2
MenuWallOpinions
Articles

“The Hearts Of Darkness” Decodes Western Media’s Racism

Thu, 30 Jun 2016 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

INTRODUCTION

Mr. Milton Allimadi’s manifold arguments and stiff intellectualism in defense of Africa probably places his thin volume on investigative journalism, “The Hearts of Darkness: How White Racists Created the Racist Image of Africa,” on the same steric plane as Edward Said’s “Orientalism”; Cheikh Anta Diop’s “African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality”; Bernal Martin’s triumvirate volumes: “Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization (The Fabrication of Ancient Greece)”; Noam Chomsky’s “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies”; and, Neil Henry’s “American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media.”

BOOK REVIEW

It is common knowledge that the Western media, particularly the American media, have generally not had a close and respectable rapport with Africa since her historical interface with the West.

Both the print and electronic media have been the notable culprits in this regard. This is actually the case, for instance, if one considers the fact that the West had fed and continues to feed her largely gullible masses with unequal dichotomous reportage on events unfolding in a putatively incorrigible Africa on the one hand and a virginal West on the other.

Therefore, it is not surprising when these uncritically imbibed misrepresentations are encapsulated, and, consequently held up by unabashed proponents of racial purity as immutable cultural paragon against which to evaluate the collective personality of Africa as well as the cognitive competence of her children.

What is the solution?

Several.

Per adventure the sweat and blood spurting from the singular orifice of a conscientious journalist’s mighty pen can help asphyxiate the extreme emotionalism associated with racist drivel to its ultimate demise.

In this essay we review one of our most important and influential friends in American and African media circles, Milton Allimadi’s “The Hearts of Darkness: How White Writers Created The Racist Image Of Africa,” a book which we suppose many of our readers may not be already familiar with.

First, let us recall two troubling conversations we had with a White American, a master’s degree holder from Yale University, in 1997. The other was with a Philippine-American, also a graduate student majoring in mathematics at New York University, in 1999.

Let’s call the former Mr. Clinton and the latter Mr. Martinez.

Both dialogues transpired while we were working as a security guard at a Nursing Home on Carpenter Avenue in the Bronx, New York:

Mr. Clinton: “What is your name, gentleman?”

Francis: “I’m Francis.”

Mr. Clinton: “But why would you be named ‘Francis’? Don’t you have an African name, sir?”

Francis: “Oh, yes, I do. It’s Yaw. In the Akan culture of West Africa a male born on Thursday is called as such. In fact, Thursday is ‘Yawada’ in my language Asante-Twi or Fante-Twi. I believe the name ‘Yaw’ arose from a pulverization of ‘Yawada.’ My surname is also ‘Kwarteng,’ anyway.”

Mr. Clinton: “Wow. This is quite interesting. Anyway, aren’t you happy the president of your country is finally released from prison, Mr. Francis?”

Francis: “How so, Mr. Clinton? Sir, may I ask who this person is, and which country you’re referring to?”

Mr. Clinton: “Oh, it’s Africa, and the president is Mr. Nelson Mandela, the erstwhile communist and terrorist.”

Francis: “Africa, a country? And the honorable Mr. Nelson Mandela, the president of this so-called country, a communist and a terrorist?”

All hell broke loose as we fixated our attention on him, Mr. Clinton, making him appear suddenly jaded, blanched, and slightly jumpy. Just then, he started to take leave of us, but not before he indicted the American media for his helpless stupidity and crass ignorance of global affairs and international politics:

Mr. Clinton: “It’s not me, Mr. Francis, it’s the America media!”

This is how the second conversation, with Mr. Martinez, went:

Mr. Martinez: “Good morning, sir. How’re doing this morning, and where do you come from?”

Francis: “I’m great. I’m from Ghana, West Africa. How do you feel this morning too?

Mr. Martinez: “I’m fine. Oh, so you’re from Africa? Do you know I always wanted to go to Africa?”

Francis: “Happy to hear that, and do you also know that I‘ve never been a successful clairvoyant, Mr. Martinez? Why would you want to go to Africa, Mr. Martinez, if I should ask?”

Mr. Martinez: “Well, I wanted to go there and find out if I could also play with the lions and tigers and elephants like the way native Africans do when we watch them on American TV. In any case, how long does it take to get to New York from your country?”

Francis: “10 to 11 hours, direct flight, from Accra, the capital city.”

Mr. Martinez: “Wow. Isn’t this strange, Mr. Francis, 10 to 11 hours, direct flight? How far removed Africa and your country must be from America!”

Francis: “Mr. Martinez, how long does it to get to New York from the Philippines, from Manila?”

Mr. Martinez: “Oh, not that long, Mr. Francis, maybe 18 to 24 hours, direct flight. Why?”

Francis: “Not that long, you said, eh? Didn’t you just tell me a couple of minutes ago that you were a graduate student majoring in mathematics at NYU?”

Mr. Martinez: “Yes, I did, but why?”

Francis: “What is the numerical divergence of your 18 or 24 hours from my 10 or 11 hours, Mr. Martinez? Which is farther from New York, Ghana or the Philippines? You tell me!”

The last question to him somehow catapulted him to full consciousness from his otherwise psychic somnolence. Surprisingly, he too would stare at us blandly. Then, he quickly rushed to offer us the following platitudinous indictment of the American media before hastily departing:

Mr. Martinez: “Please Mr. Francis, it’s not me. It’s the American media. I plead ignorance!”

It is therefore no wonder, given the nature of these two reenacted conversations, that constantly hearing highly educated people parrot stereotypical mischaracterizations of Africa and its peoples made us “angry” and “nauseous,” even.

How could two brilliant elite university graduate students fall for shoddy journalism by the journalistic shenanigans of professionals who call themselves “journalists”? Don’t such students take any course on African history and politics and geography in college, at all?

Even if they do, don’t they possess the necessary psychological and emotional temerity needed for the independent investigation of the verity, or otherwise, of news coverage on Africa? We don’t think so!

In any case, wanting to understand why so many people uncritically accept the infallibility of “The New York Times” and Time magazine, at least on matters relating to Africa, we ventured out on our own to trace the racist ideological lineage connecting the major American news media with political events in Africa.

The trajectory of our investigative odyssey would ultimately bring us into contact with Allimadi’s polemic: “The Hearts of Darkness: How White Writers Created The Racist Image of Africa."

In this small volume Allimadi performs a superb sleuthing task of dredging up some of the racist reportage on Africa spanning the ’40s via the ’90s, news coverage meticulously archived by the publisher of The New York Times.”

This is a fascinating work in that it agglutinates a broad spectrum of seemingly disparate topics into a comprehensive synthesis, with an expertise reminiscent of an authority on African historiography, race relations, political economy, and global history.

The book’s topical subjects include the following:

The broad sweep of Allimadi’s politico-historical analysis includes the racist language used by “The New York Times’” reporters, for instance, Homer Bigart, who covered the inaugural birth of our country Ghana, with Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as the first president; a fresh literary critique of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”;

A timely revisionist critique of Keith Richburg’s intellectually stunted and ideologically warped book “Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa”;

The duplicity of Alex Shoumatoff and his sympathetic relationship with the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF); the “tribalization” of conflicts in Africa;

A nonromantic revisit to some of the high points in Africa’s historical past; the evil of apartheid in South Africa;

The disgraceful defeat of Mussolini‘s “formidable” army in Ethiopia;

The Mahdi’s militaristic thrashing of the British in the Sudan; a jocular and intellectual refutation of African anthropophagy;

As well as the pathologizing of inferiority complexes associated with some Africans via Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Mask,” are just a few of the effervescent mélange of items Allimadi so handsomely and so foolhardily catalogues in his book.

Allimadi also provides us with oodles of outstanding evidence for his modest claims.

In fine, most of the book focuses on how news on Africa should have been reported with “The New York Times” particularly in mind during the period when the paper should have played a more positive role in Africa’s liberation struggles, rather than in its denigration, from the inseverably clenched teeth of colonialism.

Allimadi should be highly commended for a job well executed.

On a final note, I have to say that Allimadi also possesses a fabulous mastery of English, even as he subtly moves away from a geocentric focus on academic grandiloquence, as often seen in academic summae on Africa, toward prosaic simplicity.

Additionally, the complete lack of analytic denseness renders the book highly readable. It is therefore our recommendation that this well-written monograph on journalism, “The Hearts of Darkness: How White Writers Created The Racist Image of Africa,” should be required reading in every enclave of intellectual inquiry in which the decrepit paradigm of looking askance at Africa becomes a thing of the past and a refashioned African personality is placed in its stead.

Against this background, the cogency of Allimadi’s manifold arguments and his stiff intellectualism in defense of Africa places his book on the same steric plane as Noam Chomsky’s “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies”; Neil Henry’s “American Carnival: Journalism Under Siege in an Age of New Media”; Bernal Martin’s triumvirate volumes: “Black Athena”; Edward Said’s “Orientalism”; and Cheikh Anta Diop’s African Origin of Civilization.”

But Allimadi, when are you taking on the electronic media?

This question aside, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” a title which Mr. Allimadi borrowed for his book (Note: Conrad’s “Heart” does not have the letter “S,” but Mr. Allimadi’s surely does), perhaps has its strongest critique in Chinua Achebe’s provocative essay “An Image of Africa: Racism In Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness,’” a book we have read with keenness and intellectual curiosity (see Massachusetts Review (18), 1977. Repeated in “Heart of Darkness: An Authoritative Text, background and Sources Criticism,” 1961, 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough, London: W. W Norton and Co., 1988, pp.251-261. See also Chinua Achebe’s collection of essays (1988), “Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays, 1965-1987”).

How do we end this review?

Let us finish it off with another equally tantalizing anecdote:

Once upon a time, God was luxuriating in his bedroom after six hectic days of creation, when the clank of metals in his “creation laboratory” abutting his bedroom window unexpectedly punctured his cogitative bubble, derailing his articulated train of thought on whether he had left anything out of creation.

He, namely God, quickly sped past his library and entered the lab, only to find hirsute Satan on his hind legs in profuse perspiration. The following conversation ensued:

God: “What’re doing here alone by yourself, Lucifer, at this hour?”

Satan: “You…you left a whole set of race of people out of creation…and I’m here to create this miscellaneous race of human beings…I would then have to graft my evil personality on theirs since you imbued white folks’ essence with cherubic vitality…I would also make them cannibals, savages, tribesmen and tribeswomen, warmongers, intellectually inferior to whites, nymphomaniacs…make then evolve from monkeys if possible…make them kleptomaniacs, stateless, indolent, and so on.”

God: “What race of people do you have in mind then?”

Satan: “Black people...Black Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, Afro-Brazilians…Sub-Saharan Africans…Negroes…Niggers…I mean Black people, your honor?”

God: “I should have seen this event coming…Oh, yes, I read this prediction somewhere…I wish I could remember exactly where and stopped you before advancing to this stage.”

Satan: “But you’re God…aren’t you? And omniscient? And you can’t even recall where you got this information?”

God: “Oh, yes, I remember now…it’s the American media!”

Satan: “Are you surprised by this? If you don’t care to know the American media’s support of my ambition to create this degenerate race have been unwavering…lest I forget to also tell you this…I picked up this very idea from them in the first place.”

God: “The American media?”

Satan: “Oh, yes, the American media…ha…ha…ha…ha…you did just tell me this, didn’t you, Almighty God, that you got this info from the American media?”

God: “To tell you the truth, Mr. Lucifer, the chapter on such racist nonsense will surely come to pass with the publication of Allimadi’s The Hearts of Darkness: How White Writers Created The Racist Image of Africa that should usher in a new era of journalistic fairness and intellectual positivism, especially where Africa is concerned.”

WBAI-Pacifica Radio (Gary Byrd)

“Milton Allimadi unveils the racial stereotyping which gave birth to 'all the news that's fit to print…Milton Allimadi takes his scalpel…and unveils the racial stereotyping of African people by the mainstream media.”

About Mr. Milton Allimadi

Milton Allimadi attended the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia where he won the prestigious James Wechsler Memorial Prize award in international journalism. He has M.A. and Bachelor’s degrees in Economics from Syracuse University. He started his journalism career with internships at “The Journal of Commerce” and “The Wall Street Journal.” He was a freelance reporter for “The New York Times,” a reporter and deputy managing editor with The City Sun, before founding The Black Star News.

Milton Allimadi publishes and edits The Black Star News which he co-founded in 1997 with seed funding from Bill and Camille Cosby. He previously was deputy editor of “The City Sun” and prior to that a “Metro Desk” news stringer for “The New York Times.” He's a graduate of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia. Allimadi is a member of a weekly reporter’s roundtable on WLIB every Sunday at 9.30PM and has been a frequent guest commentator on “Errol Louis's Inside City Hall” show on NY1 News and on Voice of America's "Straight Talk Africa" with Shaka Ssali. He runs a free weekly journalism workshop for local residents in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, every Monday (Source “The Huffington Post”).

About Mr. Milton Allimadi’s Paper, “Black Star News.”

Founded in 1997 BSN (Black Star News) has scored several news scoops…including a major Wall Street scandal at Morgan Stanley; a corrupt lawyer who fleeced money from settlement awards he'd won for Holocaust survivors; and many more…that have won it media coverage including on CNN, “The Wall Street Journal,” “The Daily News,” “The New York Post,” “Newsweek,” “The New York Times” magazine, “New York Observer,” “The Village Voice,” and “Brill's Content magazine.” Please become a part of The Black Star News family today.

Readers can reach Mr. Milton Allimadi (646)-261-7566 (or via Mallimadi@gmail.com)

Website (Black Star News): http://www.blackstarnews.com/info/about-us.html

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis