This semester I took the honors perspective class called Images of Africa. I signed up for this class to learn about African history before I travelled to Tanzania this summer. Little did I know, this class would change everything I had ever thought I knew about Africa. Everything we read and discussed destroyed my previous ideas about what Africa was.
It wasn’t that I was racist before, but this class showed me how racism is so deeply imbedded into our modern day Western society that it is literally unavoidable. I learned about the development of the term “race” and how before Western society got involved with Africans, discrimination based on skin color was not really in existence. But, white men being white men took up their crosses and established a social hierarchy based on skin color, not merit. We learned about how explorers of Africa were sick and drugged and didn’t speak any of the African languages and essentially made up a lot of the information that Western society based their view of Africa on today.
The one thing that really got to me was the story of Sarah Baartman, a South African woman who was put on display for her sexual assets because Western scientists were convinced that African women were the missing link between humans and apes. In other words, African women were not seen as human beings. They were abused, exploited, invaded, and all in the name of science. Science is about finding the ultimate truth without any biased or human formulated errors. And yet, the invasion of thousands of women’s bodies and lives was based on something that was supposed to represent truth.
When I go to Tanzania this summer, I don’t know if I will be able to look the people there in the eye without feeling overwhelming guilt about what white people have done to them in the past. I hope that Tanzania helps to heal me. I don’t want to know the kind of person I would have become if I hadn’t learned the truth about what Africa is.

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