Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blackout Africa and Africans

I have been thinking about African American blogs that proclaim to focus on Black issues in a way that white blogs do not. I read some of these blogs everyday. And over the past few months I have grown absolutely tired of the usual manner that Africa, and Africans, are obscured and made invisible in some of these blogs.

Outside of a cursory understanding of Darfur, most African American bloggers know precious little about the continent. Not that they should by virtue of being African American or even Black. But many posture as if the continent is part of their natural terrain in the narrowly proclaimed and self-serving blackosphere. And in so doing the working assumption is that their view of Africa is more correct, and more sophisticated, than even that of African bloggers.

This is essentialist nonsense that has a long history in the sometimes contrived relations that exist between African Americans and Africans.

I want to be bold here and say I am very disturbed that many of these bloggers render Africa, and Africans, no more than imagined and impaired figments.

I decided to make this point when a very prominent blogger in the Afrospear proclaimed Bono to be a Black struggle hero. More precisely, he called Bono an "Honorary Field Negro" and I assume that he thought this to be a congratulatory position for the right kind of white man.

I wrote and asked him what he was talking about and he seemed to be stumped. He offered to rethink his position. Some of his readers then wrote in to extol Bono's virtues and the role that he plays as an agent for Africa.

One particular comment even went as far to question why Africans "come over here" and then look down on African Americans. The author of this comment also took offense because I called Bono a white-boy. She then offered a contaminated and contrived analysis of how the Irish cannot be viewed as white.

Now ain't that just f*cking bent-over, double-consciousness, genius?

I half expected that the next comment would assert that Africans are Africans only and not really Black. Thankfully, we did not get there. Yet.

Two days later the blogger made up his mind again and reconfirmed to me that Bono was indeed a struggle hero and that our differences had to be relegated to the fact that his Blacks grew up in the West, and my Blacks grew up in Africa.

The implication was that his view of what Bono meant to Africa was dictated by where Africa was conceived. And since he is in the West, Bono can be a savior for the Africa of the West.

My Africa is enigmatic to the West, including its rightly weighted African Americans, and, therefore, not really real "over here" where my birth defect has made me ignorant of the fact that Bono knows more about 'saving' my people than me, or even my people.

If this was a white man or woman talking such sh*t we would have assembled a race-riot to confront his chauvinism. But because this came from the mouth of an African American who has assumed steering priority over Blackness here in the US, and the blogosphere in general, we just let his ignorance slide.

But I ain't buying that excuse. Ever.

If I did I would just allow all ignorant bloggers to perpetrate the kind of exacting violence that colonialism started in the name of the West.

I still read some of these blogs and continue to be amazed at the manner in which the disfigurement of the continent is perpetuated among them.

Now how is this different than what most white bloggers do?

21 comments:

Bronze Trinity said...

But how do you expect people who are not from Africa to understand it? How can you expect people who are taught about Africa from white people to not unconsciously harbour some of their biases? Furthermore, isn't it also possible that some Africans have negative views of African Americans because of the images of popular Black culture that are biased too?
Are you saying that Black people who were not born in Africa should forget about Africans because we are no longer brothers and sisters?

Ridwan said...

I really don't want to go into a circular discussion about Africans and their corresponding attitudes about African Americans.

There are stereotypes out there about Black people in general. Africans and African Americans are equally discriminated against in these terms.

My post is about some African American bloggers who pronounce on Africa a disfigurement that is eerily just like that of white racist.

It is a kind of secluded thinking that is unbalanced and biased against Africa, and Africans.

It should be different but it is not.

How can we begin to address this issue if it is just brushed aside.

I mean, how many hundreds of years have passed since the beginning of slavery, why is it that you think African Americans are still captive of how whites construct the continent?

And closer to my post, why should Africans accept the saviour status of someone like Bono just because it is so seated among some African American bloggers?

Bono is a construction of whiteness that is not about Africans, or their welfare.

Accepting him as such is a telling and damaging position.

Telling because it hints strongly that there is a wide gulf between how Africa is lived, and how Africa is perceived among some of these bloggers.

My point here is that these blogs are part of a greater disservice to Blackness.

Writing on Africa in a manner that amounts to no more than pissing on the continent must be avoided in any terms.

Inside of this I am not even hinting that we are not brothers and sisters.

I am merely pointing to a tendency that is out there. A troubling tendency.

Peace and struggle,
Ridwan

Bronze Trinity said...

"why should Africans accept the saviour status of someone like Bono just because it is so seated among some African American bloggers?"

I hope that you don't make your decisions based only on what bloggers say. I would hope that Africans would choose what is right for them based on their lives.

Really, because African Americans may only have experience with Africa as taught to them by the white man then the only solution would be for them not to write about Africa at all. Then there would be a whole group of African Diaspora people who are totally ignoring Africa and I think that would bother a lot of people. They are trying to help and you are throwing that back in their faces. Sometimes when that happens people just stop helping.

I have personally noticed a negative attitude of some Africans towards African Americans and that makes me less likely to discuss African issues on my blog. The only time I feel safe to do it is when the campaign is started by someone else like Bono, or Nelson Mandela and that project gets a lot of support. If you are saying now that we shouldn't support those projects either then what should we say about Africa? I don't think that there is anything I can say if I would be criticized they way you have criticiized the other blogger. We are trying to help and be good people. We are not trying to be hurtful and harm Africans. Personally, I'm going to leave blogging about Africa to the Africans and white people if this is the response I would expect to get.

Ridwan said...

Your response it typical of the condescending attitude that my post references.

You are hardly dealing with the meat of my post. Instead you do exactly the same as my post describes.

Why do some African American bloggers obscure the continent?

Your answer: white people taught them to do so.

Your warning: if you don't like what we think is good for you then we will stop 'helping' you.

And to chide us further: because of your thankless attitude I ignore the whole continent.

You are duplicating a white racist mentality in the manner that you are responding to my critique.

And yes, my critique is about African American bloggers and yes I am smart enough to get my news elswhere.

I frankly don't care if you, or those who think like you, do not focus on the continent and its peoples.

Hell we can do bad without your patronizing help.

I on the other hand hardly hide behind the doings of some African American bloggers who are ignorant.

Look through my blog, I am on the frontline of issues that effect African Americans and Black people ... as best I can.

I do not posture issues about my 'safety' when I stand up for what is right.

Why are you pressing this issue when you talk about Africa, and Africans?

Who among Africans has made you feel unsafe? This is mostly a white hang-up is it not?

No-where below will you find me offering warnings to African Americans about my support.

My life is about Black struggle and I am raising a very relevant warning bell here.

Please don't try to confuse my intentions with your need to defend what some African Americans might or might not know about the continent.

If Bono is your spokesperson then we need to talk no further.

Peace still,
Ridwan

Ridwan said...

"We Love Africa, and would love Africa even more were it not for Africans."

There is hardly an African living among the so called African diaspora that has not heard and felt this sentiment in some way or the other.

Ridwan

Eugene said...

That shit face fuck BONO should be considered an ENEMY of all Africans! Because of that worthless ultra privileged sack of fucking shit's alleged charity work for Africa, Nestle got to dump a megaton of their toxic baby formula that they couldn't sell here in the states. Thousands of African babies died because of that fucking piece of shit's work! THOUSANDS! The worthless heartless ultra privileged piece of shit even knows this and doesn't do anything to try to correct it nor does he fucking care! He should be an ENEMY TO ALL AFRICANS!

As far as that worthless fuck being Irish...FUCKING PLEASE! At best, that worthless sack of heartless fucking shit is a FREESTATER! Wanna know what a Freestater is, watch "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" or walk up to an Irish person from their mother land and call them a Freestater and see what happens.

While watching a protest music documentary with an Irish from of mine from Northern Ireland and fomer IRA supporter, the documentary discussed these issues with that unapologetic piece of shit BONO. His friends are pissed at him and some even hate him. And I almost went apoplectic when I saw that fucking piece of shit kiss the Pope's ring. He knelt before one of the most horrific genocidal maniacs ever to claim to be Christian. That Pope knew all about the raping of children worldwide and the cover-ups of the priests that are child rapists. The fucking VATICAN has completely turned its back on their bretheren in IRELAND. And that FREESTATER BONO kissed the mother-fuckers ring. He humbled himself before that genocidal pedophile hiding piece of shit.

My friend said that "if [I] killed hers, [she'd] kill mine," referring to Bono, of course. Every Irish person I've met or heard of HATES that piece of fucking shit.

Just in case you cannot tell, I HATE BONO!

Dave J. said...

Awhile ago, a blogger named Asabanga gave me a statement to meditate on. I have carried it with me for many months now.

'The road of our continuing hell, is paved through the "good intentions" of well meaning white people.'

I think that I am arriving at a real understanding, and this post contains in it another piece to the puzzle.

It disturbs me when they splash it all over the fake news that Madonna or Jolie have gone to another country and adopted a child. What do these people believe they are accomplishing through this action?

Ridwan said...

Thanks for sharing that quote Dave.

It makes a lot of sense and it captures much of what I am pointing to here.

We cannot just buy into the 'goodwill' model of activism or postured activism.

There are real debates on the ground that must be understood.

Many Africans feel/think the things I am saying here. Many won't just say it like I have.

There is always the worry that you don' talk sh*t about other Black folk even where they are acting the fool.

Nonsense. The crap that is floated as analysis in some blogs can't be ignored. It is too dangerous.

Dangerous because you hardly see Africans as human and, therefore, real. They are, instead, no more than derivatives of the Western imagination.

An imagination that is equally seated among African Americans and other Westerners.

I was in Kathmandu a good few months ago when this African American brother told me that he did not understand why people were talking stuff about Madonna's adoption of a Malawian child.

He said: "... that child will be better off living with Madonna than living with his Malawian parents."

Really? What right did he have to make that judgement? And on the basis of what information?

I ignored his ass and walked away seething. Later I thought that I should of said something.

I should of stood up for that child.

And I should of told him about his preconceived and racist prejudices that reduced African life to less than anything the West can offer.

There have been countless other times when the same type of sh*t has come up in the classes I teach.

And what is less surprising now is that this disfigured account of African life is held by white and African Americans alike.

In this context, one has to question the logic and call out the offenders equally.

That is what I intended here. And f*ck those who think I have stepped outside of what it acceptable.

What is not acceptable to me is any attempt, knowing or unknowing, that reduces Africa, and Africans, to mere background elements in the life of anyone. Black, white, or Other.

We exist and folks better starting dealing with that reality.

Peace and struggle,
Ridwan

ps. It is good to hear from you.

Ridwan said...

Brother Kashea I don't know why your comment got lost here.

Please repost.

Sorry man.

Peace,
Ridwan

Eugene Johnson said...

I find an interesting parallel in the fact that those who use Africa/Africans as a background subject, present as supporters the likes of Bono (my arch enemy like Paul Watson), Madonna, and Jolie.

In the cases of Madonna and Jolie purchasing darkie children in India (was it?), the conditions upon life that created such conditions as the possibility of purchasing a child as a charitable act were placed upon the lives of these folks by people like Madonna and Jolie. Were it not for the over-cunsumption of the wealth of the world by the few, life would be much healthier for those at the bottom. Were it NOT for the excessive consumption that Madonna and Jolie participate in amongst the ultra elite, they would not have the buying power to purchase a child in India. If they would ACTUALLY do something to CHANGE the lives of children who are FORCED to live under these conditions in order to MAINTAIN the wealth of the likes of Jolie and Madonna, I might be impressed with their actions and sacrifice. Purchasing a child has done NOTHING to change ANYTHING. They are not heroes, they are folks with BUYING POWER!

Ridwan said...

Eugene thanks for your input here brother. I am just as surprised as you and Dave when Jolie, Madonna, and Bono, get thrown around as ambassadors for this or that cause in Africa, India, or Thailand.

Jolie's racism is of the liberal kind. It is the kind that says I am fucked up and dysfunctional ... and this is the springboard for my 'love' of black/brown people.

It is a kind of racist fetishism really. What I have called in my work the "CostPlus" approach to race and racism.

CostPlus because it constructs a world of arrangeable access for whiteness. One in which questions about racism are deflected by showing or arranging 'skin' collections.

So, "how can I be a racist if I have brown/yellow/black skins in my constructed family."

This is multiculturalism at its racist best. It obscures the collected 'skins' in a manner that reduces their humanity to nothing more than props for whiteness.

"Me love you long time ... " has a different spin in these contexts. But it is still a spin in which 'skins' love whiteness without question.

Those kids ('skins') will still be racial objects, in fact more so than if they lives with their own.

Jolie and Pitt are ambassadors for this brand of racism. So is Madonna and Bono.

Madonna has made a f*cking career of trading on 'black deviance'. Rememeber her videos and the depiction of black-white sex in her coffee table book?

Was that about humanizing blacks? Hell no, it was about selling white voyeurism.

Then she grows up and marries a white man and she is writing children's books about morals and fables.

SHe just spent 2/3 of her life voyeuring through race and racism, making money off its deviant portrayal, only to end up reasserting the moral and ethical myths of whiteness.

One could see this as no more than one self-invested and determined journey. Madonna as a product of the dysfunction of whiteness.

But it is not so perceived in what Dave calls the "fake news".

Bono and Geldof are slightly different but hardly enough to merit an exception.

They trade on the same myths that Jolie and Madonna have. You will find Bono eating with the oppressor and singing to the masses in the same day.

He is the Jesus that Rhonda is pointing to in her discussion today. Bono as Jesus. Jesus as Saviour. Jesus as Bono.

The myth of a white Jesus is assumed in Bono's agency.

His life is a stage of self-invested prophecies. Ones that elevate the agency of whiteness above the 'background blacks' he is supposedly helping.

His is an ahistorical racism. One that fools those who don't watch very carefully.

But more so, he is able to buy whiteness out of its responsibility for what it has perpetrated!

In that he is a populist buffoon who, like Jolie, deflects the real costs of what whiteness has done to Africans.

He is not new in these terms. The continent is full of celebrities and do-gooders who would not know this analysis from a hole in the ground.

And you don't even have to look for them in the Peace Corps. Hell they on the streets of Joburg right now thinking that every old black man is Nelson Mandela.

This is a long and contrived story. It is about Bono, and it is more than just Bono.

And for this reason I have called attention to the 'helpers' who think they are merely saying it like it is for the 'helpless' that can't piss were it not for the Empire and its color-coded contents.

F*ck 'em, and f*ck Bono.

Peace and struggle,
Ridwan

Dave J. said...

Ridwan,

This makes better sense to me now.

The antithesis of karma, because their actions are completely selfish, and predicated on self-advancement.

It would be interesting to see how their actions would differ if they understood this for themselves, or if they would still do things the way that they do now, despite.

Be well friend.

Cero said...

"a disfigurement that is eerily just like that of white racist"

I find that most Americans, and this includes some Black Americans, tend to have prejudices and blind spots about foreign countries, lack of awareness about them, and so on. I regularly meet U.S. Hispanics with amazingly uninformed and prejudiced ideas of Latin America, too. And that one goes both ways. All of it is an effect of colonialism and so on, and has to be analyzed at a macro-level not an us.-vs.-them prism, I suspect.

***

But BT, what, Africans attack your blog if you discuss African issues not already pre-discussed by someone like Bono or Mandela - ???
I don't get it.

***

Ridwan - "feeling safe" is a U.S. thing. I am somewhat sardonic when I talk about it. I think it is related to our misunderstanding of free speech. Many of us seem to feel that "free speech" means the right to an unquestioned, unchallenged opinion. Rational debate of such opinions is particularly "unsafe" because it might show why these opinions are problematic, unfounded in historical fact, etc. That in turn is threatening at the level of personal identity to the American in question.

This is just my read on the matter, of course, but I do notice that safety is really important to US people, and the desire to "feel safe" justifies just about anything in their eyes.

Ridwan said...

Hello Prof Zero:

Thanks for looking in here. Always good to read you.

I am worried that we care too much about what the mythical American thinks. We need to decenter the American from just about any issue anymore.

The position I am taking here speaks to a very specific set of circumstances.

I am talking about some African American bloggers and their perpetuation or racist images.

The other side of this may be that some Africans bloggers harbor similar biases. But that is not the point of my post.

I don't also fully agree with your assessment of the "feeling safe" issue.

There is a very real and long travelled history to these two projective words.

One that is found in a history where whites have constructed Blacks as dangerous. The myth of the Black criminal/rapist.

The African as violent beast, bestial, etc. See Hegel's illustration for example.

The history of racism in the US will bear me out on this point. And the history of colonialism will do the same anywhere else.

It is a very purposeful manipulation in any terms.

BT may not have meant to tell me that she is unsafe. But what she was relying on is a well worn stereotype to give reason for withdrawing from engagement.

Africans as posing a general danger to the sanity of rational in Western terms. This includes her comment.

"Feeling safe" is coded posturing and it is not, in this case, an issue of general American hangups about "free speech".

It is also not just a "US thing" ... but it is a white racist thing that can be expressed anywhere and by Others.

So for BT, her 'safety' is a curious projection that can't just be a slip of consciousness.

It is purposeful.

She is prickly about her relationship to Africa, and Africans. And that prickliness more than just slipped out above.

But, given the sh*t I have read elsewhere, she is hardly unique in her prickliness.

In this sense BT may be right that African Americans, not all of course, are hampered by what they have drawn from whiteness ... where Africa, and Africans, are concerned.

All the more reason for calling that blogger on his sh*t.

Peace,
Ridwan

Rent Party said...

...Nezua's term "the white lens," yes. So that would be what's behind the desire to have ideas Africa-related to be pre-endorsed by a "safe" figure like Mandela.

Ridwan said...

That is exactly it Rent Party. Mandela is a non-threatening access point into South Africa, but also into the rest of the continent.

I would go further and say Blackness too. He represents now
(he was a terrorist up into Daddy Bush's administration) a friendly face.

And as you say he can "pre-endorse" an agenda.

So you will find all kinds of agendas that his being markets.

The Rhodes-Mandela foundation! What the hell? I mean damn, Cecil John Rhodes is the quintessential colonial racist.

How does Mandela ties himself to that history? But he does. And so makes that history more palatable. A kind of 'endorsed' erasure is you will.

Bono and Geldof too. And Will Smith ... huh?

Anyone of 'note' who comes to SAfrica gets an audience with Mandela. That audience becomes news. And so it produces an agenda of access that relegates our complexity to marketable produce.

Oprah has a constant audience with Mandela.

Mandela has become like Gandhi. Any white person who wants to lecture on the positives of non-violence in any situation where racism is present, can press Gandhi.

They don't know, or care about his support for caste. They don't know about his relationship with Ambedkar. A relationship in which Gandhi tried to influence the Dalit leader to 'honor' his low caste station in life.

In Mandela's case, little is known about the repression of Africanists like Sobukwe. Or how Mandela and his ANC have appropriated the images of Steve Biko. And worse, suppressed their role in the liberation struggle.

Your point is about the "white lens" is spot on. The damage becomes 'history'.

And that 'history' is unbalanced and worse, it is a tool for continued oppression.

Thank you for looking in here.

Peace,
Ridwan

Cero said...

(This is a rich thread and could, like, turn into an article, you know?) Random thoughts:

* I'd say that African-Americans, while not really enjoying full citizenship rights etc., etc., and while speaking from a different experience than white Americans have, etc., etc., *still* speak from within U.S. culture and are informed by it. The U.S.-o-centrism is a real problem and these excuses, "how could you expect me to know" and "but I do not feel safe" are infantile / ridiculous in my view.

* "Not feeling safe" around Africans / cultural 'Others' / etc., oh yes - there is so much of that here I tend to ignore it, relegate it to the background, except that then if I find myself somewhere like the liberal whitosphere for some reason
I then realize, OMG, they really think this way - or in any liberal non-whitosphere, any time *other nonwhites* are seen as the enemy.

* And then - here's my aha moment - not feeling safe ideologically
or emotionally may be directly related to not feeling safe around those pesky Others, buying into the idea that They are cannibals, etc.

* The damage is neutralized by becoming 'history' - yes, it's key - and then that history is used as a tool for further oppression, yes.

* Re ANC and vicissitudes: have you read David's Story, by Zoe Wycomb, and if so what do you think (I was fascinated, but I am not a SA expert)?

Ridwan said...

Prof Zero I read Wicomb's first novel "You can't get lost in Cape Town."

I know of David's Story. And I know that Wicomb lives and teaches in Britain.

Her work is an important part of exploring so called coloured identity in S.Africa. She is one of a new crop of writers who have taken on the challenge of producing work that goes
in-between the worlds of pre and 'post-apartheidness'.

I just finished an article for a Diaspora journal on Malay identity and political consciousness.

I was suprised to find how little work there is on identity and reformulations of coloured, Malay, and Indian identity in S.Africa.

There is more writing about a general S.African identity. Its relationship to the African Renaissance, for example.

Fiction writers like Wycomb fill in the spaces of what is still an emerging piece.

Best,
Ridwan

Cero said...

What fascinated me in David's Story was that the ANC was not represented as 100% virtuous. The David character, an ANC militant, had also been tortured by them for ideological variance. Does not admit this of course for the sake of their image and also because he is trying to figure out for himself how to situate himself as a person in relation to - everything.

Kweli said...

Man, I just read this one. I am laughing to bits. I have friends who are just like this. I'm laughing so hard I got nothing to say!

Ridwan said...

Hey there Kweli. Yeah boet you must be navigating this kind of sh*t on the daily.

At present we have Jesse Jackson in the country explaining to us the value of the anti-apartheid struggle.

How can we know unless that value is westernized for us by the right kind of non-confrontational blackness.

Obama did not just happen. In fact, Marcus Garvey warned us about Obama even back then without referring to his person.

Ass kissing niggas distort much the same way that whiteness does.

Peace,
Ridwan