Since visiting the continent of Africa and exploring South Africa in December 2017, I started thinking a lot about the Western European/white bias of the entire world we live in, from education to politics to art. I thought a lot about it throughout school, especially when studying art history (that was the thickest, heaviest textbook I ever used, and our teacher said that since the Advanced Placement college-level exam didn’t cover the Asian or African continents that we’d skip over those chapters. Those chapters were HUGE — they basically were half the weight of those textbooks!). In English, our focus was about 99 percent on American or European authors. When we did have the option to read books of our choice, the consideration list was always limited when it came to works from Africa, Asia, or Central/South America. Oceania basically didn’t exist from a literature standpoint. It was unbelievably depressing and made me feel like outside of Western Europe and North America, no where else really mattered or had “high status.”
As an adults, though, we have the responsibility to ourselves and our communities to self-educate and learn about these other areas… assuming we actually care. I’ve tried to read more and educate myself more to make up for the crappy biases I’ve been raised with. It’s definitely an effort.
I think one major benefit of Trevor Noah taking over as the host of The Daily Show is that he’s showcased so many guests of many backgrounds that normally would not get a spotlight like this. One of the guests he interviewed a while back was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author who splits her time between the U.S. and Nigeria, and writes novels and short stories. She writes about the perception of race across different countries and what feminism means — not directly, but more indirectly. Her direct acknowledgement of the importance of feminism in society comes out a lot more strongly in her interviews. One of her books, Americanah, was a New York Times bestseller, and has been on my reading list for a while. I finally got it from the NYPL and had it sent to my Kindle this past week, and from the first page, I was in love with it. It’s honest, raw, poetic, colorful — you really feel what the characters are feeling. The writing draws you in immediately, and her commentary on black American vs. black Nigerian attitudes, perspectives, and how the world views them is so pointed. I personally think that if we had books like this as assigned reading in school throughout K-12 and beyond, we’d have a more well-rounded education that incorporated more viewpoints around issues that, well, are still a challenge we all face today. We’d be more open-minded, less in denial of things like racism, sexism, classicism, and inequality.