Hey Public Radio – Africa is a Big Continent

I love that the World Cup is bringing attention not only to football (soccer), but also to Africa in general and to South Africa in particular – attention that is not just on some massacre or famine, which seem to be the dominant tropes of news coverage, showing just how much Africa is still “the dark continent” when it comes to awareness and attention in the United States.

But I was dismayed to hear a news report on the World Cup in South Africa on public radio this afternoon illustrated with some music from Mali. Sure it’s on the same continent, but actually it would be almost impossible for it to be further away and still be in sub-Saharan Africa. And, sure, Malian music is terrific, really terrific, but South Africa has terrific music of its own. Remember all that excitement over Paul Simon’s Graceland?

You can see how this would happen – some intern grabs a CD from the “Africa” section and queues up a nice, upbeat instrumental track. But, you know, the fact that it’s plausible to assume there is an “Africa” section speaks to the problem. We are never going to get to grips with the situation there if we keep collapsing the whole continent into one undifferentiated mass.

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