Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Learned that People in Africa Wear Clothes

How big do you think Africa is?  As big as the United States?  As big as China?  Check this out - if you are like most Americans, you have grossly underestimated it your whole life. 

Africa has a slightly larger area as the United States, China, India, Japan, the UK, Spain, Mexico, Peru, France, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Italy, Nepal, Greece, and Bangladesh, all put together.  There are over 50 countries in Africa (depends slightly on who you're talking to because of some disputed territory).  Somewhere around 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa.  African is not a language. 

If you were surprised by any of those facts, you're not alone. I worked at a school that was about 50% black (African-American is a tricky term as not all black people are African-American, and, as I'm about to explain, many of the kids I know don't want "African" to be a word having anything to do with them.)  At this school, calling someone a "Black African" was an incredibly hurtful insult, right up there with "buttsniff."  Yes, really.

I was always a little disturbed by this, so I asked a friend of mine who is from Africa to come talk to the kids.  This friend's mother is Ethiopian and went to high school in Kenya.  She is a beautiful professional woman and was exactly what the kids needed to crush their stereotypes.  After talking to the kids, she asked them what they had learned about Africa.  Among the answers were:

  • I learned that not everyone from Africa has dreadlocks
  • I learned that African is not a language
  • I learned that you can be African even if you're light-skinded
  • I learned that people in Africa wear clothes
I was glad that they learned all that.  It's a start.

Two years ago: Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

Three years ago: Questions about Subbing

Four years ago: Silly Spelling Lists

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