Thursday, May 19, 2016

Assumptions About Africa and Africans in North America

Africans are very familiar, in North America, with questions about 'living with lions, giraffes, cheetahs, etc.' or 'how come one speaks English so well' or that 'your English is so good!'

Such questions are usually a surprise, if annoying, when one initially arrives. Undoubtedly, the questions become denigrating, annoying and alienating. However, as one continues to live in North America, the effect of such questions starts to lose power.

Africans start to perceive the questions as born out of ignorance or complacency of people who don't want to know anything about others; or people who see others (and their national origins) as merely objects to be marveled about. These exotic others (people) are 'admired' as beings from places that sound good to be visited. Places of exotica as Chinua Achebe would say!

What's fascinating about the above questions isn't the assumed ‘ignorance’ that motivates them. What's fascinating is how we, as Africans, respond to these questions. What we tend to forget is the proverbialism or inveteratism which informs the normative aspects of given societies. North Americans are informed by a tradition that looks at Africa and Africans in a given light. And this given ‘light’ is the only thing available to them. It’s unrealistic to expect people to know what they don’t know. Annoying as they are, the above questions are informed by a long established pedagogical and scholarly tradition that sees Africa and Africans as objects of virtual and intellectual play.

Even when scholars rationalize Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ as an indictment of colonialism in Africa, his debasing description of Africans played into the hands of those who wanted to put Africans down.  With that in mind, however, it’s good to remember that the only people who can change that eschewed narrative is us!

As long the narrative available to North Americans takes Africans to be the Africans of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, then it would be unrealistic to blame North Americans. We need to change the narrative. However, instead of changing the narrative, we tend to either whine without producing and effective countering narrative, or we conform to the negative realities about us. But then we complain when we conform to them.

We use phrases such as Third Word, Black People etc. These terms do nothing but reinforce the available narrative about us. People are not chicken, goats and cattle to be identified by colors! And how do you agree with Martin Luther King that people shouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character but then move back to use the same color as people’s identity? This is the eschewed thinking that’s counter-productive.

People have cultures and traditions that inform their societal norms, mores and identities.  But we can’t blame people who have their own societies to protect and self-esteem to elevate. It’s not up to North Americans to change epistemologically into a narrative that’s not offered!

As long as North Americans don’t get formidable counter-narratives to inform them that the African of the 21st century is not the caricatured African of the 17th century, we’ll continue to be asked about lions in our backyards! A Zulu asked about Wolof. A Jieeng man asked about Ashanti. This is the very oversimplification (or deadening) of African cultures that’s killing our universal image.

Instead of getting angry at North Americans, we should inform them. Instead of conforming with their narrative, we should dismiss them with respectable alternatives offered. Instead of becoming simply a ‘black man’ in America or Canada, you should remain a Ghanaian.

We turn to help North Americans in their perception of us while whining about the same perception we are helping establish. Blackness was a cultural deconstruction and reconstruction of the African Personhood into a utilizable OBJECT!

ON CULTURAL IDENTITY & BELONGING

Dear Melbournians, the South Sudanese people to be precise. Do you think we have seen it all? Do you think we have seen that: I mean in the aftermath of yesteryears, in regard to our culture and the notions around identity and belonging? Do you think we have seen the true reaping of what we sowed years ago? Do you really think so? After all, did we really sow anything like seeds and that there’s something to be reaped? Did we really live it out well to be seen today?

I am sorry to have bothered you, my potential readers, with questions regarding our social, economic, and political location in our host society: Australia. I think we have not seen it all and as a whole: The idea that people are bound by certain values and beliefs of significance to them. This requires cooperation and role-specific obligations on the roles of every man and woman across a given people and their society.

TOLERANCE & INCLUSION


While it is possible for us to racially discriminate or judge people we know, the chances of judging people we know diminish significantly the more we know them. An easy example of the importance of understanding others is the attitude people develop when they want to harm others or when they want to deny them something valuable. Essentially, before you fight someone, you insult them. Insults are attempts at diminishing the value of people, an attempt at estranging them, as Toni Morrison argued in The Origin of Others. It is easy to discriminate against strangers or make others strangers or dehumanized in order to discriminate against them.

Transformational Leadership, Inclusive Institutions and Service Provision

Leadership, given what is happening now in South Sudan, and generally in Africa, fascinates me. And it fascinates me not in a good way but because of the sociopolitical and socioeconomic ills facing the African continent and most of the so-called 'Third World.' To me, South Sudan, now, is a classic case.

Rebellion by disaffected politico-military leaders and repression by the government of South Sudan in Juba have stunted institutional development and leadership growth. This has made service provision almost irrelevant as political survival has taken primacy and supremacy. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

‘Black’ as an Identity Oversimplification and Mockery

Black as a universalized cultural identity of the African Person (AP)* is a residual effect of slave and colonial mentality; a racial/race paradigm. It is a malady I call, conservatively speaking, stuck-in-the-past syndrome of color constraints. Black could be an on-the-street ‘social identifier’ of race figures not a meaningful phenomenon of deep cultural identification on a universal scale.