The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Africa’

WHITE PRIVILEGE AND THE WHITE MAN’S BURDEN

Back in the days when grammar schools taught history and geography I remember having to memorize the names of the countries of Africa.  In the forty some odd years since the map below was drawn, things had changed – and they have continued to change on that continent.  Names that were once familiar to us students no longer exist and boundaries have been redrawn many times with many countries now being called by names based on their indigenous residents’ native languages rather than by names imposed on them by the western European countries that had formerly included them as part of their global empires.

 

If you were to ask the average student, young adult or, I suspect your typical American thirty or forty year old, which countries had claim to empires in the twentieth century or earlier, I believe you would get a rather blank stare as a response. How many of those you interviewed, were you to ask what countries Portugal had under their crown’s control would be able to tell you that Brazil was once part of that nation’s global empire? Or that Pope Alexander VI divided the entire continent of South America between the Spanish and the Portuguese in 1493? History does have implications.

Now if you were to ask those same people about the question of “White Privilege” you might do a little better.  Although this currently voguish PC catch phrase gets bandied about regularly, I am still waiting to hear, other than it’s being a veiled attempt to conjure up guilt that should be shared by all white Americans because of their skin color, exactly what it is.  But the nice thing about PCspeak is that what you say doesn’t have to follow the dictionary rules of providing an exact definition but can be morphed into whatever the speaker wants at any given moment in time.  This technique, of course, makes any real debate on this subject virtually impossible, which is fine as far as those who employ the term are concerned, because debate requires presenting purported facts that can be discussed and possibly debunked.

As to the term, “White Man’s Burden” which we learned was theoretically a motivating factor in European expansion throughout the world (beside the obvious that England, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and others had ships and as long as you have ships you might as well use tem to go places), I doubt that most of those who throw about “White Privilege” know what the “Burden” term means.

Simply put, it was a quasi religious/sociological term that suggested that whites, (by virtue of their skin color) were superior to people whose skin color was darker and that as a result of that inherent superiority it was their responsibility to care for those less fortunate and to impart (as much as they might be capable of comprehending) the culture, religion and knowledge which whites had been gifted to receive from the Creator.  In essence, the white man was the farmer and people of color were the farm animals who were given to him to care for and nurture.

That philosophy seemed to serve most Europeans rather well until Hitler came along and decided that even among whites, some were clearly better than others and that it was the imperative of the Aryan race to do away with those pseudo-whites like Jews and Slavs.  Fortunately Hitler was defeated.  But one can only imagine if he had succeeded in his first effort to “purify” humanity, how he would have dealt with the black and yellow and red inhabitants of the world.  I can’t imagine that would have been a pretty picture.

It would be not only fair but accurate to describe the term “White Man’s Burden” as a racist concept.  But then, so is the term “White Privilege”.  Any term which begins by using race as a descriptor is a racist term.  “White Power” and the “Black Congressional Caucus” are both racist by their self-styled names.  And anyone who refers to “White Privilege”, whatever that person’s own race, is in fact using a racist term and perhaps exhibiting their own racist views.

Today we would view the colonial concept of the “White Man’s Burden” as primitive and exhibitive of racial prejudice.  The idea that whites are inherently superior to those of other races – well that’s nearly antediluvian by most peoples’ standards.  Or is it?

The only real difference between the “White Man’s Burden” and “White Privilege” is the attribution of guilt in the second of these terms.  If you question this you have no further to look than at the percentage of the American black community that receives government assistance (largely paid for by the white American population) because they are obviously, like the colonial farm animals, unable to fend for themselves.  And who are those who constantly search for new ways to find more programs to fund these underprivileged souls?  None other than they who scream “White Privilege” the loudest.

I guess that goes to their point that “racism” is alive and well in America.  Perhaps before levying their next charge, they might want to consult a mirror.

I’VE GOT A LITTLE LIST

Here’s a list of countries that have earned their way to a top ten list:

10.  Mozambique

9.  Guinea

8.  Burundi

7.  Burkina Faso

6.  Eritrea

5.  Sierra Leone

4.  Chad

3.  Central African Republic

2.  Democratic Republic of the Congo

1.  Niger

The list in question is entitled, “The Least Livable Countries in the World.”  The link to the full report follows.

http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/10/25/the-10-least-livable-countries/

If you have some familiarity with geography, perhaps you will be taken with the same thing that grabbed my attention.  That is that all of these countries are located on the continent of Africa.

If you read the entire report, you will note that the data and criteria was collected from the UN Development Programme.  The basis for indexing the countries worldwide was determined by three factors:  life expectancy, education and income.  These were then numerically quantified into what the UN calls a “Human Development Index.”  In a separate report, accessible from the same link, Norway which ranked as #1 had an index of 0.944.  Niger, at the bottom of the list had an index of 0.337.  I presume that an index number of 1.000 would be found only in the country of Nirvana.

In the United States, some of our politicians have found a rallying cry around the cause of “Income Inequality.”  The average person who lives in Niger earns $1.25 per day.  Which brings us to examining a far more important issue than “Income Inequality” – specifically, “Income Sufficiency.”  If an individual earns enough to provide a family with a comfortable home, food on the table, education and medical treatment, does it really matter that he does so in only a 1,500 square foot house while someone who has been more successful, been born to the purple or has simply gotten lucky, owns ten houses which average 15,000 square feet each?  That is not a matter of equality but rather an instance of envy.

This snapshot of ten African nations made me think immediately of life in many of America’s inner cities.  However, unlike these countries which are extremely poorly managed, in many cases have repressive governments and are further hampered with limited natural resources, most of our inner cities residents have access to ever expanding numbers of government subsidies, live in a country with a mandatory educational system and have the ability to succeed – if they choose to exercise that right.  It would be foolish not to admit that the inner city child has a more daunting task ahead of her than her counterpart who grows up in an upper class suburban environment.  But at least the opportunity exists, something that cannot be said for the citizens of those countries who made this list.

As Americans, do we really care about world poverty, limited life expectancies or lack of education – specifically as they affect those who live in Africa?  We responded to the Ebola outbreak – but is that a matter of concern for Africans who are being infected with Ebola – or because we are simply worried that it might spread here and then become a problem affecting our own country?  Sadly, those who are the most vocal on the issue seem to have taken the low road of political aggrandizement rather than true humanitarian concern.  And while we may, in the short run be able to stem or eradicate this most recent outburst, we will not do anything to change the long term outlook for the citizens of the affected African nations – or the others on this list.

Ebola was first identified in 1976.  It was as virulent then as it is thirty-eight years later.  But working to develop a vaccine makes no economic sense.  The disease was largely confined to the African continent both then and today.  And quite clearly, pharmaceutical companies, looking at the return on investment for developing an inoculation which would be marketed to poor Africans who could not pay for it and additionally might resist an effort to establish a preventative program and comparing that to the potential financial boon by developing yet another weight loss drug to be sold to an affluent American market where insurance and typical family income would guarantee an explosive market made that decision simple.

To my fellow Americans who complain that the United States is responsible for everything bad that has happened since man began recording his history, I find it strange that we are leading the effort to assist those who are victims of this disease.  But if they find that insufficient, perhaps they would like to take a more personal interest in resolving the problem by heading to the affected area and lending their helping hand.  It is true that we are still debating the appropriate way to handle people returning from the areas of infection in Africa.  But to my knowledge, there is no prohibition against traveling there.  And, given the generosity that Americans generally have, there’s probably a government program to help them buy their ticket.

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