Saturday, May 19, 2007

Africans, North Africans, Black Africans........

I have just read this article on the BBC about the new french Justice Minister. The emphasis on this article is that she is now the highest ranking North African in France. It got me pondering about why the western media so loves to distinguish between the various types of Africans.
Africa is Africa, I think the constant division into Sub-saharan, or black africa, as it is known on cnn, and North Africa is an expression of the underlying racism in peoples minds. I have had people say " I've been to Morocco or Tunisia, but I would like to visit Africa."
Duh, Morocco and Tunisia are part of Africa. There are cultural differences and even ethnical differences, but I think in all African countries have managed to live very harmoniously with one another. I think in the west, where the notion of a multicultural soceity is a fairly new one, its impossible for them to imagine people living together peacefully, inspite of racial or ethnic differences.

In Sudan, they say its the Arabs killing the black Africans. While I agree that the Dafur people have a dark skin tone, in my opinion, it takes a large stretch of imagination to say the sudanese president is an arab. If being one or two shades lighter is what makes them Arabs, then , then many northern Nigerians and Malians and Niger republic people and Somalis have an even more visible claim to being Arabs. While I'm not saying that what is happening in Dafur is not genocide - it is, I think its quite unnecessary to say its arabs to black, when the parties involved are obviously all blacks. The genocide in Rwanda happened even though all parties were "black african" in foreign media speak! Instead of looking for other more obvious reasons for the horrors of Dafur, like desertification of the area and just oppression of the poorer people by those in power, it must be reduced to race.

Left to the west, there would be a three tier society in africa, with Black Africans occupying the bottom layer. Oops, I forgot we are already there.


April said...

Marin, I agree with what you say here.

I also know of a few Moroccans (and Algerians) who would hesitate to describe themselves as African. Strange. Talk about being brainwashed (and being ignorant too!).

Temilade said...

It is a bit strange however I think you are approaching the situation as an educated 'black' African. It's not at all uncommon for Arab Africans to consider themselves Arabs as opposed to African and people who have visited are both subtly and overtly made aware of the dichotomy. As a 'black' African myself, I am often wary when an Arab African describes themselves as African purely because of how politicized that choice is and because it is often a rare one!
However, the situation in Darfur is one that is especially important and I actually think that highlighting the race aspect is important for the indigenous Africans who are being killed in the Sudan. Minimizing their race makes it seem as though its just government neglect when there is a history of cruelty and questionable government policies. It may not be because they are black, but refusing to recognize that the elites who consider themselves different ethnically are tacitly encouraging and allowing policies that are killing indigenous Africans does not help analysis of the situation. Finally, just because we do not/may not see the minute gradations in color and consider them all black, does not mean that they do not see it and consider it very differently [as they do].
I guess that whole rant was just to say, it is a little annoying that Africans are divided regionally and described thusly in discourse, but those differences are real and not acknowledging them is more of a disservice I think.

On a happier note, I've been checking out your blog semi-religiously... keep up the interesting debate.

The Pseudo-Independent said...

This is only to reserve a seat here and I will be back to comment properly after following the above links and reading the excellent post.
Ill be back. However, just in case I am taking too long, please give me a shout.
See you shortly.

Marin said...

Hello Temilade, thanks for visiting my blog.

I am not saying there are no differences in colour, there are certainly are and if you want to go to the real basics, then of course these classifications are alright. I agree that some people identify as African to get political advantages - but the fact is an Arab African is an African. Maybe we should divide Africa into two continents?

What gets me in a huff is the fact that many westerners only look at the surface when there is a problem - A is black and B is brown, so of course,thats the root of the problem. I am still convinced that the real root of the problems in Dafur is not race, but resource. I think the easier option would be to chalk it up to race- or maybe its better to say that the most obvious manifestation of the problem is race, and religion - as most Dafurians are Black African Christians as opposed to the Muslim "Arabs".
Either way, you don't see the powers that be queueing up to do anything for the people. I wonder if the genocide in Dafur were taking place elsewhere - outside of Africa, if more action would not have been taken.

If one sees the world through a them and us prism, as black or white, that causes one to automatically attribute a lot of things to race which might not necessarily have anything to do with race.

Note that the above is a purely idealistic statement, since unfortunately, in the world we live in, we are automatically trained to look through the black or white lens.

Marin said...

Hey Pseudo-Independent, welcome, a VIP seat is hereby reserved for you :)I am interested in hearing your take on the issue at hand.

Marin said...


I think we have all been brainwashed in more ways than we can imagine.

Ugo Daniels said...

Sad, sad and more sad. NO further comment

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