"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


raise your hand if you're anti-colonial

Newt Gingrich is in the news again, this time for picking up on Dinesh D'Sousza's comment in a Forbes article about President Obama having inherited his father's "anti-colonial" Kenyan worldview and using it to get himself some attention.

Setting aside the question of when being "anti-colonial" became a bad thing (especially here in the U.S. of - ahem - former British colonies), this whole kerfuffle is interesting to me because I'm pretty sure that I'm one of the few people out there who have actually seen Gingrich's dissertation, which is about Belgian education policy in colonial-era Congo. You can read the post I wrote about skimming it here.

For those of you who have better things to do on a Thursday morning, suffice it to say that I'm not surprised by any of this. Gingrich liked colonialism. Especially the Belgian variety, which limited the vast majority of Congolese to a sixth-grade education, taught children that God wanted them to obey the exploitative colonial authorities, and was the reason the country had fewer than 20 university graduates and no indigenous doctors at independence. Which was one of the reasons the country immediately erupted into chaos, which made it possible for Joseph Mobutu to take over, which allowed him to loot the public treasury for three decades, which caused a breakdown in public service provision, which kept Mobutu using public funds to manipulate patronage networks in his favor, which fell apart with the end of the Cold War when funds dried up, which laid the groundwork for the chaos that would erupt after the Rwandan genocide (which, let's not forget, was caused in part because of - you guessed it - Belgian colonial education policy that favored the Tutsis for educational opportunities, thus breeding resentment among the Hutu, which set off a chain of rounds of ethnic cleansing that led to the 1994 genocide), which spilled over into the Congo, which led to a series of wars, which were only partly settled in 2003 and that have, so far, caused more than 5 million deaths of perfectly innocent people.

Not all of this could have been known to Gingrich at the time he turned in his dissertation to Tulane's Modern European History doctoral program, of course. But he knew about the limited opportunities the Belgians allowed the Congolese. And I find it difficult to believe that he couldn't understand that falling victim to such policies might cause a smart young adult to be a little anti-colonial in mindset. In fact, it's pretty hard to believe that someone as well-educated as Gingrich doesn't know exactly what he's doing by calling Obama "anti-colonial."

And that's all I have to say about that.


Blogger MissBwalya said...

This whole thing about Obama being an anti-colonialist just reads like another paranoid conspiracy theory. As D'Souza is describing the passing on of Obama senior's ideology to his son, he seems to try to evoke a powerful image of a white man hating African teaching his son to espouse those same values, and urging him to grow up to destroy the white man's world (capitalism).

In tryng to understand Obama the man, and his policies he doesn't fit neatly into a little box so it's therefore necessary to see him as an outsider; someone shaped outside of America and therefore 'not one of us'. What a shame!

Thursday, September 16, 2010 5:59:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun fact 1: Barack Obama's father and grandfather were Kenyan anti-colonialists.

Fun fact 2: During Barack Obama's presidency, Kenya adopted a constitution drafted by American experts, promoted by a campaign run out of the US embassy, under threat of aid and investment cutoff if they voted no.

Srsly. The descendent of people who struggled against Kenya's Western-imposed political system just imposed a political system on Kenya from the West.

Now, on balance the new constitution is an improvement over the old one. But that doesn't erase the irony of it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010 9:02:00 PM

Anonymous J said...

From the article: "Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

I realize that Tulane does not randomly hand out Ph.D.s to just anyone, and that Newt had to demonstrate at least a rudimentary capacity for logic and argument in order to get past a dissertation committee. But this has got to be one of the most dumb-assed statements that I've ever heard come out of an American career politicians' mouth. *Stunning insight*???


Friday, September 17, 2010 11:05:00 AM

Blogger ewaffle said...

A lot of people are still unable to deal with the fact that Barack Obama isn't white but is president. While it seems there are enough coded terms for everyone: "Muslim"; "socialist" "foreign born"; "hates white people" (that one is pretty clear) there is a market for epithets that don't sound so harebrained but that still show that Obama is simply too non-white to be president. Thus D'Souza's "stunning insight".

I have been a political activist and organizer for a many years therefore am not surprised when those who lost an election make vulgar attacks on the winner, particularly when they are trying out themes for the next campaign. But in the past the worst of the insults have come from the radical fringe or the gutter press. Now there are members of the U. S. Senate asking about Obama's birth certificate and "serious" contenders for the presidential nomination like Gingrich getting ink for praising inanities made in an article that the Columbia Journalism Review called "a fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia".

Friday, September 17, 2010 12:24:00 PM

Blogger jmdesp said...

Fun fact 3: The historical paramount of anti-colonial action in America is the Tea Party at Boston.

Friday, September 17, 2010 3:04:00 PM


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