“I’m going to Africa in three weeks!”
I remember cringing ever so slightly when I heard this statement (slightly because I can’t make it too obvious that I was eavesdropping, innit?). Come to think of it, I instinctively cringe when comments of this nature are made.
“We HAVE to save the orphans of Africa.” Cringe
“Africa is SO cool.”?Cringe
“Um, I’m afraid to go to Africa, I might starve.” Double Cringe. I actually remember looking at this person and thinking?I look WAY healthier than you
Here is a good one:
“Oh my gosh, you’re from Africa??! So cool! Do you know so and so from Malawi?” Now I didn’t cringe when I heard this one, instead I gave this person a look that I am so famously known for, the “I CANNOT for THE life of me believe that I am actually having this conversation with you right now” look.
So why do I get unhinged? After all, there is ever so slightly a figment of truth to these statements. The truth is, statements like these lump fifty plus countries with different politics, ethnicities,?flavors, cultures, histories, problems, triumphs, landscapes, peoples, economies into one vague and vast pool that further perpetuates the stereotype that just because one place in Africa is a certain way, all of Africa is that particular way.
I mean, I don’t say “Oooh, I’m going to North America next week!” I say, “I’m going to Washington, DC next week.”
The African continent is not a specimen continually waiting to be discovered. When I think of the United States, I don’t automatically conjure up images of cowboy boots and guns, images of the inner cities that I see in movies, or pictures of homeless people that I have seen around certain parts of DC. These are conditions that exist, but they do not define the US as a country or North America as a continent. In the same vein, certain conditions on the African continent that are portrayed are just those – conditions. They do not define who Africans are as a people or what the continent represents.?Our peculiarities and contrasts make us so beautiful and distinct and the continent should be understood and approached in that light.
So, to answer the burning questions:
“No, I didn’t grow up in a tree.”
“Trust me, I’ve never ever seen a wild animal” (And I promise you that I will scream like a little school girl if I even glance at the shadow of a lion).
“Yes, I grew up with grocery stores.”
“Yes, South Africa IS really Africa” (What exactly does that mean by the way? Last I checked it was on the map).
“No, I don’t know that ‘zulu’ dance, I’m not from the part of Africa where that is culturally practiced.”
And sigh, “Yes, my English is “good” because I AM a native English speaker. English is the national language spoken in my country.”
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