I give up
Is the New York Times trying to exasperate us with its shoddy, stereotypical coverage of the African continent? I mean, I've come to expect Gettleman to make outrageous claims like the one that "corruption is essentially a national pastime" in Kenya and for The Kristof to parade around villages as though only his columns will Save These Poor Starving Africans from a Life of Doom and Despair.
But The Kristof's latest video from the DRC takes it to a new low of stereotyping and exoticization:
Dear land. Let's set aside the fact that Kristof once again presents an incomplete story of what life is really like in the eastern Congo. Plenty of people can and do exercise in the Kivus, where they take advantage of the tennis courts in Goma or the fact that it is perfectly safe to run on a Sunday afternoon in the lakeside neighborhoods where every expat lives. (And the lovely Orchids Safari Club, where Kristof almost certainly stayed while in Bukavu, is conveniently located in just that neighborhood.)
Look, I get the point. Women in the DRC, just like women everywhere else in the developing world, do the bulk of the hard work. I think it's important to draw attention to that fact and to figure out ways to make their lives easier.
But it doesn't have to be done by turning everyday work into a spectacle. Kristof could tell the story of broken backs, hurting feet, and malnutrition without putting himself at the center of a show among people who don't have a choice about doing such work. (He could tell a similar story about poor women in the United States, for that matter.) Or he could have discussed some of the innovations in water carrying techniques (like the South African-developed Hippo Roller) that aim to make women's work easier. Or he could have donated some of his book royalties to one of the many charities that dig wells and collect rainwater so that women and girls don't have to transport water so far. There are a million possibilities.
Then there's this little gem, in which the Kristof suggests creating an international version of Teach for America. This is ridiculous. It would be FAR better for the people of those countries if we instead used resources to improve teacher training & pay in developing countries. We need to be giving educated citizens of developing countries increased and improved incentives to stay in their home countries - and that includes the bright men and women who stand in front of classrooms every day. The last thing African children need is a bunch of inexperienced, culturally illiterate twenty-somethings coming to hang out for temporary adventures in unfamiliar educational systems.
Besides, we already have a program for young Americans who want to teach in exotic locales. It's called the Peace Corps.
This kind of nonsense gives me headaches.
(HT: @talesfromthehood for the video)
Labels: the kristof strikes again