swpd reader Victoria wrote the following email, which makes such a good and important point that I asked if I could reprint it here. If you have further suggestions, please do leave a comment, and I'll add them to this post.
After the backlash [in the comments] -- which I'm sure you're quite used to -- from the jungle-themed white savior music video, I thought it'd be good if people actually knew a little more about Blacks than just their interactions with them at present.
I think it's important that people understand more background than just "slavery" when it comes to Blacks. The only way Blacks are portrayed to Americans, unless they take a specific course documenting more, is as the descendants of former slaves. White Americans are never informed that we and our white ancestors from all over Europe have been screwing with Blacks and Africa long before we decided to drag them across the ocean to work on our plantations. Most white people are unaware that all the European countries gathered one day and literally divided Africa up amongst themselves (Scramble for Africa) without ever consulting anyone from Africa, without any thought that they were dividing them with lines that did not exist before. So tribes that were once just neighbors to one another were now being forced to live and work together.
They don't hear about how we enslaved them in their own countries and forced them to build railroads up, down and across Africa, or the way we told them it was for their own good that we were there, the way we introduced a religion and totally demolished theirs as best we could, the way we treated them like animals instead of people. White people don't hear about that sort of thing. We see our times in Africa during those days much like the Jungle Cruise ride at Disney World -- adventurous! Taming the wild! What we don't hear is how we tried to "tame" what we considered wild men (and women).
White people aren't told that Africans in all countries (not just the ones where their skin is lighter and their hair has a looser kink to it) had structure, rules, deep beliefs and traditions passed down since the dawn of man. White people are only told of how their ancestors tried to conquer Africa to make it "better". White people who don't know any better still hold the belief that Africans are savage, crazy-dancing, violence-loving ignoramuses. Hence the reason that video didn't appear the least bit racist to some people. And the reason they are still in the dark about why Africans fight in wars with each other to this day. We're all "save Africa" this and "save Africa" that, but we're the ones who put them at odds with each other in the first place.
Here are some books and short stories that helped me understand various African perspectives a little better.
Both of these novels are great for showing how structured and UNwild Africa was before the White man arrived on the scene and how whites demoralized them in the name of capitalism, Christianity, and control.
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (early colonization)
- God's Bits of Wood by Ousmane Sembène (later colonization)
- "The Museum" by Leila Aboulela (illustrates how colonization is justified even today -- and how it's not always easy to take on the burden of being the person who's going to teach the white man how to understand, and how not all Africans are big, scary, and black)
- "Columba" by Michelle Cliff (illustrates how the colonized are often left without a feeling of identity or a closeness to their homeland -- also helps people to remember that Jamaica was indeed a British colony. It wasn't always the picture of Bob Marley, dreadlocks, and marijuana that many Americans like to imagine it as)
- "The Gentlemen of the Jungle" by Jomo Kenyatta (allegorical story of colonization told in a way that even children can understand and relate to).
I just think people don't realize what colonization is and what it does to people both while it's happening, and AFTER it happens, after the white men are done setting up shop there and leave. The way people are lost, their culture's depth forgotten and what the decades, scores, centuries of being told that they are inferior does to them. The only ways to understand that is to either get to know these people, which most Whites are not willing to go out of their way to do, or to read about them. And given the curriculum in America, it would require people going out of their way to do even that.
Do you have any reading suggestions to add to this list? Or any films, or other sources?