So, when the average ‘Westerner’ thinks of Africa, they probably think this:
Or maybe this:
Or possibly this:
Good. We’ve all been mildly exposed to the media and its portrayals of Africa’s cultures and troubles. But there are some things that get left out. Like, a lot of things. I’m not claiming to be an expert on the subject at all, but I have learned a bit from my 5-ish years of residing on this side of the world.
Here are the top 5 things I think everyone should know about this beautiful continent. Not that the Lion King isn’t thoroughly educational…
Thing 1: Africa is not a Country
Africa is a continent. There are 54 countries within Africa. That’s more than the number of states in America. Shocking, I know.
Thing 2: Africa is Extremely Complicated
With over a billion people hanging out and living life, this continent’s got a lot going on. More than you or I will ever know. If you’ve never sat back to think about why Africa is the way it is… don’t. Unless you have years to sit and contemplate. Politics + geography + prejudice + timing + culture + religion + resources + etc. = however you want to describe Africa today. And feel free to dream up any kind of civil unrest or controversy or political mess or discrimination, Africa’s been through it. There are a lot of webs being woven, so be suspicious of anyone who tries to ‘define’ Africa in less than a few thousand words (or three pictures, for that matter).
Thing 3: Africa is Changing
It’s not like when you forget to donate to World Vision that Africa’s development screeches to a halt. The whole place is busy doing stuff, developing in completely unique ways to the rest of the world, just like every other place in the rest of the world. Each country’s identity is shifting slightly with each passing day. So is each city’s. And each person’s. That’s how it works.
Thing 4: Not Everyone in Africa is Black
I feel a little awkward bringing this up, but it’s actually pretty ridiculous how many people don’t know this. There are a lot of white people, and ‘Asian’ people, and other people too. It’s a little less monochromatic than you’d like to think. If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to Google: www.google.com. Type in “Are there white people in Africa?”, and then tell me I’m wrong. Really, you should have googled that a long time ago, right after watching Mean Girls.
Thing 5: Africa Can Hear You
Yeah. African people have cell phones and computers and other ways of knowing what’s happening in the rest of the world. But it’s fine, really. If you’re making dumb, sweeping remarks about a continent you know nothing about, the internet will gladly pass your message along into the right hands. And those hands will happily mock you.