Opinion

President Trump’s raw ignorance of Africa isn’t surprising

Like millions of United States citizens—some well-educated, others not so well educated, and some of them just don’t care to know or learn—President Donald J. Trump is unapologetically ignorant about the continent of Africa and its diverse people and cultures.

This age-old ignorance about Africa, especially on the part of our American brothers and sisters, is the reason behind Mr. Trump’s tweet on Thursday October 4, 2018, bragging mainly to American audience that “Africans love my wife.”

As he is fond of doing, Mr. Trump’s tweet boasts “Our country’s [US] great First Lady, Melania, is doing really well in Africa. The people love her, and she loves them! It is a beautiful thing to see.”

Almost everyone in U.S. knows Mr. Trump loves adoration, praise from people, and likes to exaggerate events, too. Already, Mr. Trump is boasting that his wife has done “a tremendous job representing our country [US] in Africa—like no one has ever done before.”

So whenever he speaks, even on serious national policy issues, he chooses colourful adjectives such as “beautiful, nice, best, great, bad, ugly” and what have you.

In fact, Mr. Trump’s tweet about how “Africans’ love” his wife is aimed at Americans back home, but the real targets are mostly Black Americans who are not fans of him because of his brand of tribal politics and belittling of minorities and foreigners.

Directly or indirectly, Trump’s tweet seeks to send message to all black people in the U.S. that “if you don’t like me as your president, at least your kinfolks in the motherland love my wife and by extension, me, too.”

The calculation or association along those lines reveals Mr. Trump’s knowledge deficit of the competing perspectives and values of the people of Africa.

It may be true nobody in any of the African countries dislikes the current US First Lady Melania Trump. She has not disrespected blacks or people in Africa like her husband had done.

More so, her husband’s unpleasant track record with African Americans and immigrants in the U.S. cannot be fairly used to indict her. Yet someone needs to educate Mr. Trump that his wife didn’t visit all the nearly 54 nations in Africa for him to imply in the tweet to the whole world that “Africans love his wife.”

The problem some of us have as regards the tweet relates to the stereotypical use or the misapplication of the word “Africa” or “Africans” whenever many people in the Western societies are discussing a particular nation in Africa.

In fact, any non-African leader well-educated or fairly knowledgeable about multinational nature of Africa would probably tweet but at the same time characterizes something to the effect that “Any part of Africa my wife the great First Lady visits, the people there love her and she loves them back.”

But similar to many of his compatriots, Mr. Trump doesn’t really care to know anything about the place he disdainfully describes as “S…hole.” By making sweeping statement that the people in Africa or “Africans love my wife” President Trump is just displaying his poor grasps of African people and their multiethnic backgrounds spread around the continent.

Mr. Trump’s tweet echoes the general belief long held by many, many Americans that seems to suggest Africa is one big country like the United States but unlike the US, Africa is only full of exotic wildlife; hopelessly poor and its people are monolithic in their worldviews.

It is why in almost all American workplaces, schools, stores, church places, and the media hardly make references to or run news in regard to individual countries unless the story is sensational or negative. And even in that scenario the news analysis ends up talking about Africa as a whole not in separate terms.

In general, countless Americans mostly see Africans as organic whole; so when an incident occurs in Ghana, for example, it becomes all-African affairs. Particularly in the US, it is always African this, or African that; it is never about what happens in Liberia, Guinea, Togo, Benin, and the like.

On average, Americans simply don’t know much or do not even want to know Africa is a collection of over 50 different, independent nations let alone try to learn about their respective sovereignties.

From personal experiences as a former student in U.S. and now as college instructor/lecturer here, I can bet my last dollar that even in the age of Internet/social media, if we were to conduct a survey of twenty average Americans in each state, it will be a huge surprise if more than three people of each group surveyed know that Africa is made up of many countries.

True, there are some Americans mostly at the university/college-level and those with Foreign Service ambitions who know a lot about African nations, but overall not many Americans are enthusiastic in learning beyond Africa per se. None of us, though, should blame the ordinary American citizens for not knowing much about Africa in that the U.S. educational system or the basic curriculum does not necessarily teach or treat Africa beyond “oneness.”

In other words, American policymakers or educators are not really interested in terms of incorporating pedagogical programs that focus on Africa including its various states and cultures.

Besides, a sizable number of Western literatures views Africa as a trouble-child not worthy of any serious attention in the international affairs.

This means the only thing worth knowing or highlighting on are the trouble spots that may come out from Africa and not the continent’s uniqueness.

It is this kind of timeworn but contemptuous consciousness which informs Mr. Trump’s tweet that “Africans love my wife” although his wife only visits Ghana, Malawi, Kenya, and Egypt out of nearly 54 nations. How can Mr. Trump safely use four countries to judge that “Africans love” his wife? One wonders if he cares.

Columnist: Bernard Asubonteng

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