Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Primitive Africans

I don't have it in me to write anything right now. But I have to post this blog post from Stuff White People Do (currently on hiatus) after I just had an infuriating, yet refreshingly blunt, conversation with a friend about "Africans" being more "primitive" and thus closer to our biologically-driven gender roles, since they do a lot of f**king and fighting.

Stuff White People Do - Homogenize people from over fifty country into one group: "Africans"

From that post, I'd like to quote a particular passage that was apropos to our conversation. The passage is itself a lifted from a lecture given by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my “tribal music,” and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey. She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove.

What struck me was this: She had felt sorry for me even before she saw me. Her default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning, pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa. A single story of catastrophe.

In this single story there was no possibility of Africans being similar to [my roommate], in any way. No possibility of feelings more complex than pity. No possibility of a connection as human equals.

...[A]fter I had spent some years in the U.S. as an African, I began to understand my roommate’s response to me. If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves, and waiting to be saved, by a kind, white foreigner.

My friend said there's nothing wrong with being primitive. But I take issue with his completely ignorant view that all most people in Africa (and, he later said, in South America) being primitive to begin with - not having telephones, carrying around spears and following their primal urges wherever those urges may lead them (HIV, population explosion, war). He said that because I don't see "Africans" as primitive that I am idealistic and refuse to acknowledge that US Americans live in a bubble and that not everybody is like us.

EEEEERRRRGGGHHHH. Sometimes I want to scream.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Argh! It makes me want to scream too!! I hope I'm not in any way primitive! LOL