It all started as I was going through the American higher-ed system. Who am I kidding?! It started way before that...
When you look at my black skin what is it that you see? A daughter of an immigrant who has fled a destitute life in Africa? An individual with roots somehow tying back to poverty, disease, or savagery in Nigeria? If so, stop. Please do not invalidate me. Do not invalidate my linage, people, culture, or heritage.
While I can go on a rant for days about the misconceptions of Africa (& Africans), I will try to focus in on some key points. Furthermore, if you find yourself uncomfortable with this post so far, I urge you all the more to read it. For we can only grow outside of our comfort zones.
1. Africa is a continent. NOT A COUNTRY.
There are 54 individual countries within Africa. With 1500+ written and spoken languages. With the preceding being true, that means that there is not one central government or power over Africa. Yes, I have heard such a ludicrous statement before.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had to sit through classes, professional events, in corporate settings, and even in some of my social circles while people continue to perpetuate the idea that Africa is a country. One that on scale could be compared to India, the UK, or any other country. This could not be further from the truth. On a simple geographic comparison, Africa can fit the entire United States, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe, India, China, the UK, and Japan within it's borders...and then some. Africa's area is 30,221,532 sq. km and North America's area is 24,709,000 sq. km.
People PLEASE stop yourselves. Buy an atlas. Get educated.
2. Not everyone in Africa lives in a hut or poverty.
I will not dispute the fact that there are major concerns with vast wealth disparity throughout many countries in Africa; however, one can say the same about countries in Europe, India, China, Vietnam, countries in South America, and even the United States. Gasp!
Three of the top 10 growing metropolitan areas on the globe come from Africa (Bamako, Mali; Lagos, Nigeria; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania). And throughout the entire continent you can find millions of people living in skyscrapers, driving cars, and living high quality lives. The GDP for many nations in Africa has consistently been beating expectations and growth predictions in recent years. There are economies in some African countries that are in better conditions that some western countries (i.e. Nigeria, Ghana, & South Africa).
3. Africans are just as literate as the western world
The US literacy rate hasn't changed in 10 years, and 40% of Americans have the reading level of a 5th grader or cannot read at all. Whereas, in Sub-Saharan Africa 70% of individuals are literate as of 2012.
The list goes on and on, but all I ask of my peers and those of you who claim to hold me in high regard is please do not invalidate an entire population of people. Acknowledge that your perception of Africa and it's people may be wrong, and be willing to engage in conversations that enlighten your perspective while uplifting your fellow humans.
Orukọ mi ni Olufemidahunsi Rosanwo. Emi li agberaga lati wa ni Naijiria, ati ki o Emi li agberaga mi dudu ara. Mo dúpẹ lọwọ Ọlọrun mi fun fun mi yi dudu ara ati aye iriri ti o ti wá pẹlú pẹlu o.
Translation: My name is Olufemidahunsi Rosanwo. I am proud to be in Nigerian, and I am proud of my dark skin. I thank my God for giving me this skin and the life experience that has come with it.
[An addendum: Africa has paved roads; not all Africans walk around barefoot; animals aren't always just roaming around the highways/streets; there is technology in all forms in Africa; not all African countries are corrupt s/o to Botswana]. If you made it this far, I want to say thank you for taking the time!!
It has now been a month since Nigerian Independence Day (October 1st), and I'm always amazed by the casual comments that I get from strangers, acquaintances, and friends alike. Ignorance is a problem, but one that you can easily solve. Stay cultured and classy friends!