When I think of misconceptions or stereotypes about a culture or group of people, I think of Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story. The Danger of a Single Story is exactly as it implies. When we’re told about a group of people by a different group of people, we only get one point of view (the outsiders point). There is a danger in that because that story becomes the only story widely available. People then believe that this group of people must all be as they have been described. However, there could be a lot more to that group of people than the point of view reports. Well, you can easily see the danger in that scenario.
If you are an African living abroad, in my case the US, you have probably been asked at one point or the other a mind numbing question about your African roots. I’ve been asked, why do Africans stink? Why are we so dark? Do I have a pet lion? These questions were mostly from my teenage years so I would like to attribute them to youthful ignorance. However, even as an adult I still see a lot of people with negative misconceptions about Africa.
1. Is Africa a country?
Its like some people did not learn the difference between continents and countries in school. I think these people know better than they let on but would rather lump Africans together due to their laziness or refusal to change their generalizations.
2. Do all Africans speak African?
Yes, if thousands of distinct languages and dialects is considered as one African language.
3. Do you live in huts and trees and fight with lions?
There are two answers you can give here. The first one: yes, I fight with lions for survival. In fact I was the local champion in my village. With just one hand, I once defeated a lion, then I took it back to my hut where my mother skinned it and cooked the meat for our dinner. The second answer: No, the first time I saw a lion was here in America at a circus show. This was my response but I think the first option is a better answer.
There are other misconceptions about Africans, such as most of us have AIDS, Ebola or some type of disease, that we’re all poor, that we all know each other and so on. These generalizations are unfair because we’re diverse people like any other group of people sharing a continent. As Africans, one of the best ways to deal with these misconceptions is to thrive in our diversity. If other people refuse to see that, then let us at least tell our stories so that they will be out there for those with an open mind.