The Dark Continent: The End of the Road
Don’t Judge me for having the Boyz2Men hit single in my head as I traveled back to the states. After spending the last three months outside of the country it feels almost odd to be back on my college campus in Chicago. I witnessed the execution of a chicken in Humakuya Village(and ate it for dinner), was charged by an elephant in Kruger National Park, saw scorpions scurry in Tshulu Camp, taught students in a school with no water or electricity, experienced the black metropolis of Africa in Johannesburg, Climbed table mountain in Cape Town, pitched tents and slept within eye view of Hippos in Makuya Park, watched students protest for equal education in front of their parliament building, and became an ethnographer by recording the history of Venda culture in rural South Africa. I think of it only being appropriate to use this moment to reflect on the Dark Continent itself and outside perceptions.
The theme that continued to surface throughout my time in Africa is that people are not as different as the media/westernized perception attempts to make us. This fallacy continues to be the very fabric that sustains the paradigm of the Dark Continent. As much as people want to place Africa into a positioning of otherness, I would argue that the struggles we face are more similar than many want to admit. In South Africa one of the most troubling things for me to swallow was the history of racial formation and the percentages of blacks and colored people that struggled while they were numerically the majority of the country.
The situation that broke my heart was when I talked to a small girl that lived in a township called Lwendle. And she explained how it was “bad to be black” and how she wanted her “skin to be white.” This internalized hated is nothing new or rare. We see it in American culture when young black girls want dolls with white skin and blue eyes and dark skin is turned into a negative connotation in elementary school yards.
For this reason I want to inverse the idea of the Dark Continent and turn what once was negative into something positive. I want to return back to what I wrote my first week in South Africa:
‘I hope to take ownership over a term that many have deemed physically, psychologically, and sociologically bad, and inverse it, as I hold a mirror up to my skin color. “Dark.” I refuse to imagine an Africa that is stuck in the negative stereotypes of those countries who pass their stereotypes onto a continent that is as diverse in politics, wealth, and culture as any other place in the world. In this sense “light” gets push to the peripheral of my focus, and The “Dark” Continent is pushed into the core of my interest.’
This is why I think it is so important to merge political action with the social. It is no longer enough to just want a law to be passed to help with equality. It is now necessary to build up new perceptions that will counteract the idea that light is better than dark. We must have an intellectual interrogation with all discourses that think African equals primitive and European equals modernity. I hope you have enjoyed my series on the Dark Continent, I feel as though I have grown immensely in the last three months. I am now able to put the universal into a better context.