Preceptions of Africa(ns)

July 14, 2009

As I sat down to think on what African issue to begin my blog with, it hit me like a rock, the very first question I was asked by a stranger when I first arrived in the United States from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was “where is the country of Africa Located? Is it next to Vietnam?” Of course, I was asked several questions that reflected the stereotypes Europeans and Americans hold towards Africa and Africans. Therefore, I will attempt to bring light onto few of the questions I was asked throughout my American years.

Just the basic facts!

Africa is not a country! It is a large and diverse continent with fifty-three countries. In fact, it is the second largest continent in the world, making up more than 20 percent of the world’s land area. There are about 700 million people in Africa, which makes it about 13% of the world’s population. Although some areas of Africa are inhabited by people who live traditional lives in villages, many other live in modern cities and towns similar to that of Asian and European cities and towns.

Most countries in Africa, with few exceptions, were the creation of European greed to claim African territory as their own. In what is know as “scramble for Africa”, European countries, particularly Britain, German, France, Portuguese, Italy, Spain and, of course, King Leopold (representing not Belgium but himself) divided the continent of Africa into several countries without regard to cultures, ethnic backgrounds, or any other pivotal factors that is needed to construct a nation. Their hunger to dominate the world did not, of course, put the African people plight into consideration. Or perhaps it did, and they succeeded to foster a long-drawn conflict between African people – case and point, Rwandan genocide!

Indeed the other disturbing stereotype believed by Europeans, and by extension Americans, is that Africans are naturally, genetically, more likely to be great athletes or artists and NOT intellectuals that are capable of producing greatness to civilization. One way this idea was promoted was by physically depicting Africans as recognizable racial caricature of Black faces: long unkempt hair, wide eye, broad noses, enormous red-tinted lips, dark skin and ragged clothing among other things. It is true that some individuals or for that matter groups in African might posses greatness in art or sports due to their geographical positioning, the climate they reside in or the historical opportunities they are provided with. But to negate African contribution to human civilization by sheer fabrication of “DNA inferiority” and/or athletic strength, manipulating our human differences, is not only wrong, but it is also a crime. It is a crime because that evil thinking as, by the way, is indicated in an article a year and half ago by the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7052416.stm can give impetus to formulating disastrous policies that could lead to chaos not only in Africa, but all over the world. The idea behind that pattern of thinking is to spread, again, the stereotype that we Africans cannot rule our people for lack of understanding complex issues and policies. And therefore, we are responsible to misleading our people to misery and poverty through corruption and all other ill will. Of course, the idea is also to relive Europe and America of it is responsibilities to build what it has destroyed.

African is not poor! The people in Africa are living in poverty not because the continent is poor, but rather because it’s being mismanaged by few African military elites along with their European counterparts. It would be too cumbersome to list all the natural resource Africa produces to wane European hunger for its luxurious life. Just to mention a few – diamonds, gold, cobalt (which is the most essential ingredients to make a mobile phone) and oil among many others. If we, Africans live in poverty, again, it is not because we are poor; in fact, we are too rich to be poor! It is because the greater forces from outside are conspiring to keep us in poverty for their own gain. But that too will change washing away the stereotype.

There are several stereotypes, such as Africans are violent people with no sense of humanity, interior Africa is untouched by the outside world therefore is ignorant of spiritual understanding and lives off of magic, Africa is nothing but desert with few oasis, Africans are just tribe people…on and on, ideas that promote misleading stereotypes, and blocks accurate views of African realities that I would have liked to tackle in my blog today. But due to the fear of boring some of what would be my readers I believe it is wise to curtail my input on European/African stereotype for now and move on to other subjects that might have direct current impact on Africans all over the globe.

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Finally

July 14, 2009

It is good to have an outlet to share my ideas, beliefs and thoughts with the world. A friend of mine suggested I blog my thoughts online once in a while to share them with the people at home and abroad.  Therefore, here it is people!  I will begin opining on a weekly basis on issues that would be concern to me and Africa.  I will also include my activities here in New York City that might be of interest to people in Africa that are keen to learn about the states through the lives of others.