To the Editor:
Last week’s Record had a very interesting article about the gender disparity in students studying abroad, and the issues were well articulated by Abby Kagle. I would, however, like to probe her labeling of Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe as “obscure destinations” that are “more exotic.”
The politically correct discourse adopted here by Ms. Kagle does not “obscure” the implications that such countries are backwards, untamed (dare I say “savage?”) places which are irrelevant to the world – or the USA (although really, what’s the difference, eh?).
And while I’m sure that Ms. Kagle did not intend to offend, and would probably object to the blunt way I framed the Orientalist (gasp, gasp!) implications of her statement, it nonetheless reflects a subliminal assumption that is present, where many (or perhaps all) parts of Africa are still seen as Dark, without the “benefits” that colonialism inflicted upon it. The colonial legacy is what has “obscured” Africa – you are only shown Sierra Leone through CNN focusing in on a maimed girl, all alone. Actually, I withdraw that, CNN doesn’t cover Sierra Leone because then you’d know about the horrors happening there, and you aren’t supposed to – Somalia was enough of a fiasco for Uncle Sam.
You’d be surprised by how relevant Africa is to the USA. There are even remarkable parallels, such as Botswana, which superficially has a more democratic government than most African countries, one that is looked on favorably by Western “watchdog” organizations.
Yet when you look closer at the apparent liberty enjoyed by the people of Botswana, the most “indigenous” groups – the so-called “Bushmen,” San or Basarwa – are completely ignored. They are terribly oppressed and repressed within the “democratic” context of Botswana, and I cannot help but compare with the far subtler situation of Native Americans in the USA (more gasps!). I do not intend this as a personal attack, and ask forgiveness for my native bitterness venting itself so scathingly. I only ask for awareness, and less authority in ignorance.
Sadruddin Chandani ’00