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The Incredible Confession of a Young Swiss Lady (Part 2)

Tue, 10 Jan 2012 Source: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong

By Black Power

Barbara, the Swiss, apologetically revealed her perception of Black Africans prior to her encounter with me. She had from infancy been made to believe by her family and the western media that Black Africans had what she called ‘inferior brain’ and lack the ability to reason, and are also violent – a notion that she claimed many if not most of her pals vehemently hold on to. They could not understand why there are so many wars and diseases, and why there is so much poverty, lack of basic necessities of life and standard infrastructure as portrayed by the media despite the fact that the continent is believed to be pregnant with loads of natural resources.

She had questioned that if Black Africans were indeed intelligent, then why are the natural resources on the continent not translated into wealth and comfortable living? She also erroneously believed just like her colleagues, that the only things Black Africans were capable of doing or excelling at were those that have to do with physique or physical strength (e.g. boxing, football, athletics and other sporting activities as well as manual labour) and not critical thinking and scientific experimentation.

Nothing thus encouraged her to mingle with Black Africans whose believed evolution from mammals (apes) to fully fledged humans she thought had not yet been completed; and whose intellectual position and hygiene levels were thus sub-standard. This also explained why she avoided the only available seat attached to mine when she first entered the train at Locarno station, an action she persistently apologised for. Barbara solidly mentioned that the unfortunate notion that Black Africans were less intelligent, senseless and violent had occurred many a time in private conversations with family, White friends, and even White strangers. This was the bold and sincere confession of Barbara.

Her confession drew my attention to and made me reflect more on a very ridiculous question a middle-aged Italian had previously asked me in Rome. He apparently wanted to establish if my family slept on top of trees like other Africans. I had cheekily responded that if Africans slept on top of trees as he claimed then the Italian ambassador to Ghana and his staff were sleeping and embarking on their ambassadorial duties on top of giant trees, as Ghanaians offer diplomats “highest” (the best) places and the most secured accommodation. I had explained that the taller and bigger the tree, the more difficult it was for lions, tigers and bears to reach the top, and the better for the Italian diplomats. He had been terribly offended by my “unkind” response and consequently avoided engaging in any conversation with me again.

It was pretty clear from Barbara’s confession that the feeling of hatred that some Whites express towards African immigrants in the West and the lack of respect they have for the Black African is significantly influenced by the horrible images they see on their screens – a society that has every mineral and natural resource one can think of, yet remains the poorest and “filthiest” society on earth.

She promised to heed to my advice to avoid relying entirely on the western print and broadcast media for information about the African continent but to occasionally embark on personal researches using the internet and other authentic sources; further interaction with more Black people was also recommended.

I explained that the image of Africa created by the western media feeds the perception that the continent is one huge perilous and doomed country. Even though horrible stories are in fact relevant to our global knowledge, other aspects of African life are often overlooked by the western media. They deliberately fail to give a more rounded portrayal of African life and culture than the usual one of poverty; war; famine, starvation and heavily malnourished children with flies in their foods and faces; deadly diseases and pestilence; despotism; savagery or primitivism; and filth. In so doing, they convey false and heavily misleading image of the continent and its inhabitants to the rest of the world. I added that no matter how unplanned and underdeveloped a region may appear to be, there will always be some good and exciting things about it and its people that outsiders would be excited about.

I however stressed that the western media could not always be criticized for the negative pictures and images that they usually convey about African countries, as they may only be calling a spade a spade on certain occasions. Concerns are however raised when news out of Africa is exceptionally negative and limited to regions of conflict and disaster. Again negative pieces I explained, require superior standards of precision or accuracy and more time to double-check, but disappointingly not many western media people consider this important journalistic principle in the execution of their professional duties in African countries.

I concluded my brief lecture by admitting that I would be unfair to the western media if I entirely blamed them for westerners’ negative perception of Africans as it is not their obligation but that of the African media to enhance and promote the image of their own continent.

When we reached Domodossola and I got off the train, Barbara unexpectedly also got off to hang around with me for over an hour before catching another train to continue her journey. I saw her off with the words: Go and proclaim to your White folks the little that you now know about Black Africans, avoiding prejudice, and treating each and every person you meet with respect, dignity and love irrespective of colour or race; and may the Supreme Being be with you.

We will surely be committing the fallacy of generalization if we maintain that Barbara’s revelation is a representation of all White people’s perception of Black Africans. However, we will also be deceiving ourselves if we rule out the possibility that her previous negative conception of Black Africans represents that of many if not most White people.

But why won’t the West make a mockery of us and disrespect us when the judiciary, state attorneys and/or the police connive with individuals (particularly politicians) and/or groups to steal huge sums of money from the state. It is revealed that the government of Ghana, between 2001 and 2011, paid GH¢624 million (about $400 million) as judgement debts. Many of the court rulings and the circumstances under which some of these monies were awarded to individuals and groups are superlatively fishy and questionable.

Why won’t they ridicule and disrespect us when massive amount of cocaine seized from notorious drug traffickers and tendered in court as evidence mysterious ‘metamorphosizes’ into baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and the culprits are consequently left off the hook.

Why won’t they disrespect us when monies raised or borrowed for developmental projects pathetically land in the pockets of individual politicians and sympathizers of ruling parties, when children are studying under trees with no text books, when proper health and transport facilities are virtually non-existent and the little available infrastructure continues to deteriorate.

Why won’t they make a mockery of us and disrespect us when leaders embark on private trips on Presidential Jets, and shamelessly use hundreds of thousands of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money (dollars) for air route navigation facilities, and landing and parking charges, when the ordinary citizen struggles to afford a bus fare to and from their workplaces. Is it that difficult for a president to rely on reputable commercial flights for such trips?

Why won’t the West ridicule us when opposition parties waste thousands of dollars and other resources embarking on a-two-year election campaigns, when the abjectly poor electorates to whom they make the empty promises for votes, rather believe in the aphorism: ‘action speaks louder than words’. Is it necessary and reasonable for a political party to commence intensive election campaigns two solid years before the D-day?

Why won’t they disregard us when African leaders persistently steal millions and billions of dollars from their countries purses and deposit them in foreign banks when the vast majority of their own people lack the basic necessities of life – good drinking water, food, and shelter?

I just don’t get it.

When are our obstinate, superlatively greedy and empty-headed demagogues going to heed to our supplication for transparency and good governance? When are we going to have the handsome and beautiful ones at the wheel of the political wagon? Oh When! When! When! Heaven only knows.

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (Black Power) is an Investigative Journalist, a researcher and the author of Fourth Phase of Enslavement (2011). He may be contacted via email (andypower2002@yahoo.it).

Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong