The Conclusion: Part 2 of 2 - Black is Beautiful
Trip Start Jun 16, 2007
25Trip End Aug 11, 2007
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We don't belong here, I think to myself. Just like in 'Nam and now Baghdad, we don't belong here. Some people come to Africa to see lions... That's cool. Some come to save the world... Not cool.
There is nothing to be saved here. Nor are there martyrs to be made. Yet somewhere down the line, We the People, have created the belief that Black needs White. Not true at all. If anything, Black needs Black more than ever. Black needs Black to save its back. Black needs to tell white to get off its back. Black is beautiful. But Black doesn't know. Let Black live.
My perspective about helping developing countries has changed. When I was younger, I used to believe that I could change the world. Like Dollar the Dog from the old Richie Rich cartoons, I used imagine myself as a savior of sorts rescuing kittens from burning buildings and helping little old ladies cross the street. But just like in the cartoon, I'm sure my plans would have failed miserably.
The idea that people need to be saved is silly. Yet volunteering in Africa, I did feel silly. There were local teachers that could have done what I did ten times better. They spoke both Swahili and English fluently. There was no need for me to be there.
Without careful consideration, volunteering and donating to developing countries can backfire. And just like crime here, I have experienced it first hand. And I have seen it create more grief more than anything. To many Africans, I was rich. I was their way out. I was a potential sponsor. I was spare change, a digital camera, a pack of gum, and whatever fantasy of riches they wanted to believe I could be. Handouts were asked of me with ease and mixed into cordial conversation. Our cook in Dar asked for my guitar. A local teacher gave me his P.O. box so that I could send him something. In Addis, people befriended me by showing me around town but later on would ask me for money. In Nairobi, a security guard gave me his resume to "see what I could do" for him.
It's hard to say no to someone, yet unrealistic to say yes to everyone. But I guess I've always been a sucker for a sad story, gullible like my moms. And that's what made it so hard for me to say no. But I did. And I believe it was the right decision.
Africa doesn't need Sally Struthers, Madonna, Bono, or Angelina Jolie. We don't need to help Africa. Africa needs to help itself. If anything, much of what we are doing by giving out handouts and volunteering is affirming the belief that Black needs White. In essence, we are subsidizing their way of life. A life that I believe can be made better if we let them live. Let them solve their own problems. Let them be responsible for themselves. Let them depend on themselves. What I am advocating may seem harsh. But it is what Africa needs.
Now I am not proposing that we pick up and leave nor am I saying that all donations and volunteering projects are bad. I've met some people that are doing some great things. But the goal should be focused on sustainability, not dependency. We could act as advisors and mentors and guide them to make their own choices.
There is nothing to be saved here. So let it be.
Thanks for listening and until next time, I'll see you in South America.