Chimamanda Adichie's recent TED talk on the dangers of a single story of Africa has been making waves.
In her talk, Adichie argues that Africa has been viewed through the single lens of poverty, darkness, and chaos, and that this has produced a simplified narrative of the continent and its people.
As she says: 'If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.'
Adichie bemoans the fact that Europeans create the predominate narratives of Africa, and that they view its condition as lower than their own.
Surprisingly, I agree with her.
But the realities which Adichie conveys are inevitable. There is no way to remedy the problem she describes.
I would contend that Joseph Conrad's 'heart of darkness' will always be viewed as a place of violence, poverty, and senselessness to White European peoples.
Because Africans have no history, they have no self constructed narrative. Before the arrival of Europeans, Black Africa developed no written language. No accurate history had ever been compiled or preserved. There were no non-animistic religions, no advanced gods, nor any idea of a 'higher' concept that would allow the natives to view themselves from an unselfish perspective.
As the famous German philosopher Georg Hegel expounded: 'In Negro life the characteristic point is the fact that consciousness has not yet attained to the realization of any substantial objective existence - as for example, God, or Law - in which the will of man's volition is involved and in which he realizes his own being.'
Hegel's argument for dismissing Africa as having no historical part in the world was that Africans have no history, and that without history whatever movement a people makes through the ages is worthless to them because it is never utilized, evaluated, interpreted, or applied.
In other words, without history a people can never create an identity.
Individuals 'find themselves' by growing up, evaluating their personal history, assessing their talents through past failures and successes. Just as with individuals, an ethnic group needs a history in order to 'find themselves' in the world, to create a narrative for their lives.
Africans do not have the ability to construct their own narrative because the IQ threshold for gathering and inferring one's own information is 115. The average IQ in sub-Saharan Africa is only 67.
So few Africans have the capacity for interpreting the history of their own people that even when one of them does emerge his/her narrative falls on deaf ears.
Even the few intelligent Africans that do have this capacity are far outnumbered by more intelligent White thinkers (like Hegel) who are also in the business of interpreting Black African history. This produces the result that Whites are always better at interpreting Black history than Blacks are.
Whites will always interpret Africa as a poor violent backwater because, in comparison to their own societies, that is precisely what Africa is.
As much as intelligent Blacks try to change the perception of their continent and their people they are fighting a losing war with an army of intelligent Whites who can and will define the single story of Africa for them.
But this phenomenon is not exclusively an African one. Even in America Black identity is largely the construction of White liberals who see an opportunity to exploit Blacks for political and social ends.
The 'grievance industry' produced by leftist White Marxists has consistently told Blacks that their identify is defined by their being victims of White racism.
In this way, American Blacks have taken on the single story being written for them by Whites. Their acceptance of the narrative given them by White liberals is evident in the fact that Blacks vote overwhelmingly for liberal candidates in every election (95% for Obama in 2012).
Even the identity of 'Black' (though rooted in biological reality) was a descriptor discovered and translated by White anthropologists to those of African descent.
The very idea of Black identity, or a Black story, is the product of White people.
The history of humanity is held in monopoly by the White race. Through grand archeological vision the history of other peoples has been discovered by White people and interpreted through their eyes. Because of this anthropological imperialism, even African history has been constructed by Whites.
The world may never escape the single stories told by White people, because the stories were almost never told without them.