January 16, 2006

Africa & MLK Day

I watched The Constant Gardener last night. The message it delivers at the end is undeniable and haunting.

"In Africa," it said, "there are no murders, there are only unfortunate deaths." And, as the film illustrated, sometimes there aren't even unfortunate deaths, but rather suddenly nonexistent persons.

America, I would like to say, does not have suddenly nonexistent persons, but there are thousands of unfortunate deaths. Millions perhaps. Not in the same visceral way as depicted in The Constant Gardener, except perhaps with Katrina, but there is a degree of culpability we have long failed to recognize adequately in deaths by poverty, deaths by malnutrition, deaths by insufficient health care. I am not sure, however, that we can fully commit ourselves to addressing and redressing these "unfortunate deaths" in our country while ignoring an entire continent full of such deaths.

I am not even sure that we can even make serious inroads in this country towards ending or at the very least diminishing racism until we as a nation make a serious commitment to taking the problems of Africa seriously. I think our devaluation of Africa translates directly to the devaluation of African-Americans; the abandonment of one is, I think, linked to the abandonment of the other.

Racism is easiest to practice through negligence, and our negligence toward Africa smooths the path toward more acute forms of racism in our own country. If we wish to have a hope of ending racism in our nation, we must not ignore Africa.

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