Dear bell hooks,
I am glad this forum exists, for where else would I vent, where else would I show my disgust at the endless gaze of Africa that the rest of the world clings to?
The global media has embraced and standardized Africa's image as the get-away safari destination on the one hand, and the starvation-poverty-disease continent that swims in eternal hopelessness; they have held Africa in this light as proof that Africa, the homeland of most of the world's black population, will never be as advanced as the 'white' continents. Africa, of the inferior race. Africa of the corrupt shortsighted leaders, and of the world's surviving primitives.
This 'dark continent' image has turned my continent into a pityful and sneer-worthy non-deserving continent. This continent where I have lived all my life, been happy in, and successful in, survived in. This Africa, from which fellow Africans have run away, embrassed to be associated with it, in preference for the heavenly west as portrayed in the media. Our young people, barely out of high school, are being ensnared by this image of the West, an image they hold on to, until they arrive in Europe or North America, and realise they are nothing more than modern day slaves. Some exist illegally, in the hope that the system will not detect them. Others live on the mighty green card, awarded to foreigners who have to pay using their lives.
And yet, these people withstand humiliation. Rather this than go back to the motherland and be seen as a failure, they argue. Rather this than the laughter of the damned. If Ben Okri slept in the streets, who am I, a nobody, to think I deserve more? While back home i would have been assured of a warm meal and a warm bed, it is better to be here, where my sense of purpose and sacrifice is sharpened.
But is Africa really that bad? Ought we be ashamed of being called Africans? Ought we be ahsamed of being black? What about the laughter and the education and the cultures? what about the joy of playing in the dust with friends whose names you will always remember even in your old age? What about the normal lives we lead? Are these successes not worthy of the media's precious spaces? What about the fact that Africa produces super-intelligent human beings? How else can you explain how Africans have excelled with minimum resources usually made available to students their ages in the West? What about the punishment of existing in a double life, that of the home and that of school, both heavily demanding and both equally important? The double burden of being the educated one, and the provider? and yet we survive in the same world as kids who have known nothing but over-protectiveness, whose every need has been tended to? If it is about survival for the fittest, who most deserves to survive? whose survival skills has been sharpened beyond question?
And so, while the only sport where Africans have outperformed the rest of the world is athletics (minimum resources required to achieve this goal), it is also the most inferior sport. After all, isn't it defined through funny looking, non-English speaking (hence lacking eloquence) black people from some god-forsakken land whose name periodically pops up to remind us that the world's first black leader hails from a father with humble beginnings.
It is easier for the West to typecast Africa using images of starving children. That is our public image. we are content with this image, because it prevents us from dealing with this complex continent. We marginalize and fragment its narratives, because we do not want to cause trouble, raise the expectations of the masses of Africa, give ideas of possibilities.
If the world is currently geared towards the superiority of capital, how can Africa be integrated into this dream? Easy! By making them give us whatever resources they have, so we can continue being the superpowers; by attracting the best brains using green cards, scholarships anything that will move the most diligent, strongest of them out of their holes, and making them grateful for the opportunity.
Now Asia rises and threatens to become the world's next superpower. Can the West let this happen? This would be extremely bad, because a breakdown of these societies would mean a change of power focus! Now we cannot have that. The under-dog race will edge its bony arse closer to the 'it' and soon we might just become powerless. This would be a big let-down. So we must fight on, we do not want to become the 'empy' continent.
So even now, while African crawls on its knees, hangs its head in shame as it begs for money from the Big Brother, accepts the disguised and sometimes open insults from the west, it continues to hope for release, relief. The West on its part continues to hold an image of eternal desperation and primitivity to measure how far its come and how far it can still go.
To succeed, it needs a failure.
10 months ago