Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Misunderstood Africa
By Chiderah A. Monde
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and raised in other countries still feeling extremely connected to my heritage. My parents did a great job of making sure I knew a lot about my family, the place I was born, and the problems that face the people of Nigeria. Over the years, being in America has immersed me in Black culture. Seldom is there even recognition of Africans in America, and often times if there is- it tends to be negative.
I once encountered a professor who explained a theory he had that Black Americans have been taught to turn their noses up to Africans, and vice versa. The divide between the two has been implemented and encouraged, used as another strategy by the dominant race to keep Black people from uniting and incapable of taking over. It is another divide much like the dark skinned vs. light skinned fight, the college educated vs. the non college educated, wealthy Blacks vs. the working class, Black Republicans vs. everybody else, Haitians vs. Dominicans...and so on.
James Baldwin discussed the difference between Blacks and Africans in Europe in "Notes of A Native Son" and the unfortunate differences that keep us all- those of African descent- from understanding each other. Although the differences are too often swept under the rug, like most conflicts between races, there are tons of misconceptions and stereotypes about Africans and the continent of Africa.
I came into the first day back to 5th grade in Baltimore with a young British accent (having moved from London the previous year) and a deep tan (having spent time vacationing in Nigeria over winter break) ready for the show and tell portion of class. I had pictures from my trip: of my family's estate, my cousins' school, the family horseback riding on Bar Beach, pictures of the city of Lagos, etc....and they were welcomed with the most outlandish questions from my classmates.
I was asked, "Did you live in a hut?" to which I replied, no- we have houses.
"Do people wear loin cloths?" no, we have clothing. My aunt owns her own clothing line and store.
"Does your uncle hunt lions for a living?" no, actually he works for a major Oil company there.
And a plethora of equally ignorant questions. I cannot blame my classmates for these questions, I blame society. I blame the media for only ever showing one side of Africa (although it is SO VERY IMPORTANT- I am a huge advocate for change in my continent) and for never highlighting the beautiful things about this continent.
Africa is the most underrated continent on Earth. It was a rich and beautiful land stripped of many of it's resources by the Western world, and given no credit for any of its' people's accomplishments. It is home to tons of stolen art, food, mathematical, scientific and medicinal discoveries, and of course- beautiful people.
That being said, I found this YouTube video about the Africa they never show on TV: