Do you know what worries me? International conflicts and world hunger definitely worries me, but I cannot count how many times I have heard jokes or phrases that stigmatize Africa. I remember my adventurous life in Africa and how beautiful it was, which angers me even more because Africa is more than just another continent. However, in spite of that, what worries me is an entrenched enigma in numerous areas of American society; you may even be subject to this normalization and it is time for a learning experience for all of us.
“Not eating your fruits and vegetables? Well, you should be since there are starving children in Africa. Suffering a tragedy? Get over yourself, people in Africa have much worse.”
Africa has an image problem, or in other words, the West has a perception problem. This is because whenever the West talks about Africa, more often than not, it is to talk about catastrophes and epidemics and to combine a certain country with a 1-billion-strong continent.
All of these generalizations are not only dehumanizing in their nature, but they are also inaccurate. Claiming that everyone in Africa has no modern technology, is starving or suffering from Ebola or AIDS is precisely associating the entire continent--yes, Africa is a continent--with disease, famine, and poverty; this is definitely not the case. These generalizations also may contribute to the hardships in some parts of the continent due to them negatively impacting each country’s tourism, economy, and how the world views them. I apologize to reveal the tragic truth, but there is misfortune everywhere in the world, even in developed nations. Keep in mind that contributing to the normalization of creating negative stereotypes of Africa is ignorant and offensive, to say the least.
To elaborate, in an astonishing Ted Talk in 2019, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie spoke on the dangers of a ‘single story,’ the idea that an entire culture can be summed up in one narrative; this narrative can oftentimes come from a place of privilege. Adichie described meeting her roommate after moving from Nigeria to study at Drexel University. This roommate expressed an interest in Nigerian ‘tribal’ music, and she wondered where Adichie learned English.
To Chimamanda, what struck her was that her roommate felt sorry for her even before they met. She continues to add that “her [roommate’s] default position towards me, as an Africa, was kind of patronizing, well-meaning pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe.” In this story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to Chimamanda’s roommate in any way, and no possibility of feelings more complex than pity and overall connections as human equals.
Adichie and many others, including myself, offer a solution to this single-story problem that is easier to tell than perform: we, as a society, should try to move beyond it. Of course, Africa does struggle through many conflicts and catastrophes, but there are other stories that are not about catastrophe and it is equivalently important to talk about them.
Africa is not inferior to any other continents. Africa may even be the most diverse continent in the world; it is where over 3,000 different ethnic groups reside with over 2,100 different languages in all of Africa.
So today I challenge you to defy this generalization. I challenge you to learn more about African culture and delve into its nuances. Learn about the Muslim-majority populations in Tanzania. Learn about the fact that couscous remains a unifying force between North African countries despite their political conflict. Remind yourself that Rwanda ranks in the top five for gender equity in the world (higher than the United States). Maybe instead of solely displaying the ebola outbreak in Libya or the famine in Ethiopia, focus on one of the seven wonders of the world: the magnificent Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or educating yourself about the Fante and Asante tribes in Ghana. Continental Africa is an entire continent full of enriching history that deserves to be amplified.
To promote and further educate people about the diverse continent of Africa, I will provide a link showcasing information about each African country. I hope this empowers you to educate yourselves about the beautiful continent of Africa that I had the privilege of living in as a child!
Central African Republic-https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ct.html
Democratic Republic of Congo -https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cg.htm
Equatorial Guinea -https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ek.html
Sao Tome and Principe-https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tp.html