Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Shortchanging Africa

For decades, US policy towards Africa has been an abject failure. Unlike our Western European friends who colonized the continent, we do not have a particular historical tie to Africa and her people. Or so, many would like to believe. In reality, we have a significant historical debt to repay Africa for the hundreds of thousands of her people who were taken to this country as slaves.
America has largely sat on the sidelines as Africa has been mired in poverty, tyranny and genocide. We have done little or nothing to rid Africa of despots and barely lifted a finger as hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were slaughtered in a genocidal war. America has failed to engage in the type of trade relationships with African countries that would promote their economic vitality.
The litany could go on for pages, but what really matters, to me, is why have we ignored Africa. I think there are two reasons- one is that the continent was not vital to our interests during the Cold War (with the exception of our support for UNITAS and opposition to the ANC), the other is a far more pernicious reason, and one that I am reluctant to allege, but I firmly believe that there are racial reasons for our failures to assist Africa. For many people, Africa is the dark continent, and not because of its inhabitants' race, but because of our ignorance. There are still many Americans who vies Africans as uncivilized natives, complete with loin cloth and spear. Our own ignorance allows us a certain level of aloofness and provides an excuse not to be concerned. However, if the conditions that have plagued Africa for the past 50 years had instead run their course in Europe, you can bet that Americans would be leaping to help.
And that is a sad reality about our country.


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