If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am pro-black. I am all for the empowerment of the African race. I know that the words “black”, “African-American” and “American-African” all have different meanings, I know that the word “nigger” is derived from the word “negro; so in a way I am racially conscious. But being pro-black does not mean I am a crazy intellectual with the sort of radicalism that makes one go off the deep end. No, I also tend to do teenage things like spending a lot of my time on movies. Hollywood movies. And I have noticed the stereotype way in which Africa and Africans are portrayed in Western television.
In Hollywood, Africa is not a continent, it is a country. Africa is a place of small children running about with swollen bellies, surrounded by flies, of people living in huts. A place of war, AIDS, genocide and corrupt soldiers. Africa could also be the suffering and war-mangled country waiting for their foreign heroes to free them from the throes of oppression and poverty. Africa is also the place to go for family trips and safaris, the place scientists go to discover hidden crypts, tombs and treasures. Africa is usually shown as a place with rich culture and traditions, but in the end, this attribute is lost on the audience as it is the image of a primitive people, of women walking about with bare breasts, and men watching a fight between a mongoose and a snake that is left in the mind of the audience.
In Hollywood, African men are violent soldiers shooting their machine guns from trucks and boats, men obsessed with violence, soldiers who readily place guns in the hands of small boys, commanders who never smile. Then there is no shortage of black thugs in these movies too, pimps, drug dealers or gang members. There is usually a thug who gets arrested, thrown in jail, finds God in prison and comes out a new man. Then there is the magical Negro who isn’t from Kenya but has a Kenyan accent and a Kenyan name like Kamau Kemei or Mwangangi or Njenga. He provides spiritual or magical help to the white protagonist when things get tough.
Black women are also constantly portrayed on television as sassy, bitter, brash women with attitudes, “Angela” in Tyler Perry’s ‘Why Did I Get Married’ is a representative of these angry black women. Then there’s the Mammy, the black mother figure in white homes. She is maternal, obese, religious and unattractive, hence posing no threat to the wife in the house. (Gone With the Wind and The Help provide more sordid details). Another infamous stereotype of black women is the promiscuous female with a demanding sexual appetite, usually a drug addict and prostituting in the streets.
These stereotypes aren’t restricted to movies only. Most books by Africans or about Africa are usually given covers with orange skies and acacia trees on them. Ironically, I have stayed in Africa all my life and I have never seen an acacia tree. Maybe a baobab tree, once, and it was at the botanical garden. A reader put together the picture below to point out that no matter where you’re from, if you write a book about Africa, you’re likely to get the acacia tree treatment. If you’re lucky you might get a few animals on the cover.
So this is a cry for help from a black female to the media, to those with the power to present Africa to the world because she is angry and tired. She is angry because Africa has been portrayed as many things, and its not that these things are untrue, but it is that this is the only side of Africa the world gets to see, repeatedly, and slowly that is what Africa has become. Her anger has worn her out, so now she’s just tired. Unlike my last post, I am on your side this time Mama Africa.
Like all others, these African stereotypes can only be changed by showing the world that there’s another side to Africa. So Hollywood, Africa is not a country, there is no African flag or African language, and not all Africans look the same. Africa is a continent, with numerous countries in her. Not all women wander about with their chests bare, we don’t all live in trees and not all men are oppressive rulers and bloodthirsty soldiers. Not all black men are gangsters or pimps, and not all black women are sex addicts. Africa is also home to great intellectuals and Nobel Laureates. There are museums and medical schools in Africa, and there are African men who play rugby and are on Facebook. There are other trees in Africa apart from the acacia and it snows in some African countries. Not all Africans have Kenyan accents and there are other names in Africa apart from Shaka Zulu or Commander Nyengi. So give us new names Hollywood, we need new names. Once again, this is Africa.
Thanks for reading, comments are welcome and feel free to share!
Apparently, I have no HR skills according to my “agents”, as I should have done this a long time ago. Here are my social media accounts: