Zainab is a writer and photographer. Her work often focuses on lifestyle and social commentary,
Do you ever wonder if racism in America affects people in Africa? If you have been on the internet in the past few days, you probably know about the protests that are happening all over the United States in response to police brutality and racism. Maybe you’ve seen a number of tweets from people in Africa in open support of the protests. Maybe you’re wondering if they should worry about the racism in the United States. I’m here to tell you that, yes, they should be. Here are a few reasons why.
Why Africans Should Worry About U.S. Racism
- Our loved ones live in the U.S.
- Racism poses obstacles to our academic prosperity.
- Racism hinders our career development.
- The U.S. has a large influence on the entertainment industry.
- The U.S. provides a wrong depiction of African culture.
- The effect America and the West have on Africa’s development.
- The influence that America’s online power has on Africa.
1. Our Loved Ones Live in the U.S.
Let’s start with the obvious and most direct reason we should be concerned. People in Africa have some of their closest family and friends living in the United States. So, of course I'm going to worry about the possibility of my brother, cousin or niece being shot or killed by the police just because of their skin colour. This is especially hard for those of us with loved ones an ocean and continent away, where we can't do much to help.
2. Racism Poses Obstacles to Our Academic Prosperity.
One of my neighbours dreams of furthering his studies in one of the world's top universities. He's smart enough and athletic enough to get a scholarship, but with all that is happening in America, him—and other young African kids like him—now have to think twice about joining the most prestigious universities in the world (such as MIT, Stanford, and any of the Ivy League schools). The United States' glaring racism is making deserving teenagers and families in Africa worry about something that should have been cheerfully celebrated.
As if that’s not enough, we have some of that same racism reflected at U.S. embassies in our African countries. This discrimination is obvious when we are applying for visas. We have to worry.
3. Racism Hinders Our Career Development.
Our careers are also at stake. All those international conferences, awards and career opportunities in the United States are not sounding as exciting at the moment. Although some of the prominent speakers, participants and organizers of those international events come from Africa, we still don't feel as welcomed as we should.
Africans want to explore profitable business and investment opportunities with people and companies in America, but all that racial prejudice is making it hard for them to do that. In short, racism in America is jeopardizing the occupations and incomes of a good number of Africans. So, of course we are worried!
In fact, some of those racist Americans are getting appointed to head departments in international bodies with headquarters in African countries. Some of these racists are starting organizations that are meant to operate and serve the local African people. Every African man, woman and child who interacts with these people are at risk of being mistreated. The way Americans view the blacks in their communities will be more or less how they view us Africans. Truth be told, with their American superiority complex, they are likely to treat us a lot worse over here.
4. The U.S. Has a Large Influence on the Entertainment Industry.
We cannot deny the humongous effect Hollywood has on the world, including Africa. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, global box office and home entertainment reached $96.8 Billion in 2018. About 24% of the Film industry's revenue came from the Middle East, Africa and Europe. This number doesn't take into account the online piracy and free streaming that is happening in many African countries.
When you ask me (and many of my fellow Africans) who our favourite actors are, you are most likely to hear names like Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Regina Hall and Jennifer Lawrence. Yes, we cried as much as you did when Jack died on that plank of wood in Titanic. Africans also debate whether Marvel or DC is better. In fact, I've watched all the X-men movies and enjoyed both Avatars. And, to be completely honest, I consume more American film and TV shows than I do African ones. I admit, they are pretty good. I'm not ashamed to give credit where it's due.
But, what if the people who control that industry happen to be racist? Maybe, as an adult who is self-aware, I can resist being influenced by a television show full of racial bias, but if I was a parent, I'd hate to find out that the animated movies my kids watch have racist undertones. We definitely do not want our kids or our communities to normalize racial slurs or think that ethnic prejudice is okay!
5. The U.S. Provides a Wrong Depiction of African Culture.
Did you know that Captain America: Civil War, the 2016 Marvel movie, was partly filmed in Nigeria? Or so you thought! In fact, I just found out that they recreated those Lagos, Nigeria scenes in Atlanta. But I know for sure that they shot part of Sense8, the American science fiction drama television series, in Nairobi, Kenya. I mean they made one of the 8 super cool main characters in the show a Kenyan! You bet I was extra excited. But, did they authentically depict the way of life of an ordinary Kenyan?
It’s clear that Hollywood understands the importance of its international audience and how to increase their fanbase. More and more non-American actors and stories are being included in their production. Which is a good thing. The industry should become more inclusive. However, it can become a bad thing if Hollywood doesn't genuinely represent the cultures of said countries. Hollywood and American television have the power to rewrite our history and tell the world a different story about Africa. That is something to worry about.
For example CNN finds complete joy in negatively portraying Africa. They have made the continent of Africa synonymous with conflicts, poverty, corruption and disease. Which I do not deny exist in Africa, but they choose to ignore all of the amazing things the continent has to offer. Also, let's not act like conflict, poverty, corruption and disease doesn’t exist in America. Just look at what is happening on the television news in the last few weeks.
6. The Effect America and the West Have on Africa’s Development.
The political and economic international collaboration that is happening around the world has affected many African currencies. It has also had an effect on the availability of resources and the political stability of different Africa countries.
It turns out that the economic crisis caused by the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 may result in more political and social unrest in developing countries. This will result in the world losing demand for our products. Our exports and imports to and from the Western world, including America, will be affected. Although we already had enough political and social unrest before the outbreak of the coronavirus, now it’s only going to get worse. What if the rest of the world turns racist? What will happen to all the businesses and companies in Africa that have large numbers of customers and clients from America and other predominantly-white countries if racist messages cause businesses and customers to flee the continent.
7. The Influence That America’s Online Power Has on Africa.
In the last week, a significant part of my Facebook, Twitter, Google and Instagram feeds have been about the West, with a focus on America’s celebrity lives, Amy Cooper, George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests. Yes, in some way, these issues do affect me and my African community, but obviously not as directly as they do those in America. Simultaneously, in the last week, Kenya was going through its own unrestrained police brutality due to the coronavirus lockdown and curfews.
Unfortunately, our issues are often ignored.
Issues in Africa That Should Be Discussed
- East Africa floods have recently killed hundreds of people and displaced thousands.
- The human trafficking gangs in Libya killed, kept people hostage, and tortured innocent civilians.
- 114 artifacts were smuggled out of Tunisia.
- South Africans splurged and collectively got drunk when the liquor stores reopened on 1 June amid the coronavirus chaos.
Recently, I wanted to learn more about all of these issues, but the algorithm didn’t allow that. The algorithm always seem to prioritize U.S. news.
Amazing things happening in Africa
- Senegal recently opened the largest wind power plant in West Africa.
- 10 Netflix TV shows and movies were filmed in Morocco as of May this year.
Sadly, I had to searching specifically for new on those countries as Google news rarely prioritizes good news out of Africa. All of this is so enraging!
Don’t get me wrong, this post is by no means aimed at taking away from what is happening in the U.S. I am actually happy that this modern revolution is finally happening. Hopefully, something positive will come out of it. As a result of the protests, policies may be put in place to curb the rampant racism over there. All in all, being a black African, I would have been just as affected if my geography was different. And, as I shared above, it affects us Africans too (some more directly than others).
Most importantly, I'm in full support of the protests because I don’t want the world thinking, not even for a second, that it’s okay to mistreat us black folks.
But in the midst of all that is happening in America, my country (Kenya) has also been experiencing its own share of police brutality in the last few months. I wanted more of the world to care about that as well. I just wish our most pressing African issues were this publicized and promoted globally. We must stand together to make sure Africa and Africans are given the respect they deserve.
Zainab Mejja (author) from Kenya on June 15, 2020:
@Hussein, indeed. Let's hope for the best going forward.
@Richie, happy to hear you found the article enlightening. And yes! That's a good topic to talk about for sure. Maybe not 'racism' per se since we are both from the same race, but definitely some prejudice exists there. I will look further into it, then put together a well-thought-out article about it. Thanks for your feedback!
Zainab Mejja (author) from Kenya on June 15, 2020:
Thank you Jackline, Jessica and Wiz on your feedback. Glad you enjoyed the post!
Richiepoet on June 13, 2020:
Indeed we should be worried. #black lives matter. This article is so enlightening.
If you don't mind, I suggest you write an article on the racism of black Americans towards Africans, cause it exists too.
Hussein on June 10, 2020:
All true well said. We all worried
Black lives matter
Wizkalobo on June 10, 2020:
thank you for writing this Zainab
Jessica Indimuli on June 10, 2020:
So insightful. BLM
Jackline wanza on June 09, 2020:
An insightful article, explaining why we should all worry about racism whether in or out