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What we need to know about Africa

Misunderstood
Misunderstood
Africa.com

“Don’t tear down a fence until you know why it was put up”.

African Proverb

The recent kidnapping of 300 Nigerian school girls has captured the attention of the entire world. Various countries have vowed to help in locating the girls . “The United States has deployed surveillance drones, spy planes and about 30 civilian and military specialists to support Nigeria's security forces in the search for the missing girls” http://www.usatoday.com/staff/781/doug-stanglin/2014.

However; as of this date, news reports show that the Nigerian government knows the whereabouts of the girls but will not act on this information due to fear of the girls being killed by their kidnappers; the Islamist Boko Haram

With the media coverage of this atrocity, also comes the atrocious comments of the public. It is so very unfortunate that some people are given an open forum to articulate their lack of knowledge.

One comment from a reader posted in a local media outlet stated that he thought African men were different from black men in America...but “...I guess not, black men all over the world do their women the same”...[kidnap, rape, and kill]. These racially charged comments put a furrow in this Examiner’s brow that will not go away.

The faceless racist commentator was not alone in his callousness. Another comment regarding the same issue indicated that all Africans are like [savages].

As an educator, this writer has attempted to eradicate ignorance by stressing the power of knowledge in middle school classrooms, high school, and college; as well as with juvenile offenders on intensive probation with Wayne County.

The lesson

Let us be perfectly clear, Africa is a continent, not a country. To this end, diversity among its inhabitants is as prevalent as diversity is among the inhabitants of the European continent. It would be irresponsible to say that all men in Europe are the same; such as, Italians and Englishmen are all chauvinists.

Nor would it be without prejudice to say that all European white males are like all American white males.

The media contributes to the misconception and tall tales about Africa when they constantly refer to Africa as one big homogeneous populous. “Many public figures and journalists have no problem describing someone from Botswana and a person from Mauritania as "Africans" http://www.theguardian.com/world/mauritania, 2014.

Lucy Jarosz (1992) argues that the”... historical persistence and the ideological metaphor of referring to Africa as the Dark Continent [also] identifies and incorporates an entire continent as “Other” in a way that reaffirms Western dominance and reveals hostile and racist [connotations]of Africa and Africans...”.

Jarosz maintains that the “... metaphor homogenizes and flattens places and people, denies the actualities and specificities of social and economic processes which transform the continent”.

As a child my parents hosted an exchange student from Nigeria West Africa. He was one of the jolliest and pleasant people I have ever encountered. His command of the English language and his knowledge of Western society was a testament to his cognitive prowess and ethnic tolerance.

He could speak with the clicking sound of his native language and his colorful dress and artifacts have been engraved in my memory.

The truth

According to the website http://www.lonelyplanet.com/africa#ixzz3381gjzUD,

parts of Africa boast scenery so spectacular that it would blow one’s mind. Yet, the essence of this incredible continent is not in any desert, mountain or lake. It is the spirit of the people – the honesty, warm-heartedness and vitality of the African people.

Africa is a fantastic, enlightening, surprising, and intriguing continent.

Still, there are places in Africa that are continuously being ravaged and destroyed by internal conflicts. Yet, for a continent of one billion people three times the size of the US, it can be misleading to call it by one single name – "Africa"!...When a civil war starts in the Central African Republic, it can negatively impact countries as far away as Senegal and Lesotho, but this does not suggest that the entire continent is at war .http://africaisntacountry.herokuapp.com/

My former co-worker’s mother use to say that “Ignorance is a robber”. And this writer maintains that knowledge is power. The NAACP advocates that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”. To this end; the people who elect to place ignorant comments on public media's, lack the power to transform knowledge into nothing more than mindless unintelligible prejudgments.

The abducted Nigerian school girls were stolen from one country in Africa. Their fate remains unsure but their current circumstances is an international tragedy and anyone that elects to belittle or make jest of the situation lacks the human component in the construct of being humane.

Reference(s)

Jarosz, L. Constructing the Dark Continent: Metaphor as Geographic Representation of Africa. Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography Vol. 74, No. 2 (1992), pp. 105-115