Coming to America … Going to Africa

Which is correct? Only one.

So in 1988, Eddie Murphy starred in a film called “Coming to America.” Yes, it was damn funny, depicting a lovelorn prince from a fictional country in Africa coming to the United States to find true love.

Of course, he had to overcome his strict father and a Jheri curl-loving suitor for his bride, but we all knew it would work out in the end.

On the flip side, many Westerners (Europeans, North Americans) take vacations and “Go to Africa.”

One is acceptable, and one is not. Here’s why.

Africa is a continent. Actually, it is the second largest continent. It is immense. There are over 50 separate countries located in Africa. Zamunda, where Eddie and Arsenio hail from, is not one of them.

Can’t find Zamunda? Eddie Murphy made it up. Plus, this map is old, not showing the new country of South Sudan (which is the southern portion of … yup, Sudan).

So when people talked about going to Africa or taking a holiday in Africa, not only are they being overly vague, but also linguistically insensitive. If you are going to Mozambique, say you are taking a vacation to Mozambique! Going on Safari to Botswana? Say so! Visiting Morocco to see Casablanca and the markets of Marrakesh? Cool! Africa is a HUGE continent with so much variety, saying you are just going to Africa is wrong.

King Joffer says, “Just say NO! to generalized Africa comments!”

So let’s go to the flip side. Why can you visit America? How is that OK when going to Africa isn’t? America is TWO continents, so that beats Africa’s one, right?

Hold your horses. Or elephants. Yes, there are two continents that make up the Americas. But I ask you this: how many countries in all of the Americas have the word “America” in the name of their country?

One.

The United States of America. [drops mic … walks off stage]

And of course, everyone in America has Jheri curls, right? Right? No? I’m being overly simplistic? Too general? (See what I did there?)

So, linguistically speaking, you can visit America. You can go see America. We can be called Americans. We can also be called North Americans (referring to all the countries in our hemisphere north of Colombia). So Greenland is part of North America and Greenlanders are North Americans. So are Hondurans and Grenadians, Jamaicans and Costa Ricans.

So next time you run into your friend from Panama, feel free to give him or her a shout out like, “What’s up, my North American brother?!?” He will appreciate it greatly, I bet.

So referring to the U.S.A. as America is appropriate, as it doesn’t confuse the country with any other. Can the same be said of Africa?

Nope. South Africa has to compete with the Central African Republic. So no dice there.

Plus, there is Mali and Malawi. And Niger and Nigeria. Plus the country of Congo used to part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Oh, and let’s not forget Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and (just) Guinea.

There is a lot going on across the continent of Africa. You can even thank humanity’s evolutionary process to a geological formation along the African continent called The Great Rift.

Check out the BBC’s excellent three-part series on The Great Rift via Netflix. It is a 3000-mile-long extraordinary geological feature that is the reason we are here today.

So if you want to see the pyramids, go visit Egypt. Feel like exploring the brutal history of the slave trade out of West Africa, head over to Ghana, Togo, and Benin. If you are dying to take a photographic safari, load up and head to Tanzania. Want to go big game hunting for a lion or other large mammals? Fuck off. Go shoot yourself and leave these majestic creatures alone.

Good and terrible.

If you want to hunt elephant or leopards, you are worse than Sexual Chocolate’s lead singer Randy Watson. And that is as close to the ultimate insult as I can get. At least if I am sticking to my theme.

So, to recap: stop referring to Africa as a generalized location since it contains so many countries and has eight separate physical regions (which are: the Sahara, the Sahel, the Ethiopian Highlands, the savanna, the Swahili Coast, the rain forest, the African Great Lakes, and Southern Africa).

Pick one, two, or seventeen different places within Africa to go visit and explore for yourself. Then refer to your trip by using those exact place names in lieu of the continent’s name.

Don’t kill any animals. Period.

Rewatch “Coming to America” and laugh at all the crazy characters that Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall portray, as well as see all the bit parts played by now-famous actors (I’m looking at you, Samuel L. Jackson).

And finally, somebody find me this T-shirt in a size L. I must have it!

From the “What’s Going Down?” episode of THAT’S MY MOMMA!
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