A couple of weeks back, I happened to get into a conversation of sorts on a page I follow on Facebook centered on a certain meme. The meme in question had an individual announcing their desire to visit Africa, with the other person insisting that the individual be specific on which country in Africa, they would like to visit. Of course our opinions happened to be varied with other page mates concluding that a section of us were simply being overly sensitive.
However, I think we have very valid reasons as Africans to be skeptical about the world’s fascination with Africa. Having been categorized as a third world continent for the longest time possible in addition to getting quite negative coverage by the international media, we can’t sometimes really help wondering whether people from other parts of the world, genuinely appreciate our continent.
In certain cases, the desire by others to visit the continent has been in essence, to confirm whether Africans still lead lives as the primitive people they have since been largely branded to be. Not forgetting the fact that a majority of countries in the African continent have a dark history of colonization and therefore, are still a tad bit distrusting of the intentions of foreign visitors. Not that we feel a repeat can happen but past experiences tend to shape present perceptions.
Africa is a continent made up of several nations with very distinct cultures and ways of life but that has not stopped the rest of the world and especially the West, from failing to acknowledge this fact. Hollywood has often seemed confused and thoroughly ignorant about Africa when basing movies and shows on the continent. It is always disconcerting for an African to watch a movie or show, that decides to mix two African languages, from two different countries and then try to pass it off as a movie set in one particular African country.
Even more upsetting is having to keep explaining yourself in a foreign country as an African, that where you come from is not plagued by war and disease. The idea that Africans still walk around naked, live in makeshift homes, possess primitive ideas and the likes, has failed to completely fade from the minds of Westerners who seem to still feel the need to “discover” the continent.
I understand that for foreigners of African descent, their wish to visit Africa has always been to connect with their roots. For us Africans who have been born and brought up in our motherland, we may many times fail to understand this specific need.
Perhaps, we find it absurd that they would just desire to be in the continent, without being specific with which country in particular because for us who come from the continent, we can easily trace our roots. And our individual roots, happen to be centered around a particular locality and not the continent as a whole.
Indeed one of the arguments that came up in the aforementioned conversation on the page, was related to this inherent need by African-Americans and people of African descent from the Caribbean, to visit the continent. However, this does not completely erase the fact that our continent happens to be the most misunderstood by many, often basing their view of the continent on hearsay.
Call it inferiority complex, sensitivity or what but Africans are increasingly getting tired of having to justify their legibility to others who are not from the same race or continent. Issues of racism and racial discrimination do not make it any easier for us. It only serves to heighten our skepticism of the world’s interest with our continent.
It should be understood that histories of oppression by others who felt superior to us, have contributed largely to Africans feeling the need to protect themselves from hypocritical intentions. We may argue that issues of xenophobia are perpetrated by Africans to fellow Africans and therefore as an African, I have no right to conclude that only those not from the continent discriminated against us and oppressed us.
Xenophobic attacks such as the ones witnessed in South Africa are deeply rooted on colonialism and the fact that Africans felt divided and denied of opportunities at that particular dark time. I’m no advocate of senseless killings neither am I trying to lay blame on the colonialists at this point in time. However, how a nation chooses to heal from past hurtful experiences, determines the way forward for the development of the nation in future.
I would like to believe that many South Africans have healed but there is still that percentage, that has not completely healed and are therefore willing to incite and attack their fellow brothers and sisters, whom they feel are taking away opportunities meant for them, the original citizens.
As a continent that is forever trying to get to the same level as other continents and many times falling short in the process, our main concern is being genuinely accepted as capable of competing on the same level as other continents. It may seem like a far fetched idea to many but past branding of the continent as incapable has contributed to our wariness. We may many times fail to understand other people’s intentions or might even be right about their hypocrisy, who knows?