" can be any group of people with a given number of long-standing set similarities. However, there is often a (genetic/micro-cultural) relational aspect to this term, causing it to be used less to describe people in western (largely individualistic) discourse.


When used derogatorily in public, "tribalism" is often used to describe a type of broad sociopolitical or economic nepotism among Africans. Interestingly, the word "tribalism" is used in an almost exclusively negative light by Africans and non-Africans alike.

But not this African.

I reject the negative connotation of the word "tribalism". I also insist that an overly-popular connotation does not make the denotation of a word obsolete.

I implore each of you who claim that tribalism is "bad", or "an issue", or "the reason why we can't pRoGrEsS" to take a closer look at the what you recognize to be the adverse aspects of it.

Are the things that you naming really the result of tribalism?

Chances are, they aren't.

Let us call a spade, a spade--and STOP conflating the effects of imperialism colonialism, white supremacy or Afrophobia with the effects of tribalism. Let us recognize that any attempts to do so are mere acts highbrow victim-blaming, self-hate, and/or displacement.

Level up, brethren.


Ultimately, I REJECT any realities in which the principals of autonomy, diversity or justice is denied to Africans. I reject rhetoric that infantilizes us and makes us look for white or bright overseas saviors to whip us into shape. I abhor low self-esteem, pessimism, and inferiority complexes as coping mechanisms for the growing pains of our new republics.

It will take time for us to find balance between the western (white) world's brand of civilization (recently forced on us) and our (ancient) own.

Autochthonous Africans & Tribesmen,

  1. Do not be impatient as we figure it out.

  2. Do not reject yourself to become amorphous just so you can assimilate more successfully in the western world or its bastard children.

  3. Do not compare your nation to those that are thousands of years older, or those that were breastfed with blood.


Aside from my family, no group identity is more important to me than my ethnic/tribal identity (Edo, of Benin City). Before I was anything else--an adherent to religion, a citizen of a nation, or a given sex--I was Edo first. I am African first.

Nobody can make me forsake my heritage for their petty goals of assimilation, repatriation, or reparations.

Quote me anywhere you want.

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