The following is a guest post by commenter Femi:
First of all don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not bashing anybody who is genuinely interested in Africa’s past and present. Just a daily dose of realism.
Africa is huge and diverse. The reality is that there are politically and culturally distinct countries. Looking only at West and Central African countries, already between African French and English speakers I could always vibe subtle tensions. The rather disciplined and perhaps more repressive approach of Anglophones sometimes stands in contrast to the more laissez-faire but confrontational mentality of Francophones. The difference is quite perceptible in certain details, not to mention all the differences within one region across different tribes.
The sad truth is that a lot of people from the self-declared “African diaspora” don’t even bother reading contemporary African media but instead limit themselves to literary romanticism, over-idolised stories about a battered continent and second-hand information from their local media – if any is available at all. On the other hand, when some people do read contemporary articles from born-and-bred African journalists, they are either shocked or immediately come up with a “white-led” conspiracy theory of shills who are sent out to discredit their homeland.
Africa as a whole continent has been belittled and exoticised by the West and North for centuries. It won’t do anybody a favour, least of all to Africans themselves, trying to neutralise the white half-truths and lies by black half-truths from the West.
Unfortunately there is also a bit of hypocrisy sometimes from some of the alleged “brothers and sisters” outside of Africa. I’ve been talking to a lot of people of colour about Africa. There were always three or more of the following points I could see or they would state themselves.
- They wouldn’t eat many of the traditional dishes.
- They make fun of the music and the accents when you turn your back, though they pretend to like it in front of you.
- They make fun of certain behaviours that seem odd to them.
- They wouldn’t make any effort to communicate with locals who don’t speak English, let alone learn a tribal language.
- They would frown upon some of the local traditions and possibly even get upset.
- They think Africans make unnatural efforts to be “smart asses”.
- They would go mental in dealing with the patchy infrastructure where electricity and communication outages are potentially a daily annoyance.
- They would get bored over the conversations after a while. Politics is a common topic. There aren’t many discussions about “white people this, black people that”, only when there are riots with black youths involved somewhere in the West. Or when Obama was elected president.
- They cringe over the thought of ever living in Africa. “Visiting is all right but staying – hell no!”
Experiencing the previous points first-hand will make the majority of Western born and raised people of colour lose at least some of the romanticism and eventually choose to be very, errm, Western.
- Examples of African English-language news online:
- YouTube: Jouelzy: African American in West Africa: First Impressions (2015, 12:30 minutes)
- stereotypes about Africa
- Black Brazil in the black gringo gaze