I am so grateful for Dipo Faloyin’s book Africa is not a country: Notes on a bright continent, written in a way that felt as if I could hear the author’s voice telling me stories, charming me and helping me feel connected to people and places far from my home, even as he had to walk me through bitter pieces of history. I hope to reread it every year or so because U.S. culture seems to inculcate a kind of amnesia when it comes to these histories, especially when they make plain so many past and ongoing injustices.
There are far too many stories and insights in Faloyin’s book for me to process in one blog post. I did find myself thinking, as I read the section on the harms done by Christian charities profiting from stereotypes of Africa, that I live near one such charity, Samaritan’s Purse. I always worry about such organizations that assume that just because they think they are helping they must be helping, when it’s almost always more complex than that.
Meanwhile, this specific charity in my back yard makes enough money on the negative stereotypes of other countries, similar to what Faloyin deconstructs in his book, to build one of the largest businesses in our area and to give its president not only great wealth but also great power, able to influence politics on multiple levels, including handpicking puppets as state representatives in Raleigh who only answer to him rather than the actual constituents.
It is chilling to see the actual crises that exist here and around the world turned into money-making and king-making tools. It was also unsettling if not surprising to see how many parallels there are between the histories of abusive leaders in some African countries to the rise of the MAGA propaganda movement in the U.S.
I like the idea of not trying to be a “savior” but an ally, the role of listening and watching for ways we can be allies to one another, those of us who long for democracy and justice, for the insight that comes from working with information, insights, and complexities, rather than being blinded by simplistic propaganda designed to support what has been a never-ending (and immoral) quest for power by those who believe they can do no wrong.