Media’s preconceived notions of Africa lead to discrimination

Yes, I know you might never have dropped in on the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the deserts of North Africa. You may not have visited the astounding Kenyan wildlife nor seen the breathtaking Yankari Game Reserve in Nigeria.

The hills and valleys of West African countries still hold echoes of the painful cries of captured princes and princesses, and ancient slave ports on the coast of West Africa are waiting for your return.

Today’s media in America and the Western Hemisphere spread only the news of destruction, disaster, poverty and death about African countries to rest of the world – such as the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Ethiopian famine and the awful genocides in Rwanda and Sudan. These events prevent most in the diaspora from visiting Africa or returning “home.”

The Western media’s failure to broadcast an accurate, decent representation of Africa and its people causes resentment among Africans. I have been asked on several occasions if I used to hunt butt naked when I was in Nigeria.

These types of questions often spring from the image-damaging pictures broadcast on television. It is like showing the ghettos of New Orleans as typical of the United States.

As uninformed as the United States is about the rest of the world, it is sad to see that fictitious and horrendous ideas often depicted by the Discovery Channel, CNN and other media conduits about Africa and its people have made Americans’ views inaccurate as well. Politically, Africa is referred to as “third world,” even though civilization started in Africa. Sankore University of Timbuktu in Mali is older than Harvard.

Hygiene, often a sensitive topic in the Western Hemisphere, is something Africans are thought to lack. This is false. If most of “us” do not follow the Western way of life – the use of body perfumes and deodorants – it does not indicate that every African is filthy. Body aroma, many Africans would agree, is a way of identifying individuals without seeing them. This can be useful.

Another point of concern is the African accent, which deters students and teachers alike. Because of it, most of us are not given chances like other Americans to show our abilities and skills, even though oftentimes we have better experiences. I call this bigotry.

Our presence here should not be misinterpreted. It does not suggest that we are poor in our homeland, and neither does it say that we like it here.

Discrimination against Africa and Africans and against those from other non-American cultures needs to be addressed in order to adequately implement diversity on our campus.

Gabriel Sodimu, a student at Albany State University, writes for the Student Voice.