Sunday, June 30, 2013

Africans don't live on trees: a letter to the racist

As an African blogger who condemns racism, discrimination and other social ills including violence against women in European countries like Finland, I receive, with no surprise, comments that reveal the ignorance and narrow-mindedness of the people who post them.

Some misinformed, uninformed and perhaps less-traveled individuals think Africa is a country. Others think the continent is a "jungle" where inhabitants do not have decent housing and live on trees.

Many people have a twisted picture of Africa and countries in the continent. The picture they have of the continent and its people is shaped by the media and organisations working to help the poor and disadvantaged.

The truth is, there is another side of the story; there is a side of African countries that is not shown on television and in fundraising adverts by humanitarian and development organisations.

I came across a video on YouTube that portrays African countries in a different light. The video is highly recommended for those who have never traveled to an African city, yet have and express inaccurate preconceived ideas of what African cities and towns look like. The video is a must-watch for the "go-back-to-your-tree" kind of racist xenophobe.

The video does not paint a complete picture of Africa, neither do videos like Kirkon Ulkomaanapu's "Ajattele" fundraising video on Facebook.

In response to one of my blog posts, a reader posted a racist comment in reference to where I come from. The comment is just one example of how racists, in an attempt to dehumanize Africans, often resort to the false and somewhat laughable assertion that Africa is a "jungle" where people live on trees.

One of my favorite quotes is drawn from "The Innocents Abroad", a travel book by Mark Twain:
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it solely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." 
In my opinion, well-traveled people are less likely to be to racist and xenophobic because they have a better understanding of the world and its people - as a result of travels and interaction with people from different parts of the globe. It is in this vein that I encourage racists and those who have a tainted picture of Africa and its people to travel to the continent. They would be amazed by the level of development in the cities and, more importantly, they would enjoy the hospitality of a people they very much despise and disrespect.

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