letter to a friend

I typed out the following this morning, but decided to post it on here too in order to give you guys some insight into the attitudes I often encounter locally. I can’t just dismiss them, but think they need engaging with; this might sound patronising, but I think such attitudes show the socioeconomic conditions here too.

Dear chopper. Sorry dude, but I just could not let you get away with what saying last night, as it goes against everything I believe. I really like you, and of course our disagreement on such a trivial matter won’t effect our relationship, but I can’t let you get away with what you were saying abot Africans.

I understand you say you aren’t racist, and I don’t think you are. Racism implies that you adhere to the long-discredited notion that humanity is divided up into types or ‘races’ of people, along the lines of skin colour. I don’t think you believe this – you treat black people as you treat white people. Rather, you just claim to hate ‘Africans’ – people coming directly from Africa. I must admit this interests me, as it seems to throw up a lot of interesting questions and contradictions which one could write at length about, and which I must deal with here.

First off, how do you define an African without resorting to race? You can only do this on a cultural basis, by saying that African culture is different to European culture. This is the only way you could have such a divide: genetically and biologically, the two groups of people are identical. Study after study shows there is no significant difference in IQ, brain size or an other objective measure of intelligence. The only difference is cultural.

If, then, you hate African culture, what is it about African culture that you hate? Given that mankind evolved on the plains of Ethiopia, we cn all be said to be

African, and so human culture – bipedalism, tool use etc – is, in a way, African. More pertinently, though, African culture is a broad church, ranging from Frenchinfluenced North Africa, the ancient civilisations of Mali, ancient Egyptian civilisation, the pastoral communities of the Great Plains, down to modern, westernised South Africa. It is hugely diverse, and it has long fascinated me, to be honest.

The type of African culture you seem to object to is not a specific one, but, I think, a caricature African culture composed of many negative stereotypes. That is not to say people do not behave in the way you describe: I have encountered quite a few people locally, who probably do hail from central Africa, with some very negative attitudes towards me as a wheelchair-user, but this should be viewed on a personal rather than a cultural or ethnic level. There are two things I can say about this: firstly, I have also encountered similar attitudes from Europeans, and indeed brits. A few months ago, a woman called Claire Khaw phoned a chat show on radio 5 and told the country hat she thought severely disabled children should be killed. Khaw was, at one time, the London mayoral candidate for the bnp. Secondly, there are reasons why such attitudes arise in some cultures. Much of Africa is poor. It shouldn’t be, as there are vast swathes of land which, if cultivated, could make it rich. It’s poverty is a legacy of nineteenth century European colonialism; it’s people were repressed. As a result, people could not afford to have unproductive, disabled babies, which is why most were probably killed and why people like myself aren’t as well accepted in such cultures. Thus there are good, socioeconomic why we may encounter such attitudes in people from Africa, and possibly why they still have them. That is not to say I excuse it, but I can understand it more coming from a nonwesterner than I do coming from someone like Khaw.

What I’m trying to say is, there are reasons why people behave as they do, and indeed not everyone from the same geographical area behaves in the same way. On a cultural level, people may share certain attitudes and behaviors – I have even observed this locally, as the people of Charlton have their own specific behavioral patterns – but that is no reason to say they are all the same. It is certainly no reason to hate the people of an entire continent.

Anyway, I love you dude, but I needed to tell you my opinion.

Matt

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