- Politics and Social Issues
Are Africans Curious and Adventurous Enough for Technological and Scientific Breakthrough?
Race, Black Africans, Caucasians, Science And Technology
I do wonder why the color of one’s skin indicates the content of their character instead of an action displayed. But over the years, I have come to realize why dark-skinned people, of which I am one, are subjected to all kinds of human cruelty. Inside the foggy passage of our caste- oriented planet, the curious and adventurous among our planetary beings have always climbed to the top of the caste system. When a given race climbs up the hierarchical ladder respect and courtesy is assigned to that particular race. While our planetary races have climbed up the ladder at some stage during our continuous evolutionary process, the Caucasian race is widely recognized today as the dominant race, whether one agrees or not. Among the people of the Caucasoid, every individual, no matter how downtrodden, get to share from the bounteous output generated from the curious and adventurous of the few. When the following events happened years ago, I knew the power derived from the benefits of being curious and adventurous dwarfs one’s skin pigment
I looked up from behind the cash register and faced two wretchedly dressed Caucasian males looking at me, grinning from ear to ear. The taller one had two broken teeth on the top row of his mouth. He was wearing a white shirt, a color conspicuously different from his skin pigment. The shirt he was wearing was a bit bigger than his haggard looking body. His hair was ruffled, meaning it had probably been more than a year since a comb had passed through it. The other male, a bit shorter, was just like his friend but with only one missing tooth on the top row of his mouth. He was also wearing a white shirt that had dark stains scattered all over. He looked sixty but looking further, he was in his early 40s. His face had a lot of wrinkles, lines of hard life tantamount to ridges in scattered, mechanized farmlands. He was standing straight, just like his friend, but his stature, was not naturally straight. Within the seconds it took me to look at both, I saw that the shorter man had a hunch back that debilitated his uprightness.
I had arrived in the US months earlier, still innocent to the dark history that had dogged this self- proclaimed “exceptional” country. I am not sure why two wretched Caucasian men could stand in front me while attending to the cash register, and call me “nigger” in the middle of the day.
I thought I was only going to deal with some African American males. Days earlier, inside that same gas station where I was a cashier, two young black boys came in to buy cigarettes. As required by law, I demanded to see their identification. Once they heard my thick accent, they suddenly awakened from their childish frame bodies to being adults. Instead of giving me their ID cards to verify their age, they told me I needed to “ figure myself out.” that it was up to me to figure out their age, staring me straight in the eyes. They must have their cigarettes or else. I was so dumb struck I did not know what to say. I called the lady who had worked in the store for years and she was able to scare them away.
To many Nigerians, US is the epitome of perfection. This is how things could have been if the traits of good leadership were fundamental to a black man’s DNA. As corrupt as Nigeria and Nigerians have been, the US is the only country Nigerians want their country to be like. These high suppositions of what Nigeria could be are mainly inferences that were extrapolated from movies made in Hollywood. From that perspective, the US, to most Nigerians is a country that does no wrong. As a result, most educated Nigerians are able to recite the US presidents, from George Washington to President Obama, or list all the amendments added to the US Constitution. Nigeria went so far as to dump the parliamentary system of governance adopted from its colonial master, Britain, to adopt the US presidential system. That is how obsessed Nigeria has been in imitating the inherent traits of US
That obsession metamorphosed into a cloud that has blinded Nigerians to the racism that has dogged the US since its founding. We always thought we were immune to what has been and what could be.
Racism in the US, is not confined to Caucasian against the Negro. Racism comes in shades. The European American, based on his ancestry and origin from Europe, would base his superiority over the other related Caucasoid. People of Mediterranean Europe having been absorbed into the Caucasoid family in the USA, though still feel less humanized because of their skin pigment. African Americans look at Africans and say “I feel better now since after all these years, I have people that I can lord over.”
From the onset, the English think highly of themselves. They reigned supreme in the new-found land within the thirteen colonies. They determined who was Caucasian enough and who was not. The Irish, despite their superiority in skin pigment compared to the English, were deemed inferior by the English. According to XpatNation’s 9 Signs of Discrimination Irish Americans had Put Up With: Irish Americans were faced with prejudice, racism and discrimination after their immigration to the United States because they were considered poor, uneducated, less skilled, disruptive and Catholics in the land of Protestantism.
In XpatNation’s piece was the same stereotypical label of laziness associated with African Americans today. The Irish were deemed lazy, and their men associated with drunkenness, and their women primitive.
The black skin is the least admired in our world. In all the shades of the skin pigment of our human race, Africans and black people, from the south of the Sahara to parts of the Pacific, Australia, in the Caribbean, have been deemed inferior to other races.
What is in a skin pigment that causes so much distaste from one race to another? Yes, we have dark skin, yes, our noses are broad, yes, we are mostly muscular by nature, yes, we have thick lips, and yes, our women are blessed with a rear. So what is it in a skin pigment that warrants a lighter skin Caucasian, Southeast Asian, Indian, Arab, or Hispanic to think they are better than a black man?
In sub-Sahara Africa, the black skin is our default color. On that part of the continent we are not ashamed to be black. We are not ashamed to grow our hair as it was destined to. The shape of our noses is an afterthought. There, we are proud of our big, thick lips. Our muscular physical appearance is deemed a blessing rather than an impairment.
Most Africans, especially Nigerians, are happy people. Our dark skin is part of who we are and who we have always been. The Europeans incursion into our world disrupted what was relatively an atmosphere where the issue of skin color was not what we quarreled over.
North of the Sahara, where lighter skin people of the Arab and Berber descent are prevalent, there are still some attempts by the dwindling Caucasian species to add to their number by saying Berbers and the Arabs are Caucasians. If Arabs and the Berbers are Caucasians, is there then a difference between being a Caucasian and being white? For generations, the attempt to sideline the dark-skinned species from every other race have led to names like Eurasia, the intersection between the Asians and Europeans, the supposed connection of both races.
The Berbers and the Arabs have their own distinct features from that of Europeans. But having distinct features and lighter skin compared to sub-Sahara Africans allow the Berbers and Arabs of North Africa to put a clear demarcation between them and black Africans. North Africans claim not to be Africans. Why? Many seem to think their skin pigment is a testament to their superiority over black Africans. In an excerpt from a piece in The New York Times, titled, “Black in Algeria? Then You’d Better Be Muslim,” the author wrote:
“ In their anti-Western discourse, Algeria’s bien-pensants think they protect black people by denouncing the prevailing racism. Yet they would never visit dreary refugee camps, much less live with blacks, let blacks marry their daughters or shake their hands on a hot day. Secular Algerians often refer to sub-Sahara people as “Africans,” as if the Maghreb were on a different continent.”
Also, in another piece on the opinion page of The Guardian newspaper, titled “Why don't we think of North Africa as part of Africa?,” The author Iman Amrani wrote:
“When a Guardian article stated that Chigozie Obioma was the “sole African writer” to be long-listed for the 2015 Booker prize, the journalist in question had clearly forgotten there was life north of the Sahara. Thankfully, the Moroccan-born writer Laila Lalami, who was also long-listed, was quick to remind him, tweeting: “I am African. It’s an identity I’m often denied but that I will always insist upon”.
I know Lalami’s frustration well. Every time I have to declare my ethnicity I am reminded that “black African” is seemingly the only category that exists. Being both Algerian and British, I am constantly explaining why I identify as European and African – as though I’m “choosing” to be African, rather than it simply being a fact.”
“In politics and academia, north African countries are commonly grouped with the Middle East under the umbrella of MENA. In conferences I have been to on “African” issues, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt have often had tokenistic representation, if any at all.
But the identity equation isn’t as simple as Arabic speakers equal Arab people. There are still communities across the Maghreb that speak Berber or Amazigh and a dialect called darija that heavily features French and Spanish phrases. Besides, being Arab isn’t an alternative to being African, or even black. Mauritanians and Sudanese can identify as all three at once.
The religion argument isn’t watertight either. Islam is the dominant religion in parts of east Africa and the Sahel, with notably large communities in Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Perhaps then, it simply boils down to color. Could it be that to be African is to be black? And if so, what shade will do? Are the South Sudanese, with a pigment that is dark, rich and beautiful, more African than their neighbors to the north, of lighter skin? Surely a categorization based on race is too reductive and ignores the continent’s great diversity in nations, cultures and ethnicities.”
While the piece in The New York Times clearly show the behavior of those above the Dixie line, that is, those north of the Sahara, it makes one wonder, what is in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, that is better than what we have, say in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria? Since I left Nigeria for the United States, I have asked myself a number of questions that seem mundane but are relevant. One of those questions has been, what makes a light skin individual like one of the two Caucasians in the convenient store think they are better than me? Whether in Europe or in North America, the perception is our being a people of poverty in sub-Sahara Africa. Poverty and diseases are the general terms associated with Africans. That label has generally stuck due in part to the western unrelenting depiction of a continent that is dark, uncivilized, corrupt, and infested with famine.
The major issue here is the unsustainable, self-ascribed notion by the Maghreb people, whether secular or religious group, in part of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Morocco that they are superior to black Africans mainly based on their fairer skin pigment is absurd. No Nigerian that I know of, except northern Nigerians that have religion affinity to the Maghreb people, would consider living their lives in the north of the Sahara. Some that do are there to attend Islamic colleges, and the southern Nigerians that are there use those countries as a foot path to Europe.
There is nothing in the north of the Sahara, economic or politic, that would attract any Nigerian to live in those countries. The point here is that among black Africans as among Europeans, there are countries that pride themselves based on their political and economic advancement. While not trying to denigrate the other countries in Africa, Nigerians, for instance, are arguably the most educated and knowledgeable people in the continent of Africa, and it shows. Is there poverty in Nigeria, yes, but mostly in the northern part of the country where Islam is intertwined with every aspect of their education, which hampers the progress of educating people in a secular society.
Those that castigate Africans as uncivilized have never been to Lagos, the largest city in Africa, to see its modernized structures. They have never been to Abuja, a city built from scratch three decades ago and which rivals any modern city in the world. There are thousands of modern cities in Nigeria, a country the size of Texas, with a population approaching 200 million people. Despite the awareness Nigeria as a country enjoys, you hardly see Africa and Africans depicted in a positive light in the western media. The perception of some of us here in the diaspora and in the continent of Africa is that Africa is intentionally portrayed in a manner that would continue to make the continent appear as in need of economic and political assistance from the rest of the world.
Africa has been termed, even by some learned academic individuals in Western Europe and North America as a single entity rather than a continent divided into fifty-four countries with unique people and individual systems of government. Such a profound lack of knowledge about Africa and black Africans is the reason why non-Africans that have never set foot in the continent define the continent and its people as they see fit.
The issues raised by Iman Amrani in her piece in The Guardian newspaper have more to do with the governments and the people in the north of the Sahara than black Africans. Black Africans have not dictated the term by which Africa have been demarcated based on an invisible dotted line in the desert of the Sahara. For instance, in the year 2000, having given a one year notice to Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mauritania, citing cultural reasons, decided to ally itself with the Arab Maghreb Union, believing that its interest would likely be more protected. That is how shallow the thinking process among the people of the Maghreb has been. Islamic culture is deemed more important than economic empowerment. It should be noted here that Mauritania, with a population of less than three million people, had nothing to offer ECOWAS as an economic community; instead, it was benefiting from the economic alliance.
When Mauritania left ECOWAS, the country was financially sustained by Libya, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Maghreb. Its Berber Arab population in the north, which the French, its colonial master, think was superior to black Africans in the south of the country is another kind of a thinking process they have been brainwashed to believe was true. While black Africans in the south of the country were being educated in Senegal, the French were preparing to hand over power to the Berbers based entirely on their skin pigment.
There is one cultural element, though, that seems to elude the color line in the African continent: corruption. Corruption permeates every strata of government in every republic in the continent.
Lack of good leadership, scientific innovation, and technological advancement is and continue to be the bane of progress in the African continent as a whole, regardless of skin pigment. My point of view has been that black people in the world will earn their respect in this planetary caste system when priority has been given to governance that strictly adheres to accountability. Good governance begets conducive economic and political environment, which in turn begets foreign investments. Foreign investments bring about modern infrastructure, good schools, and a healthcare system. This helps bring about high quality graduates, which in turn help spring innovation in science and technology, and creates a solid workforce.
Africans in African have never been shy when they talk about how backward they are and continue to be. This is a vast continent with more than a billion people; still there is nothing substantial we as a people can cling to. We depend on Caucasians to extract our natural resources, we rely on Caucasians to coach our football (soccer) games, we depend on Caucasians to lead in constructing our roads and oil pipeline, we call on Caucasians to fight our diseases when there is an outbreak. We depend on Caucasians to supply our farming tools. All of these years, millions of years since the formation of the planet, what effort have we as black people devoted to curiosity or adventure that bring about scientific discovery? We fight over who is responsible for the building of the Egyptian pyramids. Even if black people were somehow responsible for the construction of the pyramids, that was more than five thousand years ago. Since the pyramids, what have we done as a people? What substantial contribution have we made toward scientific discovery, technological innovation, and the advancement of the human race? We have contributed nothing but corruption.
One would have thought at this time of human history, we Africans should be vast in reverse engineering, imitation of other people’s technological success. But in 2017, we are nowhere near to mastering the mechanics that enable the process through which a nation is built. Egypt is a country of eighty or ninety million people; it relies on US for a yearly pittance of $1.5 billion to sustain its military. Israel receives twice the amount and shares a boundary with Egypt, but has built a developed economy within the span of sixty-six years.
From the tip of our continent to the bottom south of the continent, there is a vacuum when it comes to leadership. Most African leadership achievement is measured based on how grandeur the massive ill-gotten personal structures are lined in gold littered street. Which one among the leaders has the youngest woman as a wife. Rather than have a plan anchored on economic policies that would lay the foundation for individual economic empowerment, there is this obscure but disrupting DNA tendency that obliterates any well-conceived action for developing the continent.
We rate our leaders based on how much they have been able to better their relatives and friends. We abandon knowledge for sycophants who find no interest in questioning their leaders’ actions. In Nigeria, for instance, there is no appetite for truth telling. Embezzlement is a race among thieving individuals who are supposed to be the nation’s economic planners. Who has the most money in foreign banks, who has a massive 100-room house in one of the choicest places exclusively reserved for the country’s aristocrats is the gossips among these leaders, supposedly the people’s caretakers. In a question and answer article on “YALE INSIGHTS”, published by YALE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, written by Michael Watts, it underscored the massive problem that black people have in managing the affairs of a state despite the abundance of an intelligent human capital:
“The first exports left Nigeria for London in 1958. So we’re marking a half-century of oil and gas activities in Nigeria. Oil became economically significant almost precisely at the time Nigeria became independent from Britain in 1960. In a sense, then, the history of post-colonial Nigeria is the history of oil and gas in the country. And yet it’s been a period of, without being too dramatic, unremitting political and economic failure and wasted opportunity.
Nigerians are incredibly talented, creative, entrepreneurial people. They have an extraordinary vitality. They have Nobel Prize winners. Nigeria’s population of 150 million means one in every five Africans is a Nigerian. This is not in any sense a country that is short of human capital. It’s the eighth-largest exporter of oil in the world, a major supplier to the U.S. market, and in 2008 was in receipt of $83 billion in oil and gas revenues. But most of the country lives on less than a dollar a day and has a life expectancy of less than 50 years.
Since the 1970s, oil has accounted for around 90–95% of all foreign exports, 80–85% of all government revenues, and 40–50% percent of gross domestic product. Nigeria is an archetypical “oil nation,” a mono-economy in which oil dwarfs everything else.
Since 1960, over $600 billion in oil revenues has flowed into Nigeria’s coffers; it represents an opportunity unavailable to much of the developing world. These petrodollars could have been spent productively, could have transformed agriculture, laid the foundation for an effective public education system, provided much-needed infrastructure. Yet, according to the World Bank, of that $600 billion, $300 billion has simply disappeared into overseas bank accounts through theft and corruption.
The history of post-colonial Nigeria is the serial inability to put these oil wells to developmental use — the catastrophic failure of the national development project.”
What most western academics and intellectuals are shy, unwilling or bluntly put, trying to be politically correct in assessing the political and economic landscape of African continent is the issue, or lack thereof, of its people’s curiosity and adventures. In some of the paragraphs above, I wrote about modern infrastructures in the continent that are not shown by western media to their populace. But in the thickness of human race, human capabilities defined in scientific and technological advancement are the prism through which the races in our planet are graded. Because of their willingness or intuition to be curious and adventurous within a confined solitude, some of the advanced human races, Western European, North American and East Asian countries, have emerged from their sequestered vacuum to lead our planet in almost every strata.
Oil wealth could have served as a medium through which a foundation is laid for the curious and adventurous few among black people. For only few curious and adventurous individuals are needed in a population of millions of people for a society to transform its destiny. During the Industrial Age in England, those responsible for the engine of transformation were very few. From Thomas Newcomen’s atmospheric engine invented in 1712 to James Watt’s improved design, which was an advanced version of the Newcomen’s, in 1769. To acknowledge the extent to which the curious and adventurous were able to transform the British society during the industrial revolution, here is Artemis Manolopoulou’s take on a piece on britishmuseum.org, titled, “The Industrial Revolution and the changing face of Britain”:
“During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Britain experienced change in all aspects of life, as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Scientific advances and technological innovations brought growth in agricultural and industrial production, economic expansion and changes in living conditions, while at the same time there was a new sense of national identity and civic pride. The most dramatic changes were witnessed in rural areas, where the provincial landscape often became urban and industrialized following advances in agriculture, industry and shipping. Wealth accumulated in the regions and there was soon a need for country banking.”
Industrial revolution England happened more than three hundred years ago. Over the years in wider Europe, there were reversed engineering and imitation in Belgium to France and later Germany that was foremost in earlier invention of chemical substances.
People like Michael Faraday of Great Britain, Alessandro Volta of Italy, the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford of the United States are among the few in the curious and adventurous category who were able to transform the Caucasian race. That transformation led to power, dominance and supremacy, allowing them to overrun the African continent and enslave its inhabitants. They came with guns, while the weapon of choice for us black Africans were bow and arrow.
African leaders need to find the few curious and adventurous Michael Faradays, Alessandro Voltas, the Wright brothers, Thomas Edisons, Benjamin Franklins, Henry Fords, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerbergs among us. To do so, African leaders need to use the proceeds from the continent’s abundant natural resources to build infrastructure, transform our agricultural system, and lay a solid foundation for a world class education system. When we have the Faradays, the Gates, the Zuckerbergs, the Jobses, the Franklins, the Fords and the Bezos among us, respect and courtesy would be given to us black people. The issue of our skin pigment would be relegated to oblivion.
© 2017 Augustine Kadiri