I can’t disagree much with the glowing report that America has become very diverse, and as a result, opinions towards Africa (depending on who’s asked), may have advanced in some quarters.
Nonetheless, the negative stereotype (not necessarily racist) about Africa, still visibly hangs in a corner, most notably among American youths. Having interacted with a tangible number of Americans through the internet, coupled with the steady feedbacks I receive from some Africans resident in the United States, it has served as an amazing eye-opener for me, as I made polite inquiries of their individual candid opinions about Africa. Well, my discovery was absolutely stunning!
Quite a handful of the Americans I volunteered to make small talk with, could almost certainly bet their lives, Africa was a country! A few others, politely nursed the opinion that Africa is divided into three parts- The lonely deserts, the impoverished communities and the deep forests of evil, which are colonised by wild animals and scary witchdoctors. How pleasantly adorable!
Seemingly startled at my ‘weird’ prospects of civilisation, you bet, they sure had probing questions in return for me! Not only were these curious Americans deeply astonished at “how good my English was”, they probed further with breathtaking questions like: “How do you leave the house daily, with so many animals clustered around your environment?” “Can you see a lion just by looking out the window?”
“Most houses in Africa as shown on TV, are tiny huts built with mud, so how do you afford internet services?”
The American media hasn’t been particularly sweet to Africa. According to the popular mantra, “Bad News Is Good News”, so where else to grab a bunch of those, if not Africa? The media strategically flaunts images of deserts, debris of war, starving children (to showcase an impoverished Africa) and make-believe documentaries, which create the impression that Africans cohabit as relatives with animals!
Who really blames the average American youth anyway, for seeing Africa in such demeaning light? If television and the print media, indirectly portrays Africa as satan’s hub of poverty, disease and war, who are the youths to grow a contrary opinion? Ever heard the phrase ‘Dark Continent?’ Yeah, that’s right… It’s Africa’s flattering nickname across the Atlantic!
Life in Africa, certainly isn’t as horrifying as often projected. Neither is Africa consumed by what the foreign audience have probably seen or heard on television. People live normal lives here with computers, running water and power supply (however steady or epileptic). People live in comfortable homes, devoid of less pleasant accommodations like huts and mud houses. Terrorism and insurgency are confined within specific areas and not ‘everywhere’ as often portrayed. Africa definitely has her unappealing sites and supposed danger zones, but which continent doesn’t?
The American media should likewise capture Africa’s steady economic rise and development as well! The negative stereotype largely circulated about Africa, can be reduced to a minimum, if foreigners can be exposed to see the other half of Africa for themselves!
• Nimi Princewill is a Nigerian writer, poet and social reformer. He’s very passionate about social reformation and the political development of Africa. He’s most notable for his unconventional opinions on issues that cut across religion, sports, social lifestyle and politics. Twitter: @princewill_nimi