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Africans and Hollywood stereotypes

April 26, 2012

The newest video from MamaHope is excellent:

I love the fact that the tag line is: Stop the pity. Unlock the potential. Build a future. Not a stereotype.

This reminds me of a recent article by Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina on the problem of Africa’s image in the international media. In it, he says:

One of the problems with the way it is written about is that it is measured in the present tense by how different it looks from the places that have developed a sophisticated and deeply documented sense of themselves.

Those nations and regions that got in earlier found themselves better able to project their own image to the rest.

The truth is, we will never look like what CNN wants us to look like.

But that’s fine – we can get online now and completely bypass their nonsense.

And just the other day in an article on how not to write about Africa, Laura Seay wrote:

Western reporting on Africa is often fraught with factual errors, incomplete analysis, and stereotyping that would not pass editorial muster in coverage of China, Pakistan, France, or Mexico. A journalist who printed blatantly offensive stereotypes about German politicians or violated ethical norms regarding protection of child-abuse victims in Ohio would at the least be sanctioned and might even lose his or her job. When it comes to Africa, however, these problems are tolerated and, in some cases, celebrated. A quick search of the Google News archives for “Congo” and “heart of darkness” yields nearly 4,000 hits, the vast majority of which are not works of literary criticism, but are instead used to exoticize the Democratic Republic of the Congo while conjuring up stereotypes of race and savagery. Could we imagine a serious publication ever using similar terminology to describe the south side of Chicago, Baltimore, or another predominately African-American city?

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