One of the things I have realized with other cultures, and forgive me because I’m going to make a generalization, particularly those cultures homogenizing to challenge the global hegemony of what we call the Judeo-Christian culture, typically Europe and America, which were (are) the recent/dominant players in colonialism and imperialism, is that they do not care about what Europe and America thinks about their culture. The generalization in terms of cultures that I’m talking about are the Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and many ‘national cultures, in the Asia Pacific, do not situate themselves as the periphery.
So this is my point:
To the West, which has situated itself as the centre, as the global, Africa and its peoples are conceived as a peripheral entity, and as peripheries are always conceived and perceived, Africa is presented as small and uncomplicated, 54+ countries become one country, a billion plus people are fit into easy to memorise stereotypes, and symbols of denigration are used to keep them in their place, angry and responding to nonsenses forever.
Just try to estimate the amount of African intellectual resources spent on responding to the recent H&M ad.
As the centre, the West sees no need to differentiate Africa because that would mess with centuries of history that have enabled the excavation of African lands, peoples, and minds, and justified the dispossession. To cement the narrative, there are tomes of books that have been written to explain racism and colonialism, and almost all of them, including the ones written by black people maintain the power relationship (the oppressor (read white man) and the oppressed (read black man)). These books simply explain, they have no desire to destroy the structure. This has led to an internalization of an inferiority complex among the oppressed, one that is maintained by their intellectuals.
Every day you’ll wake up to a new book explaining racist structures and how they affect your entire life, and your children, and your grandchildren for ages and ages. And these things are taught in school. So even in African countries, what is taught is history according to the colonizer, the intruder. What should instead be taught is the history of how our people fought colonization, the history of resistance, who were the fighters, where was the fighting, what did we win. The use of propaganda, everywhere in the world is to exaggerate the wins and diminish/erase the loss. History is not truth, it is a (re)interpretation of events or non-events in a way that allows it to serve or challenge power, in a way that dignifies the lives of the future generations.
My reasoning, therefore, is that to move the centre, to move the narrative of the African life away from the periphery, African children should not be taught colonization as if it was the beginning of African history, rather they should be taught the thousands of years of African history, and colonization only taught as an interruption to that history. Focus should be on the African side of the story.
In the same vein, I think racism and racist structures and their nature of oppression should not be taught to children, not even Black Americans. The elaborate education of the African child on the structure of their own oppression, I think, kills their fighting spirit at a young age. They begin their lives as lesser human beings. They give up, because, it presents racism and racist superstructures like white supremacy as this huge concrete sky that the African must spend their whole lives fighting and still have no chance of winning. If you are following, then you’ll realize this is the point where I agree with Cornel West’s charge against Ta Nehisi Coates. I don’t want to read another book on white supremacy that renders black fight back invisible. But even beyond Cornel West, I want visions of us that do not present black lives as being in a perpetual struggle against whites, one that recognizes the wholesomeness of the black man and presents him or her as an intelligent participant in the imagination and creation of this civilization.
In today’s world, I want young Africans to throw away narratives of inadequacy and subjugation and exploit the knowledge of the world, irrespective of who produced it, to dignify their tomorrow, as a participant in knowledge creation. Let us flatten the world and destroy the seeming permanence of oppressed-oppressor relationship. Doing this needs a completely different perspective.
The best African brains must spend their entire lives responding to some shitty symbols and descriptions about them written or said by the racist system, instead of describing Africans in the wholesome ways, and situating our own dignity. Jennifer Nansubuga’s ‘Kintu’ can teach us how colonialism can be erased, or its centrality diminished, when historicizing the life of the African. The other books that African children should be exposed to are Afrofuturism and African sci-fi from authors like Nnedi Okorafor – as a way of preparing young African minds to battle with the ideas of the future that all young peoples of the world are battling with, not stories of colonialism and racism.
The Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Indian, cultures do not spend time in examining how the white has oppressed them, not to the extent that Africans do, yet the colonizers and imperialists ravaged their lands too, and even continue today. They steal the best ideas from white men, add to their even more brilliant ideas, and as we have seen now, all the brilliant technologies, being applied at mass scale, are coming from our Asian and Asia Pacific neighbors. In short, they are situating themselves as the centre and they are not apologetic about it. The Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Indian etc. They have their own philosophies, their own bibles, and treasure their own languages. They use their languages in conceptualizing the world. In Africa we say our languages are not complex enough to present complex ideas. In Africa, we don’t have our own bibles. A billion people are surviving on borrowed religion, borrowed philosophies. The African man is a strong man. Perhaps the strongest in the universe. It is time for the African man and woman to begin thinking of themselves as the (possible) colonizer, as the centre of power, not as the subject that can only respond/react to hegemonic power.