Saturday, September 20, 2014

about that broken trust issue: the west ignores the stories of africans in the middle of the outbreak...,

WaPo |  It wasn’t surprising that Western journalists would react with doom-and-gloom when the Ebola outbreak began in West Africa. Or that the crisis would not be treated as a problem confronting all humanity — a force majeure — but as one of “those diseases” that afflict “those people” over there in Africa. Most Western media immediately fell into fear-mongering. Rarely did they tell the stories of Africans who survived Ebola, or meaningfully explore what it means to see your child or parent or other family member or friend be stricken with the disease. Where are the stories of the wrenching decisions of families forced to abandon loved ones or the bravery required to simply live as a human in conditions where everyone walks on the edge of suspicion?

Instead, we have been given news from “the frontlines of Ebola” and “the war on Ebola,” video clips with somber narrators and eerie soundtracks and photographs that capture only sadness and hopelessness, all without the necessary human context. We have seen endless images of Westerners, covered head to toe, amid crowds of healthy-seeming onlookers; given such presentations, it is no surprise that people would begin to think that Ebola is an airborne contagion that might get on a plane and travel around the world, infecting people on its own. Or that all Africans are potential carriers.

Once again, sensationalism and generalization seem to be the only ways that Africa can be presented in the West. Once again, my country, Sierra Leone, along with Liberia, Guinea and, as far as some are concerned, the entire African continent, makes news because of a crisis. Is this the only time we are relevant? Why is it that, once again, even those who have never set foot on our continent seem to think they know all about us?

Given our interconnected world, it’s no longer possible to excuse such treatment as a lack of access to the facts. So what is the explanation? To borrow the words of Ni­ger­ian novelist Chinua Achebe, “Quite simply it is the desire — one might indeed say the need — in Western psychology to set Africa up as a foil to Europe, as a place of negations at once remote and vaguely familiar, in comparison with which Europe’s own state of spiritual grace will be manifest.” 

This thinking is so deeply entrenched in the minds of people in the West that it has become a reflex. Still, the ways in which Africans are portrayed as less human have not lost the power to shock. Each new crisis, it seems, offers a platform for some to exercise their prejudices.


BigDonOne said...

There are some outstanding reader comments at the original WaPo article - (from which this Subrealism post was extracted.....)

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