Nigeria: Shell sells some oil fields – local companies make bids
August 27, 2014 – 8:59 am | No Comment

Environmental Damage caused by oil spill. PHOTO/File
Royal Dutch Shell has sold some of 4 oil fields up for grabs in Nigeria, it said on Wednesday, as the oil and gas company pushes ahead with global …

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The long and ugly tradition of treating Africa as a dirty, diseased place
August 27, 2014 – 4:06 pm | No Comment

By Laura Seay and Kim Yi Dionne

This week’s Newsweek magazine cover features an image of a chimpanzee behind the words, “A Back Door for Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark a U.S. Epidemic.” This cover story is problematic for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that there is virtually no chance that “bushmeat” smuggling could bring Ebola to the United States. (The term is a catchall for non-domesticated animals consumed as a protein source; anyone who hunts deer and then consumes their catch as venison in the United States is eating bushmeat without calling it that.) While eating bushmeat is fairly common in the Ebola zone, the vast majority of those who do consume it are not eating chimpanzees. Moreover, the current Ebola outbreak likely had nothing to do with bushmeat consumption.

Far from presenting a legitimate public health concern, the authors of the piece and the editorial decision to use chimpanzee imagery on the cover have placed Newsweek squarely in the center of a long and ugly tradition of treating Africans as savage animals and the African continent as a dirty, diseased place to be feared. What can social science tell us about why Newsweek’s cover story is so problematic?

Categorizing peoples in the colonial period

The Europeans who colonized Africa in the late 19th century were members of a culture obsessed with classifying and categorizing the natural world. This quest built much of modern biology, but it also led to some rather unscientific justifications for the colonial project.

One of these was an idea developed by Frederick Coombs, author of Coombs’s Popular Phrenology. In the book, Coombs expounded a then-popular (and completely false) idea that the size, shape and other physical characteristics of a person’s skull determine that individual’s intelligence. Coombs and his fellow phrenologists started with the assumption that non-northern and western Europeans – namely, southern Europeans (who were not considered to be racially “white” at the time) and people of color, were inherently less intelligent than northern Europeans with light-colored skin.

Not surprisingly, this led to a flawed conclusion: that people with heads that were supposedly more “ape-like” in shape were less intelligent than northern Europeans and therefore in need of the “civilizing mission” that colonization was supposed to bring. The Victorian phrenologists developed elaborate typologies supposedly showing that Africans had the most apelike – and therefore most “savage” – skull types, thus justifying their subjugation under colonial rule.

While Coombs’s book may be the best-known of the works of Victorian phrenology, the racism that his conjectures embodied was deeply embedded in the culture of most colonizing states. Most Westerners of the time believed that people of color were “savages,” desperately in need of the benefits of modernity, Christianity and intelligence the colonists believed they were well-suited to bring to Africa.

The racism embodied in the notion that African people’s skulls are more similar to those of other primates than those of other homo sapiens skulls made its way into popular culture. And it did so in a particularly insidious way – by portraying Africans as apelike savages. Images showing Africans as apelike were commonplace. In popular culture, Africans were portrayed in postcards, film and literature as “savages” who were not as “civilized” as their colonizers. These stereotypes even extended to children’s books. A Belgian cartoon book, Tintin au Congo, is perhaps the most famous of these representations; there, the Congolese people whom boy adventurer Tintin encounters are at times almost indistinguishable from the great apes of central Africa.

U.S. Open 2014: Serena Williams overwhelms Taylor Townsend
August 27, 2014 – 10:18 am | No Comment
U.S. Open 2014: Serena Williams overwhelms Taylor Townsend

Serena Williams (l) hugs Taylor Townsend (r) after their round 1 match of the U.S. Open, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. PHOTO/Darron Cummings/AP
Serena Williams began her bid for a third consecutive U.S. Open title with a …

U.S. Open 2014: It’s Taylor Townsend vs Serena Williams tonight
August 26, 2014 – 1:26 pm | No Comment
U.S. Open 2014: It’s Taylor Townsend vs Serena Williams tonight

Serena Williams (l) celebrates during the victory over Ana Ivanovic 6-4,6-1 at the finals of the Western & Southern Open on August 17, 2014. PHOTO/Andy Lyons/Getty Images; Taylor Townsend (r) in actions against Alize Cornet …

Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin shine as West Indies defeats Bangladesh
August 26, 2014 – 10:42 am | No Comment
Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin shine as West Indies defeats Bangladesh

Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin entered the record books with blistering centuries as West Indies defeated Bangladesh by 91 runs to complete a clean sweep of the 3 – match One-Day International (ODI) series in …

Obama Orders Review Police Use of Military Equipment as concerns mount
August 23, 2014 – 9:27 pm | No Comment
Obama Orders Review Police Use of Military Equipment as concerns mount

Heavily armed police in military gear advance towards an unarmed protester in Ferguson, Missouri. PHOTO/Jeff Roberson/AP
U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the distribution of military hardware to state and local police out …

Kenyan banks, awash with cash, looking to expand beyond East Africa
August 23, 2014 – 4:56 pm | No Comment
Kenyan banks, awash with cash, looking to expand beyond East Africa

Cash-rich Kenyan banks are increasingly looking at entering new markets outside East Africa and compete with Nigerian and South African lenders for control of the continent’s banking sector.
Co-operative Bank and DTB are the latest Kenyan …

African American women-owned businesses up by 258 percent – Report
August 23, 2014 – 3:12 pm | No Comment
African American women-owned businesses up by 258 percent – Report

Karen Lawrence – CEO and Founder, It’s My Affair, LLC
As the “great economic recession” recedes, women business owners in the United States are emerging victorious with record growth and economic impact. Even so, women entrepreneurs …

Usain Bolt sets new 100m indoors best time of 9.98sec in Warsaw, Poland
August 23, 2014 – 2:24 pm | No Comment
Usain Bolt sets new 100m indoors best time of 9.98sec in Warsaw, Poland

Usain Bolt. PHOTO/File
Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt set a new best time of 9.98 seconds for the rarely run 100 meter race indoors at Warsaw’s national football stadium on Saturday.
Bolt – the Olympic champion and …

Former Prime Minister Manning rejects Trinidad & Tobago’s highest honor
August 23, 2014 – 2:02 pm | No Comment
Former Prime Minister Manning rejects Trinidad & Tobago’s highest honor

Former Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago., Patrick Manning. PHOTO/Reuters
Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has described as “unfortunate” the decision of former prime minister Patrick Manning not to accept the twin-island nation’s highest …

Tony Elumelu and Nigeria’s Wealthy Join Forces to Fight Ebola
August 18, 2014 – 11:27 am | No Comment
Tony Elumelu and Nigeria’s Wealthy Join Forces to Fight Ebola

Africapitalist proponent, Tony Elumelu has pledged N100 million ($617,000), through his foundation, to help battle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  He will be  joining a growing list, which includes Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, …

Rep. John Lewis to Barack Obama: “Declare Martial Law in Ferguson, Missouri”
August 14, 2014 – 3:13 pm | No Comment
Rep. John Lewis to Barack Obama: “Declare Martial Law in Ferguson, Missouri”

U.S. Rep. John Lewis. PHOTO/Creative Commons
U.S. Rep. John Lewis has suggested that U.S. President Barack Obama declare martial law Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the police killing of an unarmed African American teenager (Michael …