As a born and breed African kid, many people are surprised when they meet me. They are surprised by my articulation, and my command of the English language ,bewildered that i know more than the words “give us free” and that i don’t talk like the characters from “The God’s must be crazy”. They are marvelled at my exposure ,knowledge of their history and understanding of culture, when they don’t have an inkling on mine. Luckily for me, i have not had the experience that many of my friends have had.When some ignoramuses come up to them and ask if they had pet lions, or lived in trees and wore clothes when they were in Africa, and how they were able to learn English.
Africans, perhaps more than any other race have suffered stereotypes from Hollywood. For many years, movies about Africa have been one dimensional;portraying Africans as limited thinking, quarter illiterate “yes masstah” characters. Heavy caricature ,often imbeciles, with no thoughts of their own. When that is not the case, they are swinging from trees, or running around half naked in loin cloth,in movies like “King Solomon’s Mines”. Stereotypes and profiling, is one of the reasons that society is still where it is today. The blanketing and general statement in a recent article, that “black people do not read” is one from which i beg to differ.
There was a recent article on how “black people don’t read”, Now THAT is as crazy a statement as “all Chinese men know Kung Fu”.
It’s an ignorant , unfounded and unfair generalization . I am in my twenties and for as long as i can remember ,books have been a huge part of my life. I would have to plea guilty as charged if accused of being a book worm. As a child i read book by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl,Judy Blume and Alan Ahlberg,in my teenage years i moved on to Jeffery Archer and John Grisham as an adult i read both fiction and non fiction ranging from David Balddachi , to Dr Myles Munroe ,Jack Canfield and currently , The Road Less travelled by M Scott Peck.
I am more than just literate, i can intelligently hold my own in virtually any conversation , i may not be an expert , or be broad on the topic , but at least i can make some form of contribution, and i have MANY friends ,too numerous to mention, with that same capability and more.
-We chew over if Japan would be the economic force it is today if Hiroshima has never happened.
-Postulate on the application on Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” in modern day business.
-Discuss on striking similarities in Greek and Roman mythology .
– Deliberate on the possibilities of time travel based on the “Theory of relativity”.
-Analyze business lessons from Vito and Michael Corleone.
-Debate on if economic growth and prosperity in the USA during the Clinton administration, could really be attributed to him or the dot com revolution that happened during his tenure.
-Deliberate over the pros and cons of Nigeria switching over to a parliamentary system of government.
-The possibility of Nigeria becoming amongst the top ten economies within the next 10 years once we can solve the issue of NEPA and Internal Hostilities.
-Wonder if the USA would have become involved in World War 2 if not for Pearl Harbour, and what would the world be like if Hitler had succeeded in his campaign.
Was the Cold War really about communism, or truly a fight between the USSR and USA, or who was the Alpha male…..(Hey! Who mentioned ROCKY over there.)
to relax, we can switch over to mundane issues
We can equally discuss over Cristiano Ronaldo ,and if he has erased the legendary name from his Brazilian predecessor .
If Muhammad Ali , and Michael Jordan still hold on to the legendary status we hold them up to in their respective sports.
If Bruce Lee would beat Jet Li in a street fight ?
Why Batman though the only human(without powers) in the Justice League is the most feared and respected?
If Robin Hood and King Arthur truly existed ,and if not, how did they become so big and so legendary that we think they actually did exist?
The lessons of tenacity, perseverance and never give up mentality that we learn from Top Cat,Wile E Coyote and Yogi Bear?
Ask our selves based on the evidence if a lazy animal like the Lion is truly the King of the Jungle and not the Tiger.
Why people claim abstinence doesn’t work , because they won’t admit that they like sex too much to give it up.
Between Batman and Blade, who would win in hand to hand combat?
Would Naruto be as cool, if they spoke in English?
Why Tupac is the greatest of all time and why Biggie does not eve n come close to matching him as an Mcee.
When would Samuel L Jackson stop playing the Angry black male card, (think about it, what was the last L Jackson movie you saw that he did not YELL!!!!)
Which movie between “The God Father” and “Citizen Kane” is truly the Greatest movie Of All Time?
We discuss both real issue and mundane things, and i believe that any discussion that comes up, to a very reasonable extent, we can contribute without looking foolish.
It’s unfortunate that in the 21st century, with the wide range of knowledge and exposure to the world available at the stroke of a keyboard(a global village), people still can’t see beyond their little world. Many people still see the continent of Africa as one huge Safari, where the animals run wild right outside your front door.
With National Geographic,The History Channel,Animal Planet, and the many educational channels, many people in the western world, by western world i am referring to Europe and North America, think that Africa is a country. Hence we hear them say “I’m going to Africa”, “we want to help Africa”. Thanks to Oxfarm and Feed the Children, (all good causes on their own), many still walk around thinking that ALL African children are bloated bellied and starving.That perception is like a foreigner thinking he can learn about life in the UK by watching Big Brother .
The generalization that black people don’t read is like thinking Indians randomly burst into song and dance in the middle of the street or that all American’s behave like the guests on Jerry Springer.
We are all individuals and can not classified by the actions of a few. Unlike many people of both races whose idea of classic literature is Katie Price’s or Jade Goody’s biography, i prefer to read something that would actually add some value to my life and future.
A while back,a friend of mine was livid about the launch of MTV Base Africa, which played about 99% Hip Hop/ Rhythm and Blues. What right did they have to restrict our music to only those categories? That is another stereotype that is all around the world. The assumption that black people only like those two genres of music. What about Alternative,Rock ,Pop,Swing, what makes them think we don’t listen to that?
Now i don’t know about anyone else, but i listen to a whole range of music. I croon to Frank Sinatra’s “I got you under my skin”,karaoke to Air Supply’s “All out of love” and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”. Back in my University days some of my friends called me a “white boy” just because i loved listening to Nickelback ,Linkin Park ,Limp Bizkit, Blink 182 amongst others. When the truth is i can scream to “Smells of teen spirit” as well as bust the mic on “Ready or Not”. I can serenade to Barry White as well as lay back and appreciate Chopin’s Symphony.
It’s ignorant and unfair to classify people by what we see on television. Yes, there are starving kids in Africa, but there are also homeless, malnourished kids in the UK ,USA and Eastern Europe. Like there are different social classes (lower,middle ,upper, rich , stinking rich) in other parts of the world, the same exists in the nations of Africa.We have sky scrapers , and NO we do not live in mud huts. We have cities and we hail taxi’s , take the bus, drive drop tops, and SUVs’. We hustle by day and play by night, have night-clubs, Pubs and raves. We go on dates, hang out at the mall and catch the latest movie at the cinema.
The Africa that most of the world sees, is either news reports on war , famine and starving kids. The Africans that they portray the dictators and those who even if they had a transplant from Einstein , wouldn’t be able to find their way out of a paper bag.
They fail to mention that it was a Nigerian ,Philip Emeagwali , that wrote the formula which is the back bone on which the Internet runs, he has won numerous awards (computer scientist of the year at least three times)back to back , and has been awarded the science world’s version of a Nobel prize .
Wole Soyinka that won a Nobel Prize in the 80’s is still one of the most respected literary minds in the world and is on the lecture circuit world wide. There are many more achievers too numerous to mention.
American writer W.E Du Bios is known to have said
“Europe has never produced and never will in our day bring forth a single human soul who cannot be matched and over-matched in every line of human endeavor by Asia and Africa”.
Does it matter that i am able to answer 90% of the questions on “The Weakest Link” on auto pilot, or 60% of “Jeopardy” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” by reflex. Is it a matter of my race, that i like the music of The Temptations, as much as i like Franki Valli & the Four Seasons ? Or that i have no rhythm whatsoever despite the fact that “ALL black people can dance”. No.
Everything i am ,is because of WHO i am. I have the knowledge i have , because as an individual i take interest in those things. Just like not everyone in the world can roll their tongue, not everyone is interested in the things i am ,or has the eclectic taste that i do. It is my individual choice to listen to Both Marvin Gaye and Dean Martin, George Benson and John Mayer, Tracy Chapman and Alanis Morrisette. The fact that i can answer most questions on quiz shows is because of all the time i spent watching documentaries, reading journals, encyclopaedia’s, news reports and believe it or not sitcoms and Looney Toons cartoons.
My exposure and knowledge does not make me better than anyone else, or smarter ,because most of my life if you wanted to give me a seizure all you had to do was mention MATHS and i would quiver like a leaf and I am quite frankly hopeless at academic writing. And those that, do know maths and came out with a first class degrees, may not be able to engage in some of the discussions that i mentioned earlier.
I still love cartoons as much as i did when i was eight years old. I still get cracked up when i watch Looney Toons,The Mask or The Flintstones .I still think that Top Cat is one of the coolest fictional characters ever created after John McLane, Jason Bourne ,Michael Corleone,Chilli Palmer,Cool Hand Luke, and Captain Jack Sparrow(ok, he falls down quite far,but you get the point)
Does this make me immature or childish, you can think so if you want to ,but the fact is that, most of the classical music i know ,i first heard in Tom&Jerry and Bugs Bunny cartoons. Many of the words in my vocabulary were those i heard in cartoons and checked up in the dictionary, my home boy Daffy Duck taught me the words Stupendous,Obnoxious and Stuffy.
I remember i got into a serious and lively discussion with two other guys, one a medical student and an engineer. This went on for several hours and went into critical analysis mode, the engineers sister came round to listen in, and was flabbergasted when she discovered we had been talking about the evolution of the X-men and why Wolverine is not the leader. She couldn’t believe it, grown ass men! , Graduates! Wasting their time with such irrelevant musing. She then asked us to please be quiet as she plopped down on the couch to catch up with an EASTENDERS omnibus.
We should not allow our perceptions and limited exposure to allow us to classify people or pigeon hole them into a category. We should take every person we meet as an individual and not a summary of the movie characters we have watched.Not all Chinese men are the next Bruce Lee, nor are Indians shop keepers. Not all Africans are starving nor do we run after animals chucking spears and clicking or tongues as we talk. Hollywood is not the place to learn about people’s culture, due to the fact that they are of a country that has no culture of it’s own, and a people whose names don’t mean s***.
When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me, and we all know what assumption is the mother of.