Part 1 on Race: The Wretched of the Earth
By Dennis Matanda
Although the title of this article is taken from Franz Fanon, it does not, under any circumstances, advocate violence. While Fanon was deeply interested in trying to create a new world where both black and white skin colors were, inherently, equally ‘good’, I am more interested in discussing the superficial elements of race – what we attest to heuristically. According to Morris Fiorina in Disconnect, we human beings tend to be natural statisticians in looking out for those that are more like us; and in the process, black people will seek out other black people and whites, yellows and browns will also do the same. Fiorina also makes the point that people are not really good at making deductions about color. We, mostly, make assumptions and errors about people we are not very well acquainted with – and this has been predicated upon us by generations and eons of trying to survive. Many of our ancestors were able to make it alive by quickly deciding who was friend or foe.
On the other hand, the fact of the matter is that elements of race are sometimes exacerbated by societal elders for political ends. Some Chinese governments taught their wards that the Japanese were evil. Indians and Pakistanis are basically enemies. The Irish were the wretched of the earth in the early 20th century and some kindergarten kids in the US are taught to see Black People, Latinos and other White People. Does this make anyone racist? No it does not. Racism is a very different animal and it shall be dealt with in Part II. Race is about whether you are negroid, mongoloid or caucasian. It is a fact; a part of morphology and also, physiology. We are who we are because of our race. But this is not the ultimate determinant of a person. And again, this treatise does not intend to get into the essence of the the psychosis of race. Instead, we need to determine a few things first:
Are certain races inferior to others? Well … We need to quantify the elements around ‘inferiority.’ What makes one race better than the other? Is it the first race’s capacity for survival against the odds? Then the people from the Olduvai Gorge ought to be the most superior race in the world; and maybe, that’s why they keep winning marathons! But having an argument around endurance will not get you far in the inferior vs. superior divide. Then maybe, the suggestion should delve into economic power and military superiority.
Would Africans get a little more respect around the world if their countries were considered economically viable and stable? I think that they would. If Kwame Nkrumah had not made the mistake of being insulated from his countrymen, Ghana would have been better governed and thus, more respected as an exporter of cocoa. Uganda was on a positive trajectory until the Idi Amin debacle. One could, on the other hand, argue that South America and Asia have had shares of the world’s basket cases. However, Asians have, somehow, achieved a modicum of economic respite in the form of the Asian Tigers – and also, China, Japan and even South Korea. Asians – including Indians, Pakistanis and the Russians – have a few strong economies and other countries even have nuclear weapons. They are powers to be reckoned with and there is even talk of challenge to Western hegemony.
But look at Africa. Which country is doing well? To start, Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, does not have as much electricity as it needs and there is load shedding. The country seems to serve under the imprecation that is oil. On the other hand, if one looks South East, the Democratic Republic of Congo is better known as the ‘Rape Capital of the World’ and not one of the world’s most resourceful places. To use the phrase again, there are too many basket cases in Africa. In what seems like a continuous spate of ‘inferiority vs. superiority,’ there are always people from other countries and continents – fairer skinned people – coming in to provide solutions that the Africans themselves should be adept at doing. After all, they have been here much, MUCH longer than other races. Conversely, there are shoots of green on the African continent. However, saying this is even more frustrating than anything else. Bill Clinton talked about the new generation of leaders for Africa. But Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda are not progressing in terms of providing their people better standards of living!
Who can blame outsiders for asking: ‘What is Wrong with Africa?’ This question is answered in a myriad of ways. The media tries to highlight elements from the Motherland – and presents the case that intervention and ensuring that the African countries join the league of developed nations will solve the problem. That discourse has merit. However, who can blame those who watch the drama from assuming that while there is something wrong with a collective Africa, there must be something wrong with the black continent and in extrapolation, the black skin?
To be Continued in Part II.