Our Neighbors in Africa

A local public school liberry recently discarded this book. Despite the word "neighbor" in the title, which suggests that they might portray Africans as Americans' equals, I figured it would be worth scooping up in order to find the inevitable racism.

Initially, the bigotry is pretty minimal, with just periodic bits of a condescending tone:

"There are cows in Africa, but most boys and girls do not drink milk because their parents do not know that drinking milk is important for good health" (21).

But then that condescension grows...

"At playtime African children like to play tag or hide-and-seek or singing games. And of course they like to play in mud" (28). Of course!

The book does not reference a single famous African person, but does mention two kindly white gentleman, David Livingstone and Albert Schweitzer, who traveled to Africa to save lives with their medical knowhow. You see, Africa's take on medicine is through witch doctors, as these two pages explain:

In addition to the witch doctor section, there is also a part about slavery. Considering the book editorializes sporadically throughout, the slavery portion is a questionable place to start taking a just-the-facts approach. Particularly in a children's book, a condemnation of slavery, or perhaps anything slightly more critical than "Many people became rich selling slaves" (34) would have been appropriate.

At least the book ends on a high note. The last page reads, "While most Africans are illiterate, poor, disease-ridden, and superstitious, there are highly educated Africans." See, it's not offensive because they acknowledge that there are some exceptions!

I suppose it's a good thing that kids don't read anymore.

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