Out of Africa
Serena Williams, Oprah, and many other stars have started charities and foundations focused on strengthening Africa. For this, many African-Americans have spit sharp criticism that major celebs would donate their funds to organizations outside of America when there are so many needy children within our nation’s borders. The most common notion is Africa is the richest continent with the poorest people. Nothing could be more true. Most African nations, especially those who fought for liberation from European countries who imposed centuries of colonization, have very unstable governments. Instead of Europeans reaping the benefits of Africa’s mineral rich lands, national governments are capitalizing and refusing to reinvest the profits in education, infrastructure and other modern means of creating safety and economic empowerment for citizens. Darfur is a prime example as the entire conflict began with the support of the Sudanese government, whom to this day continue to support tribal groups purporting attacks on ethnic farmers. It is no secret that women in Darfur are being raped, sometimes having their legs broken so they cannot escape; that this happens to women younger than twelve. In quite a few African societies, women experience many forms of cultural, legal, political, economic, religious and social discrimination. These women have no path toward legal recourse they can exercise; many of them take such secrets to their grave as they risk being disowned by their husbands if the crime is ever made public.
According to popline.org, 22% of Kenyan women aged 15-19 years are HIV positive and only six percent of young boys are infected in the same age group. These women are blamed for their disease as a result of sexual promiscuity even though it has been widely established that more than 50 percent of women contract HIV/AIDS from husbands or their only boyfriends. Kenyan women do not have insurance, free clinics, AIDS or HIV education, medication, or basic information on how to manage their disease. Meanwhile this disease eats them alive, as they die alone since most are ostracized from their communities once they become infected.
A 2007 survey commissioned by French advocacy group The Representative Council of Black Associations reported that over 50% of Blacks living in France have experienced discrimination. This is a stunning finding as France prides itself on a broad record of human rights advancements in addition to their efforts to have color blind integration of African and Arab populations. A quick glimpse of their national government is most revealing: no persons of ethnic background are represented at the national or regional levels. Ten of France’s 577-member National Assembly are black. According to the London Times, young people of Arab and African origin are five times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the French population.
There is a massive wave of anti-immigrant sentiment amongst the French, as many minorities come from the Caribbean and countries formerly governed by France such as Algeria. Fadela Amara, a government minister of Algerian origin, told the Economist, “our republic must not become a mosaic of communities.” Also in 2007, anti-immigration laws were introduced that would require any that legal immigrant, resident in metropolitan France, and someone who wants his family or her family to join them, must have three times the standard minimum wage. If there are children, they must also take a DNA test, in order to ascertain that the children are theirs. French president Nicolas Sarkozy is an advocate for racial equality in France, encouraging France’s elite colleges to accept more students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the interest of fairness, France does not keep record of racial or religious groups and what percentage of the population they make up. Sarkozy seeks to reverse this trend as well, but is facing major opposition. However, the French state can do little to improve conditions for minority and immigrant populations when they lack clear evidence of how many people this group actually represents.
Black French leaders such as Patrick Lozès, who heads up France’s first national black lobby Representative Council of Black Organizations, have been criticized for undermining the French model of assimilation by emphasizing racial differences. In reality what Lozès and others seek to accomplish are greater opportunities-access to education, proper living conditions and better jobs. Lozès correctly asserts that France will be unable to reverse discrimination unless it begins to identify those who are being discriminated against.
Even though as Black Americans we each have felt the heat of discriminatory practices and are disproportionately targeted through our prison industrial system, being Black outside of America is far less glamorous and far more problematic.
Being a so-called minority in the once richest nation in the world affords a lot more opportunity than many of our brethren overseas. Our struggles as Americans pale in comparison to that of the “other” diaspora, and our access affords us the ability to make life better for those who are unable to do it for themselves. Our inherent Americanism makes us ignorant to the plight of people of color overseas, and even in cases where we choose to be aware, rarely does that information turn into advocacy.