The New York Times on Africa
Jefe comments persuasively on reportage surrounding post-election violence this past week in Kenya and he’s right to be angered. He points to a post by historian Timothy Burke, who takes issue with a New York Times piece claiming that Kenya’s problems with democratic process are the result of “tribal atavism.” The piece in the Times is an excellent example of a specious argument: author Jeffrey Gettleman spends most of his time discussing the outbreak of violence as a political response to government corruption of the electoral process (citing, amongst other things, “undeniable evidence of vote-rigging”) and then writes off the bloodshed as a regression to primitive tribal conflicts.
Exactly why this amounts to racism bears emphasis: on any other continent this would be a political crisis that broke out along ethnic lines, but for Gettlemen, et al. the same symptoms in Africa suggest that everybody’s just a few dodgy votes shy of tribal warfare. Burke makes a well-reasoned argument about why Gettlemen’s explanation is invalid, but it should be obvious. A tribal rule for “Africans” and a political one for everyone else means you think that everyone else is more civilised. The worst thing about the Gettleman response is that it subverts his story about the struggle over democracy in the face of a corrupt ruling class, by emphasising the tired inevitability of political breakdown and violence in Africa.
The New York Times on Africa, ladies and gentlemen.