Tue, Jul 28, 2015
Some individuals involved in the charity business find it very fashionable for them to say they are helping Africa even though it might be a small village in Cape Verde.
Many organizations and individuals involved in the charity business do not have problems using the African map to argue their case and it’s very fashionable for them to say they are helping Africa even though it might be a small village in Cape Verde. The totalization of African experiences and countries is sickening. Africa is not a country. This type of ignorance is why someone from Nigeria is expected to know about someone from Comoros.
I am sure that many would assume I am crazy if I expected someone from North Carolina to know someone from California , yet as an African, a Zimbabwean for that matter, am expected to know random people who live all over Africa. This thought of Africa goes beyond who I’m expected to know; I am supposed to speak African, sound African, look African and know everything and everyone who is African.
Whenever volunteer NGO business help to build a school in Rwanda, they’re helping Africa. They are building schools for Africa my foot! This type of propaganda that is used by Western NGOs serves to elevate the ignorant beliefs that people hold about Africa.
Purposefully misrepresenting an entire continent of people is not only ignorant, but also dangerous.
Some of the images of African children on my newsfeed baffle me, all in the name of “#HelpingAfrica” or “#EndingPoverty” in Africa. These racialized images of “Africa” substantiate the otherization and perpetuate the stereotypes that many Americans have about Africa — starving, lacking clean water and laden with dilapidation.
The racialization of poverty and the unethical representation of African children must be condemned.
Popular YouTube star Bono and of late George Clooney highlights a prevailing paradigm within development and charity discourse, which embodies a “white savior complex” indicative of the way in which many in the West engages with the “other.”
One major fault of this mentality is the notion that Westerners are the solution to Africa’s problems by portraying Africans as helpless.
How are the 40+ countries in Sub-Saharan Africa going to rely on one school that one helps to build in some village in Eritrea— really? Honestly, is this the only way Africans will get access to education? There is need for many of these people involved in the volunteering business to learn some basic geography before they say “I am going to save Africa”. It appears increasingly fashionable in the West, at the United Nations and among writers and academics to use the meaningless classificatory schema of “Sub-Saharan Africa” to refer to all of Africa except the five predominantly Arab states of North Africa.
Its use defies the fundamentals of geography, but it prioritizes hackneyed and stereotypical racism. “Sub-Saharan Africa” is a racist, geopolitical signature through which its users aim to present the imagery of a desolate, arid and hopeless desert environment.
I have no doubt that those on mission trips really fancy the phrase. It gives them a sense of pride and urgency that I am helping hopeless black Africa. If we truly want to live with respect, intersectionality values and the spirit of cosmopolitanism we need to avoid gross generalizations.
There is need for a change when it comes to aid and charity across racial lines, prejudice manifests not in an uncharitable way but in a paternalistic way because of how the media portrays the “other.” Well-intentioned anti poverty campaigns are inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes and downplaying the agency of “Africans” in “Sub-Saharan Africa,” thus limiting their focus on Africa largely to misguided advocacy for increased foreign aid. While your efforts in raising thousands of dollars to help eliminate poverty are appreciated, if you’re going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is needed. It is best that you allow intersectionality to flow in your desires and respect the specificity of African experiences.
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