5 Foolish Questions That People Ask Africans

Oh the stupidity that we Africans have to hear sometimes! Sorry to have to be frank here but it’s true. Take it from someone who has lived her life in different countries and met all sorts of people throughout her voyages. A lot of individuals have some really backwards thoughts about Africans. From how we live to how we act. I don’t know if it’s innocent ignorance or actual stupidity but either way, here are 5 foolish questions that we Africans hear all the time:

#1: “Aren’t Africans Poor?”

Not all of us.

Yes, there are certain countries and regions that suffer from more poverty than others. However, to generalize that Africans are poor is just not fair. Now according to OurAfrica.org, 40% of people living on the African continent are living in absolute poverty which is a huge number considering that the population is at approximately 1.1 billion. So to deny the fact that there is a poverty problem on the continent would be hypocritical of me. Nevertheless, Africa is now one of the fastest developing continents. The rate of poverty is decreasing and business is booming. Technology is developing enormously and more and more people are being exposed to the internet, wifi, computers, smartphones, and all the latest gadgets. My Senegalese comrades are really good at keeping up with the latest and greatest gear on the market. Students are using their laptops and tablets for school work and people are already walking around with the new iPhone 6 Plus.

#2: “So most of you have AIDS or Ebola right?”

Again, no. First of all, AIDS in not an “African thing.” Some sources say it came from chimpanzees in West Africa while others say it came from the outburst of homosexuality in the western world during the 60’s and 70’s. Either way, AIDS is real. But it varies from country to country just like everywhere else in the world. According to statistics released by AVERT, the African countries with the highest rate of AIDS are Swaziland (26.5%) and South Africa (17.9%). Other countries rank a lot lower like Nigeria (3.1%) and my beloved homeland Senegal which only has an AIDS population of 0.5%. Considering that there are 54 countries in Africa (yes, Africa is a continent, not a country), it’s safe to say that most Africans don’t have AIDS.

Now, thanks the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus, people think that anyone who is from West Africa has Ebola or is “suspicious.” There are 11 countries in West Africa and there are only three (Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia) that have a widespread transmission of Ebola at the moment. I recently read an article about some young Senegalese boys in New York being bullied and called “Ebola” even though they didn’t come from an Ebola-stricken country. I also have a friend of mine who lives in Chicago and she got called “Ebola” while she was walking down the street. This behavior is unacceptable. People need to start learning and stop discriminating.

Plus, did you know that it’s easier to get the flu than it is to get the Ebola virus?

There are some speculations as to where Ebola came from. Yet, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that both AIDS and Ebola were probably developed in some laboratory and spread out into the world (hence the reason why I avoid flu shots). But I digress.

#3: “Do you speak African?”

There is no such language as “African.” Yet, there is a language called Afrikaans. Afrikaans is a West Germanic language adopted from Dutch colonists. It’s spoken mostly in South Africa (by the white and mixed population), Namibia, and a bit in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

There are over 2,000 languages spoken on the African continent (again, Africa is a continent, not a country). According to afkinsider.com, The 10 most common spoken languages are Zulu, Igbo, Yoruba, Oromo, French, Amharic, English, Hausa, Swahili, and Arabic.

On top of all that, over 50% of Africans are multilingual meaning they speak minimum 2 languages.

#4: “Do you live in a sand dome?”

Well, I don’t. But some might. There are still people that live in villages like this:

village in Niger

Some live in places like this:

port said egypt

and this:

slums south Africa
and some others live in places like this:

Dakar city

I could go on forever, but I’ll let you do your own research.

# 5: “So are you used to wearing clothes?”

I am more than used to wearing clothes and so are most other Africans. I blame this question on all the National Geographic documentaries portraying Africans in only one way. They seem to only show one minuscule slice of the African lifestyle by continuously presenting tribes that prefer nudity. Thus leading people to believe that that is African attire which is entirely false. We have countless different traditional clothes and fabrics and it varies from tribe to tribe.

Not only do we wear clothes, but we make them as well! We have world renowned designers like Duru Olowu from Nigeria, Korto Momolu from Liberia, David Tlale from South Africa, Kofi Ansah from Ghana, twins Idyl and Ayaan from Somalia, Colé Ardo Sow from Senegal, and numerous others.

Nigerian woman

It always makes me laugh when I see someone come to Senegal for the first time wearing some dirty t-shirt and some raggedy jeans thinking that they are going to “fit it.” Then I laugh even harder when they frantically walk the markets to buy new clothes after they realize that everyone else is really nicely dressed and they don’t fit in.

See, when it comes to fashion, Africans are actually amongst the best dressed. We love using our traditional prints and fabrics and wearing vibrant colors. We also like wearing modern clothes when we feel like it. We like to look good!

“The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it.” – George Kimble

It may be difficult to believe but I have been asked every single one of these questions. It’s frustrating to hear that people still have these backward thoughts about Africa. In the Age of Technology, the people who have the most exposure to the internet and the miracles of Google seem to be the ones who know the least about the world. Why is it that when someone travels to Europe they say “I’m going to France, or Italy or etc.” But when they are going to a country in Africa they say “I’m going to Africa!”. . . WHERE IN AFRICA?! People expect to find the same thing no matter where they go. Trust me, going to Ghana and going to Djibouti will give you two completely different experiences. I hear too much talk about how poor Africans are and how hard it is for people to find jobs. I want to hear people talking about how the continent is developing, expanding, and how we are growing our own businesses and trying to become more auto-sufficient.

We are not monkeys and we don’t look like them. Not all of us are dark skinned and we don’t all live in the middle of the desert. We don’t ride elephants to school and we don’t all hunt lions for play. We are people. Normal, everyday people just like you. We have different traditions and cultures. We are too diverse (and too awesome) to be put into one category. We are everything! We are mothers and fathers, teachers and farmers, rich and poor, villagers and city people, warriors and scholars, hipsters and activists, black and white. We are beautiful. Every tribe and every culture is beautiful no matter how different their way of life may be.

Africa is a continent, not a country. And it should be treated as such.

**Featured photo cutesy of Vagabondich