I just finished my first year as an assistant professor. That's a story for another time, but suffice it to say that one of the more interesting experiences associated with having this job is watching people's faces when they find out that I am an African politics professor at an historically black college.
Since starting this job, on occasion I've met a person or two, who, presumably because he is white and I am white and therefore he thinks I will agree with him, says, "Oh, that's interesting," and proceeds to launch into a diatribe about all the black welfare queens in his hometown and their propensity to have baby after baby who grow up to commit crimes, all in a grand scheme to take more and more taxpayer dollars, which justifies shutting down the public school system since those children will never amount to anything anyway.
In response to this nonsense, I usually just say, "You know, the welfare system has changed quite a bit in the last fifteen years" and walk away without bothering to argue with idiocy.
I say all this as a way of offering a brief comment on The Kristof's latest column, which not only presents the case of one family in one village in one country as representative of the entire African continent, but also manages to condescend to the people he purports to "understand" by stereotyping every poor man on the continent as a lazy drunk.
Sean and Siddhartha have already covered most of the problems with this insane exercise in stereotyping. I won't add to it, except to say that while of course there are poor parents with misplaced priorities who neglect their children in Africa, there are also neglectful parents in Paris and Tokyo and Lima and Bangalore and Des Moines and Oslo and even the Upper West Side. I daresay there might even be a big-time columnist or two who has gotten drunk rather than seen to a child's pressing needs.
Labels: the kristof strikes again