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Correcting African Stereotypes through the Power of Media

The life of an African can be viewed in many angles and the narrative is not singular.

Photo by Muhammadtaha Ibrahim Ma’aji on Unsplash

I grew up in a diplomatic family and I remember being in New York as a pre-teen and being surprised by the questions that my classmates asked me.

Some asked me whether I lived in houses or had access to schools. It was obvious to me that my classmates were reacting based on common misconceptions of what they understood about Africans. This misconception is that Africa equates to all round poverty.

The misconception comes from many factors. One being that of the global media and how they depict what it means to be an African and life in an African nation.

Media has a role to play in the way we understand culture and diversity. Most of us obtain information and consume some form of media. This could be through content on social media or by watching actors and actresses on shows, movies or even a performance on the stage. The content we consume impacts how we view the world around us.

For the misconception and stereotypes to come to a halt, we have to address several points.

1: Media Should Portray Different Environments & Lives

Photo by Terricks Noah on Unsplash

Often in the global media, poverty is what is most depicted in African nations. There is a big spotlight on environments that depict people who are ill and suffering.

As a Nigerian living in Nigeria, I don’t deny that there is poverty in African nations and humanitarian aid is often needed. Yes, that is true. However, it is not the only narrative that exists with the country.

There are a variety of lives that can be lived in my country Nigeria. There are people who live wealthy and comfortable lives.

It’s important that there be a balance when depicting African nations because one could be quick to assume that we are all poor.

We must therefore portray different scenes when we tell the stories of African people.

2: Continue to Highlight More Diverse Voices

Photo by Ayodeji Alabi on Unsplash

One thing I appreciate that the media is doing nowadays is highlighting more prominent African voices and telling their stories. You’d see CNN have ‘‘African Voices’’ where they spotlight the great work being done by African creatives and entrepreneurs.

This needs to be emphasized more. We need people to continue to highlight Africans who are doing great work. This matters because it changes the narrative of Africans being seen in the perspective of lacking or the negativity when we joke about ‘‘Nigerian princes’’ online.

Let Africans tell Their Own Stories

Photo by Alex Radelich on Unsplash

We can’t neglect the necessity of Africans telling their own stories. When we seek stories from African nations, there can be a bias if a foreigner tells their story.

It matters to sit down with the locals and listen to what they have to say. Let them express themselves and address what they believe should be depicted on the screens.

When we allow Africans to tell their own story, you get a more holistic view rather than the angle of one individual. People know themselves better than others.

Correct & Don’t Dismiss Misconceptions

When we hear people use the wrong terminology when addressing things, let’s call it out.

When someone says, ‘‘I’m travelling to Africa,’’ let us not normalize that. Let us correct that by addressing the fact that Africa consists of many countries, and it is not just one place on its own.

Call Out & Condemn Racism

Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

We shouldn’t be afraid to call out and condemn racism when we see it or hear it. We should always condemn it.

I remember being a high school student in Mexico City. I was the only African/black person in my class. There was an American student who constantly liked to use the N word as a form of fun with his peers.

I was often offended by it and had told him to stop. However, I would recognize that he would continue. Back then, I wished there were more people who would have stood by me to also condemn him for using a racial slur.

When you call people out and condemn them for doing what is wrong, it highlights the gravity of the wrong they have done.

Final Thoughts

The role of the media in society can’t be under-estimated. The media often sets the tone for what is right and wrong.

The media provides information that heightens your awareness. We must make sure that those who work in the media and those who create content on social media do our part by highlighting what we know to be true when we discuss culture and diversity.

We must make sure that we all play our part when we address voices that are different from us. Let us hear a different story told by the individual from their lens.




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Isioma Ononye

Isioma Ononye

I write about finding yourself, developing your self-esteem, faith, mental health and communications. My Personal Guide on Confidence👉🏾

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