By Michael Chishala
When I first read the story alleging that 2016 US Presidential candidate Donald Trump had called blacks (especially Africans) as “lazy fools only good at eating, lovemaking and thuggery”, I knew it could not possibly be true. I forgot about it but kept seeing it being posted all over WhatsApp and Zambian social media. So being the skeptic that I am, I went on Google and in 2 minutes flat, I confirmed my thoughts by simply running a search for “Donald Trump Africa controversy”.
Sure enough, I did not find a single American website that carried such a story. If Trump did indeed insult black Americans as was quoted (see below), can you imagine the firestorm that would erupt in America in the media within just an hour? Can you imagine what Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Al Sharpton and other black leaders and activists in America would do to him? That would be the end of his political career and it would be on CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Sky News, etc. Have any of you see such a story on these media houses?
The fake story originated on a Kenyan news website called Politica (politics.co.ke) and has been copied and pasted on other African sites and numerous Facebook pages without a second thought. But one website (snopes.com) investigated and of course found the story to be fake. Trump in fact has not visited Indianapolis in October, where he is alleged to have uttered those racist words.
Yet probably millions of Africans have accepted this story as true and are probably cursing and insulting Trump and the white race. Ironically, it just goes to prove the fake Trump quotation. Africans are apparently so lazy that they cannot even bother to do a Google search to verify the story. Or even just spend one minute to think and realize that the story cannot be true.
I am reminded of the old joke about how you hide information from a black man by putting it in a book. It seems
you can also hide information from the black man on his own smart phone and computer just by posting it on a website since he won’t bother to go read it. He would rather read stupid gossip made up by someone else.
And this is not even the first (or last) time. Years ago, there was an email circulating which claimed that Tommy Hillfiger is a racist who told Oprah Winfrey on her “Oprah Winfrey Show” that if he knew black people would wear his clothes, he would never have started his clothing company. Winfrey chased him from her show according to the story.
I did a quick 5 minute search and found a story on the Oprah Winfrey Show website refuting the story. In fact, Hillfiger had never been interviewed before by Winfrey and he went to meet her so that they could refute the story together and she explained everything on her show. On the Tommy Hillfiger website, I saw pictures of black models which is inconsistent with a racist. And no clothing company can survive a week in America if its owner utters racist words. The rumour was apparently traced to some American University in the mid 1990s and it spread for years and years, being shared by Africans too lazy to do a little bit of thinking (or reading).
Back in the 1980s when I was young, there was another story going around in Zambia about a boxer nicknamed “Use Your Left” who supposedly had a left punch so lethal that his left hand had to be tied behind his back when he fought Muhammad Ali. The story said Ali kept hitting him in the ring and then the wife to the boxer (whom I can only assume was Joe Frazier) shouted from the audience “Use your left!” and the boxer pulled hard and snapped the rope tying his hand and threw a punch at Ali who ducked and the boxer hit into a pole at the corner of the ring and died. (There are no poles that can be hit from inside the ring).
All this reveals that there is something wrong with us Africans that we can believe false things so easily and I still have not figured out why. Whatever it is, I am alarmed because it may explain a lot of tragic things that have happened in Africa such as civil wars, genocide and ethnic cleansing.
For example, in most of Africa, we easily embraced Communism and evil dictatorships that lasted for decades and destroyed our nations. To this day, many Zimbabweans apparently believe what Robert Mugabe tells them as the cause of the economic collapse of the country (ie Western sanctions). Belatedly, some of his own people have rejected his story and have recently began to quietly ask white farmers to return to Zimbabwe after they failed to manage the huge commercial farms they were given and became very poor.
In Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda our first president has gotten away with destroying the Zambian economy because he sold the story that it was low copper prices and high oil prices that wrecked the economy in the 1970s. I do not recall any Zambian journalist challenging him in an interview on this claim by doing some simple research to discover for example that the civil service expanded several times after independence and that when the economy was bad, KK opted to borrow money to keep civil servants and waste money on parastatals and liberation wars in other countries instead of cutting such spending and privatizing parastatals.
At the risk of courting controversy, it can be argued that even Africans embracing Islam, Christianity and other foreign religions to the abandonment of centuries old African religions is part of this same naiveté and lack of critical thinking. Hence the joke about how the white man brought a bible, taught the African Christianity and asked to pray. After the prayer and opening their eyes, the black man had the bible and the white man had the land.
Some commentators have even gone as far as saying that Christianity was just a ploy by whites to colonize gullible Africans by making them docile. They supposedly did this by setting up mission schools which taught African children the white man’s knowledge but also taught them Christianity and made them less resistant to the white man’s rule when they grew up.
Whilst I do not subscribe to such conspiracy theories, they may contain a small element of truth in that when certain events occur (such as Africans embracing wholesale what they are taught by foreigners), the situation can be used to further certain schemes such as control of natural resources. But I digress.
Other pundits lament the wholesale embracing of Western culture in terms of dressing, language, accents, mannerisms and even food such that if you go to the big shopping malls, you will be hard pressed to find a meal of nshima or even tute (cassava). Instead you will find chicken and chips, pizza, shawarmas, salads, subs, etc.
In the bars, pubs and taverns, you won’t find the local Zambian brews such as katata and Seven Days but rather Heineken, Castle and Spirits. Zambians quickly embraced these foreign drinks for decades before someone finally thought of packaging Chibuku and even then, it is looked down upon as the poor man’s drink. Could all this be another manifestation of our gullibility?
A good example of the Zambian and African culture of gullibility is how we believe almost any story about witchcraft and other claims about the paranormal. Recently, a church was burnt down in Zambia because of a mere rumour that a pastor had turned into a snake. Residents of one shanty compound in Lusaka a few years ago killed a strange creature they thought was a product of witchcraft and yet it was a simple Pangolin.
Whatever the theories, explanations and causes, all I know is that there is something wrong with us when we can so easily believe any claims thrown at us without exercising some healthy skepticism. It makes it easy for unscrupulous people to manipulate us. No wonder the Nigerian 419 scams have worked so well in Africa. No wonder corrupt politicians find it easy to lie and deceive Africans into voting for them. This issue is not as harmless as some may think.
My advice to all Africans is that next time you see an outlandish story, take time to think a little about it before you forward it. I think that Philosophy should be introduced as a compulsory subject in Secondary schools.
My 2 cents.
Michael Chishala is a Zambian blogger who can be reached on michael [at] zambia [dot] co [dot] zm.
P/S – There is of course some truth to what “Donald Trump” said about Africans. I am glad that more Africans are beginning to see that we cannot keep blaming whites for our self-inflicted problems. I suspect that few Africans below 25 really buy the Western Imperialism story. I may not go as far as supporting colonization, but I would instead make an outlandish proposal that we hire a team of foreigners to form Cabinet and manage Zambia for 30 years until we become a developed country and there is a full transfer of good governance skills to us.
ORIGINAL QUOTE OF “DONALD TRUMP”
“African Americans are very lazy. The best they can do is gallivanting around ghettoes, lamenting how they are discriminated. These are the people America doesn’t need. They are the enemies of progress. Look at African countries like Kenya for instance, those people are stealing from their own government and go to invest the money in foreign countries. From the government to opposition, they only qualify to be used as a case study whenever bad examples are required. How do you trust even those who have ran away to hide here at the United States hiding behind education?
“I hear they abuse me in their blogs but I don’t care because even the internet they are using is ours and we can decide to switch it off from this side. These are people who import everything including matchsticks. In my opinion, most of these African countries ought to be recolonized again for another 100 years because they know nothing about leadership and self governance.I promise to make America great again by restoring our dignity that we have since lost through Obama. The more reason why I still believe that he, and his Kenyan brothers and sisters should be deported back to Kenya to make America safe.”