Trump’s racist ‘s–thole’ remark is far cry from the real Africa

As a Ugandan immigrant, I wasn’t surprised by President Trump’s reference to Haiti and African countries as “shitholes.”

He launched his campaign by referring to Mexican immigrants as “criminals,” “rapists” and “drug dealers.”

I’ll use Trump’s racist outburst as a teachable moment.

Most students in my Contemporary African History class at John Jay College have little knowledge about Africa. During the first class, I ask students about the first thing that comes to mind when they hear “Africa.” Invariably, answers include “diseases,” “poverty,” “killings” and “jungle.” Translation: Shitholes.

Students are stunned to learn that Congo’s estimated resource endowment is $27 trillion; yet Congo’s per capita income is only $1,529 while that of the U.S. is $57,466. We explore the reasons behind African impoverishment.

Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Republic of Congo.

Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Republic of Congo.


My students learn about ancient African civilizations including Great Zimbabwe from Basil Davidson’s “Africa — A Voyage of Discovery.” They learn of Samori Toure, who resisted French imperialism, and of Empress Taytu and Emperor Menelik of Ethiopia, whose soldiers destroyed an invading Italian army, killing about 5,000 soldiers and capturing more than 2,000 in the Battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896.

They learn how the U.S. and European countries became industrialized by plundering resources globally and exploiting labor, including of enslaved Africans, by watching Philippe Diaz’s documentary “The End of Poverty?” They learn how demand for resources and markets for products after the 1760-1820 industrial revolution led to the partition of Africa by European powers during the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference in Germany. The invention of the Maxim gun in 1883 broke African resistance.

Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” shows students how European powers then deliberately destroyed indigenous African industries to eliminate competition. People in Mozambique were forced to grow cotton, which was shipped to Portugal. It was turned into clothes and sold back to Mozambicans at inflated prices.

Students learn from Kingsley Moghalu’s “Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s Last Frontier Can Prosper and Matter” that even after African countries won nominal independence in the 1960s, the economic structures established during colonial rule were maintained.

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Bayanda or brick sellers push a bike with bricks that would earn an average of two dollars a day south of the town of Tshikapa in the Anglican locality, Democratic Republic of Congo, on July 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Junior D. KANNAH (Photo credit should read JUNIOR D. KANNAH/AFP/Getty Images)


African countries continue to export raw materials to Europe, the U.S. and China, while importing expensive manufactures, such as vehicles, pharmaceuticals and electronic products.

Students learn that African leaders who’ve tried to break off dependency pay a heavy price. In Belgium’s former colony, Congo, Patrice Lumumba was murdered, with CIA involvement; the CIA also was involved in overthrowing Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. The French didn’t like it when Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara urged African leaders to collectively renounce heavy debt burden, including some inherited at the end of colonial rule. Robin Shuffield’s documentary “Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man” shows how the French undermined the African leader, leading to his murder.

Students learn how youth in Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Togo and elsewhere continue to struggle against tyranny and for accountable leaders who don’t plunder the continent’s wealth in cahoots with some Western corporations.

My John Jay students can see that poverty isn’t a permanent condition in Africa.

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Milton Allimadi, publisher of Black Star News and history professor at John Jay College.


The words I hear from them about Africa at the end of the semester include: “resistance to dictatorship,” “industrialization,” “ending neo-colonialism,” and most importantly of all — “hopeful.”

This is a far cry from Trump’s view of Africa.

Allimadi publishes The Black Star News and teaches at John Jay. He’s writing a book about Empress Taytu for young readers.

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Source: Ny Daily News

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