Africa and America: Why Ferguson is the Congo
By BK Kumbi
As Africans, our eyes are often turned towards America because for some of us there is an illusion that attracts us. For many Black Americans, as for the majority of Americans, Africa is a land of savages; and this idea has a particular resonance among the Afro-American population because it shows how they were taught to hate themselves through the figure of the so-called original man, one that is sub-human.
When we look at things more closely, one has to ask whether there is a real difference in the way we are treated. Imperialist policies affecting African populations are the same as those applied to the Black population in the United States.
Media coverage of this tragedy is absent. When it is presented, it is to demonstrate that there are Blacks who kill Blacks. There is no question raised about the people or the countries who arm those Blacks, for what purpose. Instead, the corporate media prefer to broadcast stories on gang leaders of our region that the United States has hired to do the job and fuel the Black on Black killing theory at an international level.
What is striking here is how the story is structured or the fact that often there is no narrative at all about this issue, just silence. What I want to point out here specifically is the question of how our bodies became objects of spectacle.
While silence generally surrounds the Congolese tragedy, there is nevertheless one aspect of this conflict that is portrayed more than the others.
The issue of rape used as a weapon of war is the beloved subject of a certain American “intelligentsia” and it has helped raise the image of some American “celebrities.”
The mutilated bodies of Congolese women have become an image that is made pornographic and that it is diffused freely under the banner of a feminist fight and the narrative of this tragedy is assumed by white feminists who actually fight for their own rights in a capitalist environment.
This is not done to help Congolese women. It is done to spread the idea that this is a femicide and not a genocide. The story of Congolese women is a way to raise funds for these organizations to write and produce documentaries that will also generate money and – and this is perhaps the most important – it’s a way to reaffirm the idea that the Black man is a savage, a predator whose violence is atavistic, mad. He is therefore the sole instrument of the eradication of his own Black being.
Is this not also the narrative that is used to explain to Afro-Americans that they are the very instruments of their own annihilation and their own poverty? Is that not what is said when the corporate media uses false images to claim that Mike Brown had stolen something in a store and that was the reason for his death?
We all need to have our eyes open about the way we are treated and portrayed, and I say “we” because the image that is conveyed of the African man in Africa necessarily affects the way the Afro-American man is perceived.
Patrice Lumumba the first democratically elected prime minister of the Congo, wrote in 1960, in his last letter to his wife before his assassination at age 35: “Dead, living, free or in prison on the orders of the colonialists, it is not I who counts. It is the Congo, it is our people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage where we are regarded from the outside.”
We are the ones making this difference because we think that for the white man there are good Blacks and there are bad Blacks. We don’t look at ourselves through our own eyes but through the eyes of another person who has defined us as not human.
BK Kumbi is a Congolese historian and activist who lives in Geneva, Switzerland.