Tag Archives: stereotypes

For the love of God, STOP: On stereotypes, the church and Africa

It is too early in the year for the type of ignorance being peddled about Africa by some church affiliated folk in the name of missionary work. In this era of Google and social media, why do people insist on clinging to that false image of Africa? You know, the country ravaged by disease, poverty and war where people live in anything but buildings? In a time when information is literally at people’s fingertips, is it that difficult for one to educate themselves about African countries? Sure, you don’t have to know everything about all 54 of them but knowing that Africa is NOT a country is a solid first step. It’s not a hard concept to grasp guys.

I came across an article titled “First Presbyterian Church recreates rural African town.” The church, which is in Gainsville, Georgia, was scheduled to have a “Life in an African Village,” event this past weekend. According to the article, the event was geared towards teaching children in the area about daily life in a foreign country and missionary work. Because life is the same in each and every village across the continent…ha! The children would “build makeshift huts, listen to African drumming and sing African tunes…” How would they build the huts, you ask? Well, when I initially read the article, there were pictures of cardboard boxes open on the side with hay on top. I think that is how they were planning on doing it. The pictures have since been taken down. I wonder if it’s because they finally did some research and realized that that is not how huts look. Or maybe not. A girl can hope.

If that’s how they think huts look, you can only imagine what they told the children about living in a village. Only heaven knows what they said about the African culture that people love to define in ways that align with their personal interests. The guest speaker and performer at the event was a Zambian man who was also in attendance at the same event last year. Ala! Didn’t this depiction of Africa bother him!? Or did he say something about it last year and the organizers just didn’t listen? But then again, there is always that one African patting these we-will-misrepresent-Africa-because-we-have-decided-that-our-version-of-Africa-is-more-accurate-than-reality types on the back.

Then there is an American woman who went to Kenya on a mission trip and didn’t fall in love with the country. Why? Because she didn’t see poverty nor encounter people who don’t speak English, as she had expected. Yes, this happened, as written on her blog. Her entire post is condescending and made me question the motives of her mission trip. I guess we now know what happens when savior complex and superiority complex thrive in an individual.

The woman’s post will make you believe that people go on mission trips to delight in seeing poverty and feel good about waving their invisible alleviate-the-suffering-of-the-locals magic wand.  Seriously, how else can you explain this excerpt from her blog post?
My heart was prepared for dirt floors.
For dirty laundry hanging everywhere.
For kids that were half naked and covered in bug bites.
People who couldn’t speak English.

not this.

Eh!? You would think that when someone plans to go on a trip to a country they have never been to before they would do research on said country. Isn’t that just the common sense thing to do? Clearly she couldn’t be bothered with all that. She had created this image of Kenya in her mind and that is much more important than the reality on the ground.

Who gets discouraged by not seeing poverty!? Shouldn’t that, I don’t know, ENCOURAGE  you!? Shouldn’t it make you realize that the images you see in movies and commercials are completely distorted to push a certain agenda? Shouldn’t it make you want to change that and present accurate images of the country? That could become your mission, no?

It seems that this lady was so set on jetting in, tiling the dirt floors, washing the dirty laundry, clothing the half naked kids, putting balm on their bug bites and of course teaching Kenyans English.  While we are at it, why would dirty laundry be hanging anywhere? Because cleanliness is only reserved for wealthy folk and those from the West or? Oh, where would we be without her blessed heart and those of others like her?

Why spend all the time, money and effort to go to a country if you are hell-bent on forcing it to fulfill your stereotypes? How much good can you do for people if you are struggling to accept the fact that their circumstances are not as you expected? Is it not possible to spread His message where dirt floors and half naked children are not involved?

That blog post is both ridiculous and disturbing. This had been said before and evidently, we need to keep saying it. Kenya, and Africa as a whole, doesn’t need to be saved. What we need is non predatory partnerships, among others, to fuel our socio-economic growth and political development.

So, if you are going to teach children about mission work and Africa, please present the continent accurately. It’s the least you can do given all the resources available at your fingertips. Perpetrating stereotypes is lazy and a disservice to all involved. Avoid the reenactments too. There are plenty of pictures of huts online…no need for hay and cardboard box tricks. If you are going on a mission trip, research on the country you are going to. Leave your ignorance, prejudice and pre-determined uninformed solutions at your house. Interact with people, find out what their community needs and how you can be of help.

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Are You Wifey Material!?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Irina Shayk have had, in a certain famous person’s words, a conscious uncoupling after dating for five years. Why do I know this!? Well, because a certain Kenyan chap tweeted the story and added this caption…”Ladies, I keep telling you, if a man dates you for over two years, you are not wifey material.”

This actually made me laugh out loud. Sometimes it’s the only way to deal with people’s “school of thought.” First of all, what is the correlation between length of dating and being wifey material? Is it not possible for two people to decide to take it slow? When did two years become the magic number? What if the two of them have mutually agreed that they want to take their time to get to know each other deeply? But, hey, that can’t be the case because men call all the shots, right!? The woman’s role is to just sit around and hang on until the man decides if she is wifey material or not…huh?  So, if you are dating for more than two years then you are some type of failure? But only if you are the woman, right!? Because it isn’t possible for the man to not be hubby material? What if the lady is not even interested in marriage!? What if she is into the Oprah and Stedman type of relationship? Does that mean she is somehow not worthy when they decide to go their separate ways!?

Marriage is not everyone’s dream. Yes, that’s a difficult idea for some to grasp but it is true. I think that people have been socialized to believe that a relationship is a dictatorship led by the man. He cherry-picks the woman from among the many available to him. He then decides if she is worthy to be his wife, have his last name and bear his children. As women, we are expected to rejoice that a man has picked us out of the masses. Then promptly start fantasizing about the wedding and married life we have been dreaming of since we were little girls. If the dating relationship results in anything but marriage then it is solely the fault of the woman. You and your shortcomings will never be anybody’s wife, they say.

Except that that is not how things work, or at least they shouldn’t. Relationships are not dictatorships. They are mutually beneficial partnerships, and the only way to truly be happy in them is to treat them as such, in my opinion. Yes, women are decision makers in their relationships. Yes, we also walk away from relationships when we realize the man is not  who he initially claimed to be. Yes, we also agree with the man to call it quits when the relationship is going nowhere fast. We don’t sit around waiting for the man to say, “Well, you are not wifey material so BYE.” When we realize the man isn’t in it for the long haul, we also have the ability to bid him adieu and keep it moving.

So calm down with trying to impose your timelines on women. Stop passing judgment on people’s relationships, that you were not a fly on the wall for, and then confidently using said judgments to give women life “pointers.”