This is not meant to be directed at any particular blogger, writer, podcaster, or reader; It’s probably as much something I need to hear as anyone else.
I was listening to a podcast today and the people kept talking about “Africa.” They said things like, I have a heart for Africa, I’ve been really interested in Africa, I looked into going to Africa, and so on. Now, out of full disclosure, when I was in sixth grade and I did a family album and I wrote down the place I most wanted to visit, I wrote down Africa. So, here’s were I have a problem…
Africa is a BIG place. It’s not a people group, or a village, or a town, or state, or country, it’s a gigantic continent! The continent of Africa is nothing like the United States where you have 50 different states under one central government, and most people living there generally speak the same language but with different accents (broad generalization). Africa is 1/5 of the world’s total land area, and 12% of the world’s entire population. There are 61 territories, many different religions and thousands of languages. Yet, us naive folk in the U.S. of A. keep on acting like Africa and African’s are a niche we’re interested in.
Before I go off in that direction too much more let me say, there are some collective elements of Africa. Being a connected land mass has it’s collective impacts. The AIDS pandemic knows no country borders as it spreads through Sub-sahara Africa. Imperialism and the wicked oppression of the land and the people through out the continent is another shared experience of many in the continent of Africa. There are collective elements, but I think it’s best for our own well being that we stop talking about are interest in such naive general terms.
And here’s where it get’s a little gritty… I think most of the reasons we talk in generalizations about “Africa” are inherently racist. You might have scene a infomercial about starving children, full of young dark skinned children longing for help, and you decide something must be done for those Africans (little did you know all those kids where from the Carribean). My point is that far too many of us and our ignorant generalizations on race see a dark skinned person and place them as being from (recently, or ancestorally) Africa.
In our ignorance African’s are in a terrible dilemma: They all have AIDS (thanks for letting us know Bono), they are starving (infomercials), they just got through a genocide (Hotel Rwanda) and now they’ve got another one going (Save Darfur). We think African’s live fairly unciviled lifestyles (National Geographic), they get their hands chopped off in the diamond trade, they still haven’t dealt with racism (Aparthied), They send their children into war with guns (Invisible Children), they are uneducated and need sponsorship (World Vision), and they are all “African.” Do you see the problem with lumping ever person and issue of an entire continent into one category?
Maybe, I’ll start doing a spotlight on Africa post highlighting a different country each week and what is unique about their people. Anyone care to inform us of the uniqueness of a country they’ve been to?